Booking Through Thursday: Film to Paper

Even though it’s usually a mistake (grin) … do movies made out of books make you want to read the original?

I fail to understand how it’s a mistake–isn’t it the assumption that the book is better than the film among readers, no matter if the story can be told better in a different medium? (Legally Blonde is such an example; I’ve heard that the original book is just poor, the film is fun, and I adore the musical.)

And yes, watching a film based on a book makes me want to read the book. I like seeing how people adapt things for the screen and how you translate a story to a different medium. For instance, Atonement focuses so much on the inner life of its characters that it’s very difficult to translate it well; you lose that by the sheer nature of a visual medium. Sometimes, the preview for the film is the first I’ve heard of the existence of the book, and so it serves as a book trailer for me.

10 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Film to Paper

  1. I usually like the books better too. Usually though, if I know the book exists, I’ll read it before seeing the movie.

    I agree that it’s fun to see how a book is adapted for the screen.

  2. My official strategy (but I rarely adhere to it) is to decide which I want to love best, the film or the book, and then that’s the thing I do first. Nearly always I will prefer the film if I watch it before reading the book, or the book if I read it before watching the film. Except sometimes I get impatient waiting for a film to come out so I read the book first anyway.

  3. There seems to be four schools of thought in adapting books to film:

    1) Condense as much as possible of the plot and add a few things the author didn’t think of to make it a more visual experience (e.g. the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films);
    2) Be so faithful to the book that the experience as a film is laden and heavy and too long (any of the Harry Potter films);
    3) Jettison almost everything from the original plot and just keep the name and the characters (a lot of recent Agatha Christie adaptations); and
    4) A faithful adaptation of the book which is also a good film (the only one I can think of is The Maltese Falcon).

    I do usually prefer books to films, even when I saw the film first, since I prefer my idea of what the characters look like to what a casting director does. For example, I loved The Maltese Falcon, both as a film (which I saw before reading Hammett’s book) and as a novel, but I didn’t think of Sam Spade as Humphrey Bogart when I read it, though he was excellent in the film.

    I think the problem nowadays is that modern popular novels are usually quite long, and that makes them into terrible films. Matthew Reilly’s thrillers, for instance, are written in a style which owes a lot to film action movies, but they’d make awful films unless the scriptwriter was particularly ruthless, since an awful lot goes on in those books which could never make it to screen.

    • Someone that adapts a screenplay, I think, needs to be particularly ruthless. I find it fascinating, I think, to see what different people think is indispensible to a particular book and must be in the book- I used to lose patience with book fans who wanted every scene in the film, whether or not it could work on film!

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