By the Book

By the Book

57 Episodes

You’ve read—or at least meant to read—the book. Now see the movie. Just in time for the start of school, we’ve collected some of the all-time great page-to-screen adaptations, encompassing English 101 classics like “Great Expectations” and “Lord Of The Flies,” world-literature masterpieces like “War and Peace” and “Pather Panchali,” modern best sellers like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and more. While faithful transpositions abound, there are plenty of surprising spins on canonical titles, such as Akira Kurosawa’s Japan-set retelling of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot,” John Huston’s hallucinatory take on Malcolm Lowry’s “unfilmable” “Under the Volcano,” and Chantal Akerman’s fascinating postcolonialist reimagining of Joseph Conrad’s “Almayer’s Folly.” Each is a distinguished work of art in its own right, as worthy of appreciation as its celebrated source.

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By the Book
  • Closely Watched Trains

    Episode 1

    Directed by Jiří Menzel • 1966 • Czechoslovakia
    Starring Václav Neckář, Josef Somr, Vlastimil Brodský

    At a village railway station in occupied Czechoslovakia, a bumbling dispatcher’s apprentice longs to liberate himself from his virginity. Oblivious to the war and the resistance that surrounds h...

  • WAR AND PEACE: Part 1

    Episode 2

    ANDREI BOLKONSKY
    Directed by Sergei Bondarchuk • 1966 • Soviet Union

    At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet film industry set out to prove it could outdo Hollywood with a production that would dazzle the world: a titanic, awe-inspiring adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic tome in which the fates o...

  • WAR AND PEACE: Part 2

    Episode 3

    NATASHA ROSTOVA
    Directed by Sergei Bondarchuk • 1966 • Soviet Union

    At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet film industry set out to prove it could outdo Hollywood with a production that would dazzle the world: a titanic, awe-inspiring adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic tome in which the fates of...

  • WAR AND PEACE: Part 3

    Episode 4

    THE YEAR 1812
    Directed by Sergei Bondarchuk • 1967 • Soviet Union

    At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet film industry set out to prove it could outdo Hollywood with a production that would dazzle the world: a titanic, awe-inspiring adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic tome in which the fates of t...

  • WAR AND PEACE: Part 4

    Episode 5

    PIERRE BEZUKHOV
    Directed by Sergei Bondarchuk • 1967 • Soviet Union

    At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet film industry set out to prove it could outdo Hollywood with a production that would dazzle the world: a titanic, awe-inspiring adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic tome in which the fates of...

  • Memories of Underdevelopment

    Episode 6

    Directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea • 1968 • Cuba

    This film by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea is the most renowned work in the history of Cuban cinema. After his wife and family flee in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the bourgeois intellectual Sergio (Sergio Corrieri) passes his days wandering Havan...

  • Dodes’ka-den

    Episode 7

    Directed by Akira Kurosawa • 1970 • Japan
    Starring Yoshitaka Zushi, Kin Sugai, Junzaburo Ban

    By turns tragic and transcendent, Akira Kurosawa’s film follows the daily lives of a group of people barely scraping by in a slum on the outskirts of Tokyo. Yet as desperate as their circumstances are, e...

  • Picnic at Hanging Rock

    Episode 8

    Directed by Peter Weir • 1975 • Australia
    Starring Rachel Roberts, Vivean Gray, Helen Morse

    This sensual and striking chronicle of a disappearance and its aftermath put director Peter Weir on the map and helped usher in a new era of Australian cinema. Based on an acclaimed 1967 novel by Joan Lin...

  • The American Friend

    Episode 9

    Directed by Wim Wenders • 1977 • Germany
    Starring Dennis Hopper, Bruno Ganz

    Wim Wenders pays loving homage to rough-and-tumble Hollywood film noir with THE AMERICAN FRIEND, a loose adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel “Ripley’s Game.” Dennis Hopper oozes quirky menace as an amoral American a...

  • The Ascent

    Episode 10

    Directed by Larisa Shepitko • 1977 • Soviet Union

    Shepitko's emotionally overwhelming final film won the Golden Bear at the 1977 Berlin Film Festival and has been hailed around the world as the finest Soviet film of its decade. Set during World War II's darkest days, THE ASCENT follows the path ...

  • The Getting of Wisdom

    Episode 11

    Directed by Bruce Beresford • 1977 • Australia
    Starring Susannah Fowle, Hilary Ryan, John Waters

    Told with a delicate blend of satire and nostalgia, this award-winning coming-of-age tale introduces one of Australian literature’s most beloved characters, Laura Tweedle Rambothan (Susannah Fowle), ...

