Books versus Movies – Booking Through Thursday

 

 

Today’s Booking Through Thursday question is:

Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’™s the difference between a book and a movie?

I’ve come to the conclusion that you cannot compare books and films. They are different things entirely. I’ve been disappointed many times when a film of a book just hasn’t met my expectations or matched my vision of the characters. It would be impossible for any film to do that of course, except that Ian McKellen was just perfect as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings films – the rest of the cast had varying degrees of success as far as I was concerned and beautiful as the locations were Lothlorien was nowhere near my vision of it from reading the book.

It depends too, for me, on the impact the book had on me, or how much of it I remember. I read Atonement a few years ago now and I think that if I saw the film I could judge it on its own merits. I’m hesitating though about seeing it as I did enjoy the book so much. Once I’ve seen a film it is those actors’ faces that stick in my mind over-riding my own imagination and I don’t like that.

Usually it’s OK if I’ve seen a film first and then read the book. The exception to that was Tenko, which was  a TV drama series in the 1980s, with Ann Bell, Stephanie Cole and Bert Kwouk. The drama was good and the book was terrible.

I enjoy both books and films – both can transport me to another time and place and see things through someone else’s eyes, but I think books are more personal. Books are what the reader makes them, each person can read something different into the text, regardless of the author’s intentions, whereas films are someone else’s vision and interpretation.

25 thoughts on “Books versus Movies – Booking Through Thursday”

  1. Interesting answer. I agree with you about Gandalf. And Lothlorien, to a certain extent. I imagined the trees to be less chunky. 🙂
    I answered the question slightly differently …

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  2. Well said, Margaret! I agree with all your views. Books and movies do differ, though it’d be great if both are telling the same stories (meaning nothing is taken off from sceen) but that is not possible. I love the book “Atonement”, and I also watched the movie. I just couldn’t help it. 😉

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  3. I agree it’s difficult to not see the faces of cast members when you see a movie and then read the book (one of the ongoing difficulties with reading new Harry Potter books once the movies were out).

    I’ve also recently finished reading Atonement, and found I didn’t particularly enjoy it either. I have the DVD ready to watch when I get a chance, and intend to blog on the differences between the two media afterwards. And yes, even though I haven’t seen the film, I’ve seen enough trailers, posters and new edition book covers, to find it hard not to see Keira Knightly when reading about Cecilia…

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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  4. It depends too, for me, on the impact the book had on me, or how much of it I remember.

    So true! Most of the time, I’m more pro-book than pro-movie, but there are instances where movie is so much better than the book… or vice versa. There are instances too when I find both book and movie wonderful but in different ways. The worst case for me would be to find that neither one is particularly interesting after all.

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  5. “I’ve come to the conclusion that you cannot compare books and films. They are different things entirely.” Now why didn’t I write that instead of going round and round in circles? 😀

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  6. Which came first with ‘Tenko’ was it the television series or the book? I have read a number of ‘books of the film’ which have been awful. Of course, in some instances this is simply showing up the paucity of the film in the first place. But this wouldn’t have been the case with ‘Tenko’ which, as you say, was well done.

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  7. I agree with you and especially about the impact of the book influencing the view of the film. Harry Potter for me is a good example. I absolutely loved the books. I’ve enjoyed the films, but many of the characters did not represent my mental version of them. However, there have been some films that liked better than the books, mostly when I had seen the film first. PRACTICAL MAGIC comes to mind for me or even BRIDGET JONES. My husband encouraged me to read Tolkien for 20+ years before the movies came out and I never took him up on it. I loved the movies. He thought they were well done, but he maintains that the books hold so much more (as is usual with those transformations) and that I must still read them. I’ll get to them at some point I imagine.

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  8. I haven’t read LOTR (yet), but I think fantasy settings must be one of hardest things to translate from book to film. Some things, like Elvish cities, are probably more impressive and beautiful in the mind’s eye than they’ll ever be on a screen. Which I suppose is why movies haven’t usurped books completely. 🙂

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  9. Well done. My answer was pretty similar — I think I’ve realized that books and movies can’t be compared without shortchanging one or the other. They both ought best to be appreciated as they are, and not in comparison with anything else.

