[Quick Summary: A group is kidnapped and flown to Shangri-La, but it's not as idyllic as it seems.]
Ooof. Tough adaption.
I gather that the novel was problematic to adapt for film.
- The protagonist gets to Shangri-La and is seduced by its charms.
- Then he wants to leave, but there's no real motive to go.
A passive protagonist is ok in a novel, but in a film? Yikes!
So, the writer did what had to be done: He added things that were not in the book.*
He gave the protagonist a brother, George, who wants to leave Shangri-La and is not deterred. It's not a glamorous fix, but now there's a motive for the protagonist to act.
ex. "MARIA: (a little hurt) You promised to come for tea yesterday. I waited for so long.
GEORGE: I'm sorry. (chagrined to discover he has no cigarettes left) I haven't even got any cigarettes left!
MARIA: I'll make some for you! (pleading) You will come today?
GEORGE: (after a pause) Perhaps.
MARIA: (tenderly) Please say you will. The days are so very long and lonely without you. (a whisper) Please...
GEORGE: All right. I'll be there.
MARIA: (happily) Thank you.
GEORGE: (suddenly) You'll tell me some of the things I want to know, won't you? You'll tell me who runs this place. And why we were kidnapped. And what they're going to do with us?
CLOSEUP - MARIA
From the moment he starts to speak, her face clouds. George's voice continues without interruption.
GEORGE'S VOICE: Chang's been lying about those porters, hasn't he?
She runs off, frightened."
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I'm surprised at how many changes were made, including a new external motive, and the novel's author was STILL HAPPY.
I find this extremely instructive. Keep the book's structure, if you can.
Lost Horizon (1937)
By Robert Riskin
Adapted from the novel by James Hilton
* Amazingly, the author approved as he "knew the rules of the game": "Of course, he had to change several things; he asked me about them all. They were none of them important. If you wrote them all down I suppose it would sound as though they'd made a lot of changes. That wouldn't be fair. None of the changes are structural. They don't affect the theme or the central story." p. XVI.