That said, many of these film adaptations have something in common—they’re based not on full-length novels but on short stories or novellas, which give the director and his or her screenwriters the chance to expand and elaborate, rather than condense and truncate, the literary source. “Benjamin Button” takes a bare-bones story with a surprising span and locates the grand historical fresco it implies; whereas, when filming “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Fincher was obviously limited by the literal storytelling that the familiar novel dictated (and he did well to make his illustrations so mercurial). Writing here recently about Hawks’s “To Have and Have Not,” I noted the ruthless extraction and abstraction to which he submitted Hemingway’s novel in order to make a good movie from it.

“The Great Gatsby” Delay and Making Movies from Books : The New Yorker. It’s worth noting that the only attempt I know of to film a novel absolutely completely is the 1981 version of Brideshead Revisited, which needed 11 hours to reproduce the events of a novel that comes in right at 300 pages. The 1972 BBC dramatization of War and Peace ran for fifteen hours and left out huge chunks of the book while radically condensing others. Good novels are informationally very dense.