Friday, July 29, 2011

LitSoup: The book or the movie?

The release of the final installment in the "Harry Potter" films led me to this month's LitSoup question:
Which is better: The book or the movie?

I posed this question to the newsroom, and these are the responses I received:

Jean Bonchak:
In most cases for me, a movie is a disappointing portrayal of a book. “White Oleander” and “The Notebook” are both examples of this. After being intrigued and thoroughly enjoying those stories via reading, their associated movies seemed to lack so much depth and emotion. They seemed flat. Maybe it’s the imagination which can flourish without boundaries while reading. In movies, the viewer is somewhat confined to what is seen on the screen.

Danielle Capriato:
I could go on for days on why I don’t like to compare film adaptations to the original book. I like to consider movies a separate interpretation of the story—a new and sometimes completely different way of visualizing what happened. Movies and books are entirely different forms of storytelling—as the cliché stands, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. One can never expect a movie to mimic a book exactly, so for the most part I try not to compare them at all. And in some cases I’ve seen movies that have inspired me to read the book (“My Sister’s Keeper” is one example). Either way I try to remain open-minded and unbiased about what I am reading or watching. While it is often hard to go into a movie based on a beloved book—such as “Harry Potter,” of course—and not worry about things that weren’t exactly like the book, or things that weren’t how I pictured them, I do my best. Therefore, I don’t know if I can answer this question the way it is meant to be. Were, for example, the “Harry Potter” books enjoyable? They were amazing, and worth reading no matter who you are or how old you are. Were the films good, too? Absolutely. Can I definitively say the books were “better” than the movies? No, because they were too different to compare. (But I think I’ll reread the books more times than I will rewatch the movies, if that means anything.)

Jeff Frischkorn:
I’ve always been disappointed in the way television and the movies portray the characters found in books. Always. Even a film like “Planet of the Apes” is much, much better in the book form of the same name. And “Big Red” was so different that you’d think the book and the movie only shared the same name and not much else. Maybe the closest of the two is Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” But not too many more.

Rachel Jackson:
For me, it totally depends on the situation – who acted or directed, who authored, etc. A fabulous story in the wrong hands can have tragic outcomes.
That said, I’m far more likely to read the book after I’ve seen the movie/miniseries. As someone who’s still rediscovering the joys of reading (that’s for a whole other blog post), I find it’s easier to slog through the book when I already have visuals or voices in mind for the characters. The Precious Ramotswe series (by Alexander McCall Smith) is a good example of this. The books move at a slow, easy pace; so does the TV series, but at least with the TV version I was able to get hooked on the characters more quickly. Then I went back and revisited the books. I had a similar experience with the Joe Leaphorn series (by Tony Hillerman), but for different reasons.

Janet Podolak:
I think the book is almost always better because it requires more engagement in the story and interpretations of its characters and events on the part of the reader.

Cheryl Sadler:
I always want to read the book before I see the movie, but then I'm always disappointed by the movie. I don't know why I do that to myself, fully knowing that the movie is not going to be everything I loved about the book. "The Time Traveler's Wife" is a good example of this: I looooooved the book, and I enjoyed the movie but was ultimately disappointed at all of the detail that was cut out. The movie is only 107 minutes and seemed like a lot had been left on the editing room floor. Even though the movie wasn't going to be the true telling of the book, I kind of wish they had kept in a little bit more, to make the movie just a little bit longer, and to keep in some of the details that were left out - details that I thought helped to tell the story and might have led to confusion for any viewers who had not read the book.

This post is part of a LitSoup, a monthly feature on The Book Club compiled of contributions from the newsroom. Send an email or tweet with your suggestions for future LitSoup topics.

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl



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