You know how it goes. The Hollywood gods make a movie version of a popular book, using ridiculously famous or soon-to-be ridiculously famous actors, and everyone squeals in excitement and anticipation of the premier. They buy the tickets weeks in advance and show up in costume three hours early. They rush for seats, and three hours later, tweet about how they were part of the first audience to see the new movie.
And what else do they say? Well, some are genuinely enthusiastic: they loved every minute of every Harry Potter movie, and were not bothered at all by the changes in directors, the location of Hagrid’s hut, or the actor switch for Dumbledore. And the rest? I don’t think it would be gross exaggeration to say that the rest of the audience says, “The book is better.” And you know what? It’s getting old.
Saying the book is better than the movie is like saying a pan of warm chocolate chunk brownies is better than one turtle cheesecake swirled brownie. Both are incredible, and it would be hard to choose between them (if you like nuts, caramel and cheesecake), but they have different pros
and cons. The entire pan of brownies will last longer, and you can add things to it as you eat it, like peanut butter or ice cream. The turtle cheesecake swirled brownie is sure to knock your socks off: it’s jam-packed with goodness. However, there’s only one of them, so the eating experience is over more quickly. The important thing to realize is that, while they are both brownies, they are very different desserts.
A similar thing could be said for books and movies.
Books are a different art form from movies. They may both tell the same story, have the same group of characters, but it would be impossible to copy and paste a book onto a DVD and play it. Books are written, movies are visual and aural. Just as the author spent countless hours poring over a manuscript and drawing plot diagrams, the director, screenwriter and actors likewise spend considerable amounts of time creating a cinematic expression of a book.
Let me tell you what I’m not trying to do. I am not advocating that we start saying movies are better than books. I’m not trying to say that books should not be turned into movies, and I’m not trying to say that you can’t be upset when a director cuts an entire scene or character from the screen. You can have opinions about how a book is made into a movie.
What I am trying to fight against is an unconscious tendency to expect the movie to be a clone of the book, and the inevitable disappointment when the film fails to meet expectations. I’m advocating
for more open-minded movie-watching. Let’s go into the cinema with an understanding of the many people who have thought long and hard about every single detail which appears on screen, and appreciate their presentation of a story that started out as a book. We don’t have to automatically like the movie, but we shouldn’t be blindly bashing the orange because it can’t be an apple.
I hope this article can promote a more harmonious future, where books and movies can stand side by side, each valued and loved for what they are. Where reading a book will encourage you to watch a movie, and watching a movie will inspire you to read the book.
That way we can have our brownie and eat it, too.
Brownies not fitting the mood of your latest reading experience? Check out Maria’s guide to
eating great literature for culinary inspiration.
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