Thursday, 5 May 2011

Books or Films?

As you probably guessed, I love books. But I also love films. So often when I read a great novel I find myself thinking, “this would make a brilliant film.” But then I have to stop and rethink that – because really, how often do films actually do justice to their source material? Most of the time if I’ve loved the novel, I find the film miserably disappointing. Whether it be a diluted plot, with all the best bits chopped out, or disastrous miscasting, most of the time I feel that the filmmakers have totally missed the point and fallen massively short of my expectations.

Is it best to read the book first and at least know the complexities of both plot and character to help you navigate through the movie version? Or should you watch the film first, then head to the book? Maybe that way you can enjoy both?

Take the Harry Potter series for instance. Largely speaking, if you haven’t read the books, you’re missing out on masses of plot details because the filmmakers assume you will have read them. My hubby recently started reading the books to our daughter and is discovering quite how much the films omitted. But on the whole, he’s enjoyed the films more than I have, because he hasn’t been hugely irritated by the changes made.

One book that I loved was “Perfume” by German writer Patrick Suskind. It was so original and dark – just my cup of tea. When I heard they were making a film of it I thought they were brave, perhaps a little mad. Because I really couldn’t imagine them successfully conveying the world that Jean-Baptiste Grenouille inhabited. I went to the cinema though, desperately hoping to be proved wrong. In my opinion, I wasn’t. Not that it was a bad film, just that it lost something in translation. Perhaps it was because the reason the novel worked, despite having an unlikeable murderer as its protagonist, was the exquisite and sensory prose crafted with skill by the author.

Perhaps my favourite childhood film was “The Princess Bride.” To this day I know it word for word (yes, I know, probably not something I should be broadcasting!) and love that my daughter now watches it too. A few years ago I was given the novel it was based on. And I haven’t read it yet. Not because I don’t want to – but because I’m scared if I do, it’ll tarnish my opinion of a film that never fails to warm my heart. Sigh. Maybe one day I’ll be willing to take that risk!

Maybe I should just learn to separate the books from films and view them as different products altogether, appreciating them in their own individual right. After all, I’ve managed to do that successfully with the Sookie Stackhouse books and the TV series of True Blood!

~ Bex ~


  1. ooh I know what you mean ... sometimes you have to think of them as 2 different stories ... if only we ran the film/tv industry, I am sure we could get it right! hehe
    Maria xx

  2. I totally agree! I can't watch Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher because as far as I'm concerned they totally changed one of the characters! And yet I believe the author was consulted!!

    Anne of Green Gables goes so far from the book that mostly I can watch it as a separate story but it's so disappointing when they change things and leave out what we consider to be pivotal moments and characters!