Thursday, 22 May 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week's BTT 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?"

Firstly, I'm not sure that what I want from a book and what I want from a film is that much different. Both are escapism of a form and a (hopefully) entertaining way to pass the time. Both can be challenging learning experiences or meaningless fluff - depending on your inclination. You tend to commit more time to a book than you have to for a film but that's not necessarily a point in the favour of either.

You can discuss events as they unfold on a film and start a dialogue whilst still in the moment and whilst what you want to talk about is still very fresh. Assuming that you're watching it in your own home, of course! Mr B just loves my habit of saying "press pause" and then doing just this. Hem hem. A book tends to be a more solitary experience although if you can find someone who has also read it recently then this does not have to be the case. All hail the internet!

I used to really resent it when a film changed the story in a book (as an extreme example, so that Juliet does not die) but I'm no longer as black and white about this as I was and I can live with films being "inspired by" the book in the same way that they are loosely "inspired by" a true story. My attention to detail also depends on how long it's been since I read the book. I watched Vanity Fair a few weeks ago and, as I last read the book when I was in my teens, I'd forgotten half the plot anyway so was quite happy to assume that the stories remained similar. In general, I can accept that they are two different mediums, that a story in a film has to be told very quickly and that bits have to be cut to pare a story down enough to make a film that does not last hours and hours.

Having just said how tolerant I am now, casting can be an issue for me but I am going to spare you my thoughts on the various Elizabeth Bennets who have been Not Quite Right.

Thinking about some specific examples where I've read and watched it's not fair to make a sweeping judgement about Book v. Film. Some films have been of significantly higher quality than the books on which they are based and The Bourne franchise springs to mind here and I enjoyed the film of Everything is Illuminated far more than the book (which I'd tried to read first). Period films in general seem to be pretty faithful adaptions with Merchant Ivory productions leading the way and it's hard to go wrong when paying close attention to detail with franchises like Lord of the Rings or the Narnia series. Films based on Shakespeare's plays are as varied as the stage productions - and so they should be. I loved Much Ado About Nothing, which I saw after studying it as an A-Level set text and Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet opened the play up to a much wider audience than a more traditional interpretation could have.

I realise that I'm thinking about this solely from the viewpoint of someone who always reads the book before watching the film and am trying to think of an instance where it's happened the other way around. Actually, four spring to mind - Dangerous Liaisons, The Colour Purple and (more recently) V for Vendetta and Howl's Moving Castle. I loved all of those films and actively sought out the books to read after allowing a period of time to elapse so that they could retain some freshness for me when I eventually read them. At some point this year, I'll read the Constant Gardener and Children of Men as well as I enjoyed both films last year but I want to read them without too many pre-conceptions from the films remaining.

Oh dear - I seem to have gone seriously off topic and I am not sure that I actually answered the question. I'd better post this before I veer even further!


Anonymous said...

Solitary or not I like the kind of escapism a book offers.

My BTT post!

Anonymous said...

Never fear, you answered the question--and interestingly, too! :-)I enjoyed reading this.

Anonymous said...

I had a very similar experience with 'The Color Purple' and perhaps the answer for me is to see the film first and then read the book. But of course, that isn't always practical.
I think you make a very interesting point about casting. I still have problems with the youth of the hobbits in 'The Lord of the Rings'.

Peta said...

They were very young looking! Gandalf was pretty much spot on though and Legolas... Be still, my beating heart!

Chrisbookarama said...

I've heard that Children of Men (the book) is completely different. Why do they do that?

Anonymous said...

Interesting answer =)
I think the social aspect is definitely a point in favour of films. I love watching movies with rowdy audiences.

I'm not happy about plot changes between film and book either. Especially when they seem pointless. After seeing The Da Vinci Code I decided never to read a book right before seeing the film!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed and agreed with your first couple of paragraphs. Though I often prefer reading, good films can be enjoyable, too.

Judy said...

When I see a movie based on a book, I prefer to do it after some time has passed as well. And, I can understand how some things can be changed and need to be changed to for time constraints. But..when they start actively changing the characters of the characters (sorry, couldn't resist).. then that's too much.

Anonymous said...

There are some authors I simply cannot read because I don't "get" their writing style. Like Stephen King for example. He is one of the most widely popular authors who has had many (if not all) of his books turned into films. I would rather watch a film based on a Stephen King novel rather than read the novel.

Anonymous said...

A very interesting post!

I agree with Ann about the youth of the hobbits - far too young.

I agree about the Elizabeth Bennets and would add in the Mr Darcys as well.

I'd forgotton about Dangerous Liaisons - I enjoyed that film as much as the book - could be something to do with John Malkovitch maybe!

Peta said...

kellie - I think I've seen way more Stephen King films than I have read his books. That might also be because I don't watch anything that I might potentially be scared by... Such a wimp!

booksplease - I agree that the success of the film could be to do with John Malkovich's Valmont as he really made the role his own. (Insert a slight pause as I go weak at the knees for a bit.) I think the only badly cast part in that film was Keanu Reeves but that's more to do with his acting style.

I've quite enjoyed this week's BTT - even though I am sure I answered a different question to the one asked! Thanks for dropping by!