I recently watched BBC's adaptation to Charles Dickens Great Expectations. I was interested to see how they would translate the story into three 1 hour episodes. I felt that with the time constraints they were not able to elaborate on certain events or characters; yet saying this I think they did the best that they could have. They were able to put across the main storyline and made up for the missing details with the sets, costumes and overall atmosphere. The scenes themselves were really engaging, especially Miss Havisham's house. There was so much detail that went into it, so many different props and accessories, and with the lighting on top of that it made for a really gloomy atmosphere. Just that set itself told a story. A story of loss and almost abandonment.
I tend to be really drawn to period dramas and adaptations of classic books, mainly because of the style of that time. So much thought goes into the sets and the costumes, without this the story would not be believable for the time it was set in. You can compare dramas to films and I find that there is not much difference between the two when it comes to the overall look. Take Pride and Prejudice (Box Office Film) and compare it to Downton Abbey (ITV drama). Pride and Prejudice had at budget of around $28 million (roughly £18 million) whereas Downton Abbey had about £13 million. TV Dramas these days tend to be getting a far bigger budget, nearly matching some film budgets. Yet with £5 million pounds less, I feel that Downton Abbey is far more well executed. Their location is stunning and in the second series, they go all out building trenches and have real explosions rather than relying on special effects.
Unlike Pride and Prejudice, Downton Abbey is not based on a book, it is entirely created and written by Julian Fellowes. You will never know what is coming next as there is no book to relate it back to. In a way I prefer this as it can draw you into the story more, making you want to watch the next episode. With a book that has been made into a film, you have the problem of the film having to live up to the expectations of the book. The biggest of them all has to be the Harry Potter series. I will always believe that the books are far better, you cannot beat them. Yes the films themselves are good in their own way, however without the books there would be no film. Also with films, there will always be a time constraint, therefore information from the books have to be cut out. In each film you will find (having read the books) that there are parts that have been changed, are missing and are not elaborated enough.
You have to give credit, where credit is due. If every part of the book was turned into the film, it would be hours long and no-one would watch it. For me I think it would be quite hard to cut out parts of the book and I wouldn't know where to start. I appreciate that the writers and directors do the best that they can do and most of the time, the films do turn out really well. I think that it gets to a point where you can't compare book to film, you have to appreciate each in their own right.