  • Watership Down

    Episode 12

    Directed by Martin Rosen • 1978 • United Kingdom
    Starring John Hurt, Richard Briers, Michael Graham-Cox

    With this passion project, screenwriter-producer-director Martin Rosen brilliantly achieved what had been thought nearly impossible: a faithful big-screen adaptation of Richard Adams’s classic...

  • Empire of Passion

    Episode 13

    Directed by Nagisa Oshima • 1978 • Japan
    Starring Tatsuya Fuji, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Takahiro Tamura

    With an arresting mix of eroticism and horror, Oshima plunges the viewer into a nightmarish tale of guilt and retribution in EMPIRE OF PASSION (AI NO BOREI). Set in a Japanese village at the end of ...

  • Stalker

    Episode 14

    Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky • 1979 • Russian Federation

    Andrei Tarkovsky’s final Soviet feature is a metaphys­ical journey through an enigmatic postapocalyptic landscape, and a rarefied cinematic experience like no other. A hired guide—the Stalker—leads a writer and a professor into the heart...

  • The Tin Drum

    Episode 15

    Directed by Volker Schlöndorff • 1979 • Germany
    Starring David Bennent, Mario Adorf, Angela Winkler

    Oskar is born in Germany in 1924 with an advanced intellect. Repulsed by the hypocrisy of adults and the irresponsibility of society, he refuses to grow older after his third birthday. While the c...

  • My Brilliant Career

    Episode 16

    Directed by Gillian Armstrong • 1979 • Australia
    Starring Judy Davis, Sam Neill

    For her award-winning breakthrough film, director Gillian Armstrong drew on teenage author Miles Franklin’s novel, a celebrated turn-of-the-twentieth-century Australian coming-of-age story, to brashly upend the co...

  • Wise Blood

    Episode 17

    Directed by John Huston • 1979 • United States
    Starring Brad Dourif, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton

    In this acclaimed adaptation of the first novel by legendary Southern writer Flannery O’Connor, John Huston vividly brings to life her poetic world of American eccentricity. Brad Dourif, in an imp...

  • You Are Not I

    Episode 18

    Directed by Sara Driver • 1981 • United States
    Starring Suzanne Fletcher, Melody Schneider, Bea Boyle

    A legendary, once-lost landmark of American underground cinema, Sara Driver’s first film was rediscovered in 2008 and has since taken its place as one of the key works of the No Wave filmmaking ...

  • Under the Volcano

    Episode 19

    Directed by John Huston • 1984 • Mexico, United States
    Starring Albert Finney, Jacqueline Bisset

    UNDER THE VOLCANO follows the final day in the life of self-destructive British consul Geoffrey Firmin (Albert Finney, in an Oscar-nominated tour de force) on the eve of World War II. Withering from ...

  • Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

    Episode 20

    Directed by Paul Schrader • 1985 • Japan, United States
    Starring Ken Ogata, Kenji Sawada, Toshiyuki Nagashima

    Paul Schrader’s visually stunning, collagelike portrait of the acclaimed Japanese author and playwright Yukio Mishima (played by Ken Ogata) investigates the inner turmoil and contradicti...

  • My Life as a Dog

    Episode 21

    Directed by Lasse Hallström • 1985 • Sweden
    Starring Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Brömssen, Anki Liden

    MY LIFE AS A DOG (MITT LIV SOM HUND) tells the story of Ingemar, a twelve-year-old from a working-class family sent to live with his uncle in a country village when his mother falls ill. There, ...

  • Betty Blue

    Episode 22

    Directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix • 1986 • France
    Starring Jean-Hugues Anglade, Béatrice Dalle, Gérard Darmon

    When the easygoing would-be novelist Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) meets the tempestuous Betty (Béatrice Dalle, in a magnetic breakout performance) in a sunbaked French beach town, it’s the ...

  • Europa Europa

    Episode 23

    Directed by Agnieszka Holland • 1990 • Germany, France, Poland
    Starring Marco Hofschneider, Julie Delpy

    As World War II splits Europe, sixteen-year-old German Jew Salomon (Marco Hofschneider) is separated from his family after fleeing with them to Poland, and finds himself reluctantly assuming v...

  • The Comfort of Strangers

    Episode 24

    Directed by Paul Schrader • 1990 • United States
    Starring Christopher Walken, Rupert Everett, Natasha Richardson

    Two couples are drawn into a dark psychosexual vortex in Paul Schrader’s stylish take on the erotic thriller. Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson are a British couple hoping to repa...