The Movie versus The Book

I so often hear people say they loved a book, but were horribly disappointed by the film adaptation. Or vice versa. That’s if they bothered to read the book after seeing the film. I feel differently about it.

I have always loved movies, and very often saw the film adaptation before I read the book. More often than not the film is what inspired me to read the book. Even authors that I would not normally be interested in. You see, I never felt that a film had to follow the book exactly, but it should be a true reflection of the characters and the spirit of the book.  John le Carré is one of the authors (whose books have film adaptations) who seems to agree.

“The job of the movie as far as I’m concerned – the novelist – is to take the minimum intention of the novel and illustrate it with the maximum of freedom. In movie language, in movie grammar. There’s hardly a line left,there’s hardly a scene intact that comes from my book, yet I don’t know of a better translation from novel to film.”

– John le Carré talking about the film adaptation of “The Constant Gardener”.

Below is a short list (ordered by surname of author, not my preferences!) of books with film adaptations that I enjoyed (even if the critics didn’t!) :

I would probably have never read a John le Carré or a Truman Capote novel if it hadn’t been for the film adaptations.

The only books from this list which I did read before seeing the film adaptations are the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They were favourites in my teenage years, and my brother and I would read aloud to each other from them. I thought given the complexity of the books, that the Peter Jackson’s film adaptations were magical. They were what I had imagined. Okay, so they didn’t follow the original storyline exactly, but they captured the spirit of the books for me. My brother doesn’t feel the same way though.

The only film I saw, where I wasn’t that crazy about the book is The Crossing Guard. Maybe that’s because it’s not an original novel. The book is based on the film. The whole time I was reading it, I felt it read like a fleshed out screenplay. As if the author had been watching the film, and then writing down descriptions of what he saw.

I’d be interested to know how other people feel about this. Are there films which inspired you to read the book? Or books where you loved/hated the film adaptations?


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Categories: Books/Book Reviews, Film/Television/Radio


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8 Comments on “The Movie versus The Book”

  1. October 7, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    This is a really interesting topic!

    Personally I try not to watch the movie of a book I’ve read. For one thing, I notice the smallest factual inconsistency – like a character’s hair colour for example. It’s a silly thing, but I pick up on it and it bothers me. Then there are also the different ways a story can be interpreted – which is basically what a movie director and script/screen writers have to do, yes? I imagine they need to decide from which angle they will tell ‘their’ story.

    I think it is extremely difficult to visually portray the essence of a good book. A person’s imagination has depth to it which is hard to express, even in words sometimes. It takes exceptional people – director, writers, actors, etc – to make a good movie based on a good book.

    That being said, a good movie might inspire me to go out and buy the book 😉

    • October 7, 2010 at 10:16 am #

      You made some good points. Like you say it takes exceptional talent to make a good film adaptation of a good book.

  2. October 7, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    I read The Time Traveller’s Wife and then was so disappointed in the movie – it had a different ending! I couldn’t work out why they did that, as the book ended just beautifully. Slumdog Millionaire was quite different from Q&A, but the movie’s differences worked well for me.
    Sunshine xx

  3. October 7, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

    What a detailed review! Maybe you don’t need to read the book or see the movie after reading that! It’s a pretty good review – it’s definitely the kind of book that you can’t think too much about. I like that.
    Sunshine x

    • October 8, 2010 at 7:09 am #

      Yes well, this is the same reviewer who had a problem with Ice Age (the animated movie) not sticking strictly to the known facts about geological time. BUT seemed to have NO problem with talking animals! Or the fact that these animals wouldn’t have been hanging out together in reality. 😉

      I think watching a movie sometimes means leaving behind reality, suspending disbelief and just enjoying the feeling and images on the screen.

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