Great adaptations: Five recent movies that successfully captured classic literature

    • Anna Karenina (2012)

      Joe Wright offers a fresh take on Leo Tolstoy’s novel by turning it into something resembling performance art. The deliberate artificiality of the surroundings illustrates the characters’ internal lives, using inherently cinematic techniques to convey what Tolstoy expresses in his prose.

    • Jane Eyre (2011)

      Cary Fukunaga brings a brooding, eerie atmosphere to his adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s gothic novel. Mia Wasikowska is tough and haunting as the title character, and Michael Fassbender is perfectly tortured as her anguished object of affection.

    • Vanity Fair (2004)

      Reese Witherspoon gives one of her best performances in Mira Nair’s underrated adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel. Although the movie softens Witherspoon’s prickly Becky Sharp a bit, it’s still full of dry wit and pointed social commentary.

    • Titus (1999)

      Julie Taymor transforms one of William Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays (Titus Andronicus) into a stylized exploration of revenge and betrayal. Mixing elements from various historical periods along with pure fantasy, she creates a unique world that places timeless words in a startling new context.

    • Great Expectations (1998)

      Before taking on Harry Potter, Alfonso Cuarón brought Charles Dickens to the modern day with this stylish adaptation starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. Cuarón uses bold colors and sweeping camera movements to capture an epic and tragic romance.


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