by Hannah Joslin
I want to tackle something here: books versus movie adaptations. Why does that sentence sound off an alarm in fandoms all over the Internet? Potterheads are probably already on their way.
But, I want to know: why is it that books seem to be so consistently “better” than their movie adaptations? Personally, I believe it to be (at least partially) a matter of imagination, and keeping yours.
If you’ve ever read a book in its entirety and then saw the movie adaptation, you know you can’t read that book again the same way you did. While reading, you will picture the actors and settings from the movie. You have essentially, and sometimes entirely, lost the story of your personal imagination and replaced it with a less in-depth, less alluring version that doesn’t belong to you.
There are undoubtedly other factors: the limitations of film can lead to important storylines being left out, emotional scenes being rushed through, even entire characters being eliminated. Book lovers can get so passionate about criticizing a movie adaptation because, as readers, they know that the movie didn’t do the story justice. Many things that make a novel a good novel, are lost when rendered into a movie.
This is not to say that movies are not valuable. Films can be heart-wrenching, imaginative, groundbreaking, exciting. And many are (you’re talking to a film buff, here). They can be unprecedented, and moving picture tends to capture emotion the best of all mediums. It’s astounding that people can take their own mental images and emotions and create a film for all, conceived entirely from words on a page.
But you can’t, through a movie, come to know and understand a character by diving deeper and deeper into their mind like you can through a book. The timeline of a book is much slower and, naturally, a reader becomes more attached. They, in a sense, fall in love with the characters, with the story, with the themes, and even with how the author tends to form sentences.
There are seldom things more fulfilling than living an entire life in a novel. The connection made between reader and character, and reader and author, is a bond unlike any other that simply can’t be realized in quite the same way through a movie.
So can passionate book fans get a little crazy about movie adaptations? Of course. Rightfully so, if you ask me, especially if the adaptation is money-grabbing by making scenes more action-packed than they should be. Does that mean everyone who watches the movie should have read the book first? Of course not. But any reader will tell you: finishing a novel is one of the best feelings. It can even change the way you think and perceive the world. It takes a lot out of you. And, if you have the patience to read instead of watch, it will also give a lot back to you.
Think of it this way. You cannot see someone for who they truly are, the reasons they’re hopeful, the stories behind their scars, the way their eyes brighten at the sound of someone’s name, how their voice trembles when they sing a certain verse of a song—you can’t take this living thing and simply try to accurately portray it through an actor with the same color eyes.
Only reading can portray such a beautiful sight. Reading, and experiencing it in real life, that is. But why live one life when you can live a hundred?
Guest post contributed by Hannah Joslin at the Blooming Twig. The Blooming Twig is an independent, boutique publishing house that supports the adventurous tastes of its readership.
It’s all about interpretation, isn’t it? It’s imagination -v- direction. In movies, the viewer is told how to perceive a character. I’m not a big film fan at all, unless it’s a low-budget, B-movie or arty, thoughtful one. It’s books for me. 😉
I certainly think you’re right about the time – to film the average length book and not miss anything out, you’d probably need a film that lasts about 20 hours. So it all seems compressed or chopped up.
The other reason, which you alluded to, is that today films need to be all action – bish, bash, bosh and no room for thought.
I totally agree with you. Maybe that’s why it was always so hard to go back and re-read all the Harry Potter books after the movies were released. We already had a picture in our head so our imagination had to work less.
Well said. As an author, I try to write in a way that draws the reader into the story itself, allowing their own emotions, thoughts, and questions to become a part of the experience. This takes time. As the reader waits suspended in the story until they can return to the book itself, what he or she has already read is allowed to marinate. The story for an individual reader can become much bigger than the actual words in print.
Reblogged this on Books and More.
Two movies stand out for me. One: Good Morning Miss Dove; a lovely minor little picture based on a novella that was exactly like the novella and did a beautiful job because the original was simple, maybe even simplistic. Two: The Last Picture Show: because of one small change in one scene I thought the movie was actually better, more satisfying than the book. The use of music also added a dimension you couldn’t find in the book. After all these years, I still rate this movie as one of the best ever made.
The exception, and definitely the exception that proves the rule, are movies that are watered down, sanitized etc versions of the book and the book is too strong, too aggressive. In my case I loved Dune the movie (sorry I’m old) and yet hated the book and the characters in the book. I must admit I’m a wuss & like ‘nice’ characters, so sometimes like the increased likability a Hollywood makeover can give.
I think a major change has occurred now that multiple episodes are available via dvd and streaming. The TV version of James Caine’s noirish Mildred Pierce was totally faithful to the book and much better than the Joan Crawford vehicle which bore very little resemblance to the book. The mini series popular once on network TV pretty much disappeared for a number of reasons. However, Netflix, Amazon and other players seem to be committed to multi episode blockbusters. We may yet see many more excellent adaptations of books, especially those who are in the public domain.
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