Inspired by my good friend’s post about the impression that The Neverending Story left on her as a child, I began to reflect on my own favourite movies that feature book lovers or books as part of the plot. It’s a surprisingly untouched subject, as most searches on Google will bring up movies based on books regardless of the variations of search terms plugged in.
The Ninth Gate (1999). Directed by Roman Polanski.
Based on the book The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte.
In a nutshell: Johnny Depp, Satan worship, and antique books.
Rare books dealer Dean Corso is brought in to evaluate the authenticity of a grimoire of demonic ritual, The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows. Oh to be ridiculously wealthy and eccentric with nothing better to spend my time and money on than obscure Occult tomes! While Polanski is a veritable creep, he does know filmmaking.
The Neverending Story (1984). Directed by Wolfgang Peterson.
Based on the book The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.
In a nutshell: Nerdy escapism into a good book.
From what I consider the golden age of children’s film which embraced puppetry and muppetry, fantasy, and misfit child heroes, The Neverending Story is high ranked among contemporary films Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and Legend. Bastion is bullied at school and takes refuge in an old bookshop, where he finds The Neverending Story. He then skips school and reads it in a single sitting in the school’s attic, something we all wished we could do throughout those horrible “formative years.”
Quills (2000). Directed by Philip Kaufman.
In a nutshell: Perversion, compulsion, and hypocrisy, with a lot of sex and death.
Starring Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade, Kate Winslet as chambermaid Maddie, and Joaquin Phoenix as the Abbé du Coulmier. At first glance, Quills appears to be a biopic about de Sade and his imprisonment in the asylum at Charenton, but it is so much more than that. Censorship and of course pornography are at its core, but it also considers a writer’s compulsive need to write and the barbaric notions of mental illness in history. First heard about this movie back in high school thanks to my Censored Lit teacher Jenn, and it’s been a favourite ever since! (**N.B. Fans of True Blood should keep their eyes out for a young Stephen Moyer as the architect – he’s so much better without that silly, fake southern accent!)
You’ve Got Mail (1998). Directed by Nora Ephron.
In a nutshell: Typical Rom-Com, with books!
I’m not the hugest Rom-Com fan, but how could anyone who works in a bookstore not love this movie? Meg Ryan stars as the owner of indie bookstore The Little Shop Around the Corner, a typically Ryan character who falls for Tom Hanks, whose family owns Fox Books, a big-box bookstore chain similar to a Barnes & Noble or Chapters-Indigo. Like Romeo and Juliet for booksellers, their love crosses the economic boundary between noble mom-and-pop shop and corporate bully. While it’s a bit dated now (does AOL even still exist??), the movie is still applicable to today’s online dating fears and the crushing blows to bookstores of all types suffered today at the hands of Amazon.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011). Directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg.
In a nutshell: A life lived with books will carry you through anything, even death.
This heartwarming story won Best Animated Short at the Oscars in 2011. After surviving a terrible storm, Mr. Morris becomes the librarian at a special library full of flying books. He cares for the books that were damaged in the storm, mending their broken spines and sealing their pages back together. The film inspired an interactive, animated iPad app for children and beautiful children’s book — though let’s be clear, it’s such a great story that it shouldn’t be limited to a kid’s room!
Beauty and the Beast (1991). Directed by Gary Tousdale and Kirk Wise.
In a nutshell: Typical Disney, with books!
Disney has a reputation for bastardizing and adulterating classic fairy tales, and this is no exception. But while many things have changed from the original story, I feel it was for the better. Belle is just such an awesome heroine: strong willed, bookish, and uninterested in superficial dopes like Gaston. And that library! I have serious biblio-envy over that spooky castle and tiered library. (**N.B. Belle is the only Disney “princess” I ever fantasized about being, I even got to dress as her for Halloween in grade 5, with my very own shiny gold ballgown!)