Thursday, July 26, 2012

The book or the movie?

Written by Karine (Kah-ree-nah :-)
As an English major, it shouldn’t be hard to guess which side I stand on the “did you like the book or the movie better” question. Often when I see a movie poster advertising a book I’ve read and enjoyed, I can’t help but to feel like the novel has been robbed of an integral part of its artistry. I have this notion that a book is written in order to be brought to life by the imagination of its reader, and that when a production company takes that process over, the reader’s world is tainted. Who, after all, reads Harry Potter today and imagines Hermione as anyone but Emma Watson?

Confession: I've never actually read Harry Potter. Am I kicked out of my major yet?

So a couple months ago, when I watched the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and loved it, I decided that I would wait a while before picking up the book. I wanted to forget the faces of the characters as much as I could, and go into the book with an outlook that wasn’t influenced by the director’s vision of the story. A few days ago, I saw the book at a local Rite Aid, and picked it up. Ironically enough, the man behind the counter when I was checking out mentioned that he’d heard of the movie and that the book is always better. I came home and started reading, completely taken in by the story, but now, half way through, am beginning to reconsider by deep rooted hatred towards books being turned into movies.

I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (gonna refer to the American one here because that’s the one I’ve seen, I’ve heard that it’s very similar to the Swedish one anyway), but it’s heavily character driven and very raw, gritty, and dark. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m just going to say that there’s a lot of twists and turns that take you through a roller coaster of emotions. Or at least that’s what I thought when I watched the movie. 

The book was a different story (pun intended). Reading, I thought “this book is filled with so many useless details! I want to get into the story already!” And it hit me. The reason people so often craze about the book being better is because books are always going to have more. We love details, we love knowing every little thing about every single character, and when we read a book that gives us all of the juicy details and then see a move that leaves them out, we think that the movie missed so much of the book’s beauty. In reality, though, a lot of times, too much information can hinder the progression of the story and make it difficult for the reader to really delve into the meat of the book. Books can tell a really interesting story, but be extremely stylistically off, and in that case, a film based on a book can be great because it can use the story as a base for a profound movie. Think Stephen King novels. That’s where Girl With the Dragon Tattoo falls for me. 

But as I thought more about this whole movie/book idea, I started considering legitimately well written books and their respective movies. Fight Club was the first one that came to mind. Chuck Palahniuk, the author of the book, and David Fincher, the director of the movie, both did an incredible job through their own mediums. Whether or not you’re a fan of the movie/book, both are critically acclaimed to be artistically sound works so to make it simple I’m writing in an objective “the book and movie are good” mindset. Anyway, both Fincher and Plahniuk worked hard to bring their artistic visions to life, and both did so successfully. To be able to transform a book into a good film is not any easier than writing a good novel, so who am I to look down upon filmmakers for creating their art because it draws from another form of art? 

Great book and great movie. I'd give it two thumbs up if my other one wasn't busy.

It’s safe to say that a large number of movies that are made from books are failures, but it’s not fair to accuse all films made from books to be artistic robbery. I should be able to watch a movie and still read the book with my own mindset afterwards, and I should be able to, if not enjoy, at least appreciate the artistry of a good film that was made from a book. 

The Painted Veil & Kite Runner. Okay movies, but I think both could've been better.
What do you all think about the movie/book conflict? Is there any specific book that you think should have just been left untouched? Or one you’d like to see a movie made out of? Comment!

Much love,
Karine

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