His Dark Materials

So, on Sunday I was hungover, feeling a bit sad and a bit moronic at all the stupid things I had said the night before. I settled down on the couch, wrapped in my snuggie and flicked through the channels to see what was on. On Film4, “The Golden Compass” was on. I had seen it before at the cinema on my University campus when it first came out and I remembered being incredibly disappointed then but my memories were a bit vague. All I could really recall from the film was that there was a lot of steampunk inspired devices and I think that was before it became cool and then mocked.

The Dark Material books are some of my favourite books of all time. I have a deep seated dislike of religion for various reasons which I won’t bother going into and I love the over arching theme of how insidious and controlling the religious establishment can be. Although, to be fair, I doubt it would be noticed by the audience at which the books are intended in much the same way you don’t see the religious overtones reading the Chronicles of Narnia for the first time – presumably as a child.

This isn’t the only reason I love them of course, first, I always cry at the end. Always, without fail. A beautiful and apt ending. I love Lyra, the protagonist, and while I am nothing like her, I can always relate to her. The first book draws you into this amazing world, (I still wonder what my Daemon would be) and I can’t really express how much I wanted to live there when I first read the books. I must have been about 15 or 16. I got my dad to buy them for me, in one of his strange infrequent generous fits. I can’t remember how long it took me to read them, all I remember is that I couldn’t put them down. I love the Gyptians, the Panserbjorn, the Witches, the Gallivespians. I adore Lord Asriel. I love the cold, calculated demeanour of Mrs Coulter. I want to meet and marry Will.

This really isn’t coming out right. I like to think I could write a letter to Phillip Pullman explaining all the ways I love these books, (including my age of course, 26 and one quarter) but evidently that would not go to plan. This, my friends, is why I could never be a writer. I just can’t express.

Basically, I adore these books and to see the first one lose so much in translation to film really breaks my heart. I read that Phillip Pullman was happy with the adaptation (and actually suggested the scene where Mrs Coulter hits her Daemon (an as aside, so we ever learn her Daemons name?)), but one wonders whether he felt he had to say this or whether it was truly felt.

Like the merging of two characters into one, that was annoying. The far too early introduction of the priest who is assigned the task of killing Lyra. The complete butchery of the original order of the storyline. That isn’t to say that the film on its own isn’t an enjoyable film. It is just compared to the book it is very minimal and I am not sure you could really follow what is happening without prior knowledge. Maybe that is just me, I like having the extra depth of knowledge that only reading the book can bring. (Also, this is also why I was somewhat disappointed in the adaptation of “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, but I also said that would be the main issue in adapting it for film, that you just can’t get the depth of what his mother is really going through, the whole build up, the gradual reveal. That isn’t to say, once again, that it isn’t a good film, but the extra depth of knowledge from reading the book definitely helped you follow what was happening). You know, that argument could be applied to pretty much any film/TV adaptation. I still love Game of Thrones in both formats though.

In conclusion, watching the film on Saturday was an upsetting experience, but I will almost certainly be reading The Dark Materials trilogy again. I would suggest you do so too.

Currently I am reading “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, which I am only a very small way in and already loving. I have also finished “Woman on the Edge of Time”, my word. What an incredible book, massively heartbreaking. I want to do a longer post on this, but will see if I have time or the competence to do it full justice.  



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