Are pictures really worth a thousand words?

In this post Alex Mellas, Higher Education Sales & Marketing, talks about the book versus film debate – is one better than the other?

9780192739308The Box Trolls film was released in cinemas in September alongside the novelisation movie-tie in (OUP, 2014); this beautifully animated film produced by Laika Studios (Coraline and Paranorman) was inspired by the novel Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow (OUP, 2005). Having read the original novel before watching The Boxtrolls, I found myself missing Arthur and his friends from Here Be Monsters, but also enjoying following a new adventure with Eggs and Winnie that was playing out on screen. This experience made me think about other book-to-film adaptations I had seen and whether I had enjoyed the film more than the book or vice versa.

Ask any bibliophile and they will always say ‘the book was better’ after seeing a film adaptation. Why are we so loyal to our paper friends?

They changed my favourite…[character/plot device/setting]!
Whether the Director has forgotten our favourite characters, changed the love interests or skipped vital plot points, the film never manages to stick to the story we’ve grown to love. While not all movies are a letdown (the BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice is the perfect adaptation), we are never able to relive our reading experience on the big screen and can be left disappointed that the film is not a replication of the book.

That’s not how I pictured it!
A book offers us the chance to let our imagination run wild; when a director takes that book and makes it into a movie it can feel as if they are setting a restraint on our imagination. Will you ever be able to picture Jay Gatsby without Leonardo DiCaprio now? You can always pick the readers in a cinema; they’re complaining about the eye colour, clothing styles or the number of spots on the hero’s childhood dog. We are used to thinking of these characters in a certain way and movies stunt our imagination, forcing us to accept someone else’s perception.

Films are ‘books lite’
When you read a book you can take your time and enjoy it at your leisure, you can return to favourite passages but you can’t do that with a film (of course, you can if watching the DVD!). You have roughly 90 minutes to take in and understand the story and if you miss something you can’t flick back to check details. A book can offer more world building than you get in a film; while a film can make some things clearer but it can also gloss over important points or throw in unexpected plot twists because the film doesn’t have time to build up the story.

In conclusion, to enjoy both the book and film version of your favourite stories I think that it becomes necessary to think of the two mediums as completely unrelated entities – rather than going to see your favourite book screened as a film, think of your screen time as the opportunity to watch a new story.

What’s your view? Do you have a favourite book that was made into a film? Do you think it was a successful adaptation?

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