Dame Agatha and I

I do not consider myself a fan of Agatha Christie.

In all honesty, I would be a horrid liar if I claimed I was, because in the 20+ years of my life I’ve read only two novels to date – Murder on the Orient Express last year and now Murder Is Easy.

What I have done, is watching Christie. I love to curl up on the couch and follow Monsieur Poirot or Miss Marple as they go about their business. David Suchet is wonderful. I’m more partial to the films made after 2000, for their visual prowess, and am positively squealing in anticipation of the five new episodes, which, I understand, will be the last ones. My experience of Miss Marple started with Geraldine McEwan and has now progressed to Julia MacKenzie, and I have yet to take up the older ones, but I do enjoy myself immensely every time. I’ve seen most of the episodes quite a few times.

Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple

This, of course, creates some problems to me as a reader. Having seen the episodes so many times, reading the books seems rather pointless. I don’t always remember the murderer, but the more frequently I watch the episodes the better I’ll remember, and particularly if I know the actor who played the murderer. (There is one who always turns out to be the murderer, but I will not reveal their name in order not to spoil anyone!)

Actors are one of the reason I find the post-2000 films so appealing. The pool of British actors is relatively small, and you get the same faces from time to time. So far, it would seem the same actor does not play in two Poirots or two Marples, unless they are a recurring character (like Zoe Wanamaker’s charming Mrs Oliver), but most play some role in both. Well, when I say most… Actor spotting is one of my favourite pastimes anyway, so Christie adaptations are a source of fun in that sense as well.

While or after watching the films I often look at what other people have said about the adaptation. It’s very interesting, seeing as half the viewers seems to be without much experience of the books like me, and the other half are first fans of the books and second fans of the films. I understand their pain at the changes made; after all, you guys know how upset I can get over film adaptations. However, recently the comments that have caught my attention have been about the modernisation and adding of elements that Christie did not write.

See, I don’t really mind all that much, not anymore. If it’s well done, all is fine. I watch every Austen adaptation that comes out, and have been beyond pleased with the additions made. On the other hand, the additions can be horrible, like in the new Wilde adaptation Dorian Gray, where there was one or two added scenes that I liked. I suppose it’s mostly little things that can be changed, and any extra in the larger scale offends sensibilities; but how does that work in Christie, where details are what matters? I’ve seen less complaining about adding Miss Marple to stories she does not belong to than about person A being person B’s sister instead of cousin. Maybe in detective stories it is more important to keep the details in tact in order to please the audience than it is to keep the general setting close to the book.

As a person who is interested in book-to-film adaptations, Christie would seem like a must to me. There is a theory book on adaptation that I mean to read, and what better to keep my mind academically engaged during the summer months than work with Christie adaptations? I hope to look into four films, chosen because of personal preference, read the novels they are based on, and then write a little comparison of them. Although my summer projects tend to end up abandoned, this is one I hope to keep to!

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