Do you prefer the book or the movie?
If I had a dime for every time I’ve been asked this question I could retire and happily write, read, and watch TV/Movies all day, every day, for the rest of my life. And I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems I get asked this question a lot because I’m an avid reader. I don’t see anyone who is strictly a movie-goer get asked this question. At least, not in my reality.
When I was younger, blinded by my arrogance, I immediately responded “the book will always be better.” And how can it not be better? There are so many arguments to be made pro-book that you almost can’t argue with it, unless of course you don’t like to read. And if that is the case, arguments for the book are pointless because the person you are pleading your case to, most likely, will never pick up that book. But let’s take a look at some of those arguments. Humor me, non-book lovers.
Since there are many arguments for the book-is-better campaign, I’m only going a few of the ones I hear the most. One argument I usually hear most for the pro-book side of the fence is that you have more narrative. With more narrative, you get more detail, more backstory, more information, period. Most times, when you read you really understand the story. You get the who, what, where, why, how, … and then some. Your mind then takes all this, processes it, and then gives you the full story. Another argument I hear is that since you’re reading, you get more intimate with the characters and as a result you gain a better sense of their character because of it. You really get to know them. I also hear that with reading the book, your imagination is supplying all the visuals so you’re not disappointed. You have the flexibility of adjust the world the book is providing as it suits you since it’s all in your head, versus the hard-and-fast creation the director provided for you on-screen.
As I mentioned earlier, arguments that the book is better are pointless if the opposing party doesn’t read the book. You can argue until you’re blue in the face that the book is better, but it won’t matter to someone who just doesn’t like to read. Sorry, guys. Fact of life.
Now, I mentioned that I was an avid “book is better” fan until I got a bit older (I’d say around my sophomore year in high school) and realized that I may have to reconsider my position, if only because of the fact that half of the world doesn’t read. I really started to think about this because I really got into movies. I made up my mind to work somewhere in the Film and Entertainment industry because I wanted to be a part of the magic.
My conclusion? You can’t compare them against each other because they are two different forms of art. Literature is its own art. Cinematography is its own art. To compare one to another is like comparing an apple to an orange (I hope I get that parallel right). With literature and cinematography, there are different rules to follow (does that make sense?) so the presentation will be different. Both entertain. Both bring joy. Both are creative. In their own right. It’s because of this I’ve given up on comparing these two to each other and instead judge them on their own turfs and consider book-to-movie adaptation as a separate category instead of using it as a guide.
Example. Mansfield Park. The book is written by the famous Jane Austen and is a beloved classic to avid readers. This book has been adapted for film a couple of times. There was the 1999 adaptation directed by Patricia Rozema, who also wrote the screenplay. There was also a 2007 TV movie adaptation directed by Iain MacDonald with the screenplay written by Maggie Wadey. I have yet to see the TV-movie, so let me focus on Patricia Rozema’s work. Simply stated, I loved it. I thought it was a great movie. In fact, it was because of this movie that I decided I needed to read the book. Needless to say, the book was a whole different experience. Book to movie adaptation? It sucked. The book and the movie shared some events, but the movie told the same story in a very different way and if you’re looking at it strictly as a book-to-movie adaptation, you’ll be sorely disappointed (as some fans were). But I really enjoyed the movie. And I love the book. I’d venture to say that it’s my favorite Austen, but I haven’t read all her works yet. So, as a movie adaptation it was poor, yet as a movie it was excellent.
Two different forms of art.
Other examples? Twilight. Beautiful Creatures. The Hunger Games. These were all movies that I watched before reading the book and I read the book because I watched the movie. Granted the movie adaptation of Twilight left me with a lot of questions, which is the main reason I picked up the book, however, I felt the movie was good as a movie.
So, in my humble opinion, one shouldn’t judge a book by its movie nor should a movie be judged by its book. Two different mediums so they should be judged accordingly, not against each other.
What are some of your favorite book-to-movie adaptations? Any experience where the book ruined the movie for you or vice versa? Feel free to share them below.
(Photo credits: thehpalliance.org (“never judge a book” image) & myclutterbox.com (“book vs movie” image)