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  10. I have to agree! It seems that Hollywood goes for glitz rather than accuracy when turning books into films. I wonder if it can ever truly be done?

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  11. Maree, I think the Ents were the most disappointing “characters” in the LOTR films and fancy missing out Tom Bombadil!
    Melody – did you enjoy the Atonement film as well?
    Paula, I found the same with the Harry Potter films too.
    Kat, I haven’t found a film that’s better than the book!
    Peta, I can tend to be a bit brief sometimes (or else I go on and on and on …)
    Gautami – me too.
    Writer2b – your answer is thought -provoking too.
    Ann, I’m not sure but I think the TV series was first. At least I only found the book a few years later. It was really awful.
    Kay, I agree with your husband about LOTR, and as for the Harry Potter films I really liked Alan Rickman as Snape, not so keen on the others though.
    Chris, I never thought of that. Mmm,
    Barbara, great minds think alike.
    Jennifer, I didn’t think Cate Blanchett was anywhere near right for Galdriel. Oh dear, it seems I’m very hard to please!
    Christine, I agree.
    Kelly, that’s a good point.

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  12. Gandalf was perfectly cast! It’s so nice when our vision are realized in a film. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen often and filmmakers often take liberties with both plot and cast. Editing for time and content ok. Changing the plot or ending is not, in my opinion.

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  13. I agree: very hard to compare the two. But I think it’s very easy to be down on movies and think they make a hash of every adaptation they attempt. Not so, for instance, with movies like To Kill a Mockingbird, or A Room with a View. And their daring interpretations can be brilliant: O Brother, Where Art Thou?, is a perfect example.
    I’m always intrigued to see just how a film-maker can interpret a book I’ve loved, and will watch it as much for that reason as any other. Sometimes it doesn’t work: The Golden Compass, for example, looked spectacular, but fell short of getting a handle on the monumental themes of the book. But they always get points from me for daring.
    Hey – there are plenty of really shockingly bad books out there, even popular ones!

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  14. Lesley, I agree. I’d forgotten until I read on someone else’s blog about Dangerous Liaisons – I loved that film as much as the book! And I could accept The Golden Compass – not the same depth as the book but as you say a spectacular film. It can be intriguing to watch a film-maker’s interpretation and yes there are bad books, but I don’t like to see a poor film of a brilliant book.

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  15. You’re absolutely right, you can’t compare the two mediums except as to whether you prefer one or the other as entertainment. I gravitate towards books in preference to movies, partly because I can enjoy them over a longer period of time!

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  16. I enjoyed reading your post. I think books are like paintings. Everyone who looks at one comes away with a different interpretation but they are all valid in some way.

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  17. I wonder whether our attitude is controlled by our stimulation. It seems to me that we are stimulated visually in films by images we see created by others but with the written word the images are created by ourselves in our mind. Could it be that the fact that we have created the images is the reason that we like them more? Also a book has to do more because the reader is not a captive audience. OK you could walk out, but . . .

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  18. I am a big fan of your blog. About reading a book and watching it’s adaptation in a movie: In my opinion it is such a interesting thing to do. I like reading the book first and watching the movie next. One reason is that like you said I can make up my own “images” of what the characters and surrondings look like. Sometimes the descriptions in the books about people, places, situations between characters, emotions help you later to identify them in the movie since it is a visual translation and doesn’t give out all the clues. When the movie doesn’t show all the essence of the book or omits certain important scenes or details you can fill the blanks because of the prior reading. Then I like to analyse the differences, it is almost like a game. I have to laugh and marvel at the courage of some of the screen writters to change or miss totally what the book was about… Makes you wonder why they picked this book in the first place!
    I love to read, I love to watch movies. I even love more to compare them afterwards. Go see “Atonement” I don’t think that you will be disappointed.

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  19. I think books are more personal. Books are what the reader makes them, each person can read something different into the text, regardless of the author’s intentions, whereas films are someone else’s vision and interpretation.

    That’s exactly what I was trying to say in my post. But I do enjoy both books and movies.

    Great post! 🙂

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