I absolutely love this film. One of my childhood favorites! I haven’t watched it in years and I came across the trailer on YouTube. The Secret Garden was originally a book written by Frances Hodgson-Burnett and was published in 1909. One of her most popular novels, the story follows that of one Mary Lennox, a spoiled girl growing up in India until her parents pass away and she goes to Yorkshire, England to live with her uncle in his manor, where she uncovers secrets, especially of one secret garden. The film I’m referencing to above is an adaptation of Hodgson Burnett’s story, directed by Agnieszka Holland and released in 1993 by Warner Brothers.
There are many times when a story first starts out as a book and then is made into a film and the resulting film just doesn’t match up to the book. However, I think this is a case where the film is just as good, if not better, than the book! Perhaps I feel this way because I was introduced to The Secret Garden as a film before I actually read the book. (Mind you, I was around 3 years old when I first watched it and I didn’t read it until I was about 13! Of course the film was more special to me; it was a part of my childhood.)
There’s often a discussion on whether a book is better than the film adaptation and more often than not, it’s the book that wins. I think it’s because readers become very involved in their favorite stories and they have a set of expectations that they want met when the stories are made for the screen. However, films have a time limit and budget to consider and therefore many elements of plot and character that are within a book cannot translate to film so easily and so are cut. It’s disappointing to many readers and sometimes the film is just missing the elements that made the book so magical.
I think The Secret Garden is rather good in terms of adaptation. It keeps the central characters, it’s true to the original story’s voice and theme, and it’s faithful in capturing Hodgson-Burnett’s original story. If you haven’t seen the movie before; check it out. I can hardly believe it’s over 20 years old now (it was new when I first saw it!). Time flies, but stories remain.