It’s a well used cliché that the film or television adaptation is never as good as the book. The images put up there on screen by the film-makers are not a match for your imagination and inevitably things from the book get missed out in the transfer to the screen.
Take Harry Potter, for example. While the majority of the adult casting was pretty much spot on, but can you honestly say that the boy you pictured when you first read the first book was a young Daniel Radcliff? Alan Rickman as Snape? Yeah. Dame Maggie Smith as McGonagall? Pretty good. That CGI thing as Dobby? Not really. And speaking of Dobby (**SPOILER ALERT**) his sacrifice in book seven, which really marks the turning point not just of the book, but of the whole series, is made all the more poignant and hard-hitting because he’d been a loveably annoying little shit in pretty much every book from the second one onwards. And yet, in the film series, his death doesn’t carry the same weight, in my opinion, because we hadn’t seen him in films 3, 4, 5, or 6.
But I digress.
The point of this post is this, on Monday night, while watching episode 4 of series 3 of Game of Thrones, I was not only surprised by the ending to the episode, but also left thinking “How could George RR Martin have possibly delivered that surprise as effectively as they just have on the screen?”
Now, I’m not stupid. It was pretty obvious even to me that there was no way that she would just ‘give away’ one of her dragons, and it was pretty obvious that said dragon would turn on the slaver and return to (the very lovely) Dany. But sudden speaking in Old Valyrian was a genuine surprise to me.
It suddenly made sense why the film makers had given us subtitles and a verbal translation by the slave girl. In fact, because of the dual translation, in retrospect, it should of been obvious that she understood the language and was playing ignorant. But maybe I am stupid, because I didn’t twig it until that moment of the reveal.
Now, why do I think it would have been hard to keep that a surprise in the book? Well, first off, I haven’t read “A Storm of Swords” yet, I’m still halfway through “A Clash of Kings”, so maybe what I’m about to say isn’t valid, but up to the point I’ve read, every time the story switches to the goings on across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys has been the chapter’s POV character. So how the hell do you keep the secret that she understands what’s being said and have the revelation that she does be a surprise, if you’re telling the story from her point of view?
I don’t know if this is how GRRM handles it, or even if he doesn’t treat it as a secret/revelation at all, because, like I said, I haven’t read that book yet. Maybe this is just a way for the film-makers to end episode 4 with a bang. Which they certainly did.
I’m not saying that the adaptation is better than the book in this instance, (I only know of one time that’s happened – The Shawshank Redemption) But I am saying that I just found this particular revelation to be one that film would be capable of handling better than the written word.
Anyway, in case you have no idea what I was talking about, here is the scene, courtesy of You Tube. It’s simply brilliant.