Sunday, June 17, 2007

Movies - v - Books: Part 1

As you all know, I love books and I love movies, and sometimes I love stories that are both books and movies. A lot of the books I've been reading recently have been adapted for the silver screen. In fact, the reason I read books like The Prestige (by Christopher Priest) and The Bone Collector (by Jeffrey Deaver) is because I had already seen them as movies and was curious to see how different the book was. And different they always are. Even the most faithful book to film transfer is going to change in the translation. That is because of the very different nature of the two media. Books allow the author time to develop characters, to go deep into a character's thoughts and feelings, to slowly build up a layered three dimensional perspective of who the characters are. You don't need that so much in a film. You already have an actor standing there, embodying everything that the character is. In books, it is the thoughts and feelings that make the character, but in movies, as in real life, it is the actions that maketh the man. We can't see their thoughts so we have to rely on what they say and do to understand what kind of person they are.
I have noticed that there seem to be two types of movie book.
Type #1 - Based On
The first type is when the film is as faithful to the book in all intents and purposes as it possibly can be. Ok, so they don't include all of the characters, subplots and minutiae (because there just isn't enough running time in the whole world) and true fans are bound to be disappointed, but the movie makers have made a really good stab at getting what the book is about down on film. These kind of films can be very hit and miss. Sometimes all the fundamentals are there, but the spirit of the book hasn't been captured or poor direction, bad acting and rubbish budget have let it down. Occasionally, what made a good book just doesn't translate to a good movie, or the book wasn't that great to begin with. On a rare few occasions, the written word and the moving image combine to make something wonderful. Very, very rarely though.
Type #2 - Inspired By
The second type plays much more fast and lose with its original source material and usually with better results. The books might have contributed as little as one single idea, a character or a pivotal event, but the creative process has continued and led to something bigger and better than the original novel. While the movies can often be as bad as in Type #1, they more often soar to heights that the source material could never have reached (BladeRunner, anyone?)
In the coming weeks I intend to compare and contrast several movies and their books that have inspired me in either medium and put them into one of the above categories. I will be limiting my choices to books which have been adapted only once, so there won't be any classics (don't get me started on the various adaptions of Dracula, Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice) and even the wonderful I Am Legend (and the two very far from wonderful movies inspired by it) will not be mentioned (because of the two very far from wonderful movies inspired by it). Likewise, books like Eragon and (sorry to mention them in the same breathe, so to speak) The Lord of the Rings will not be mentioned, because I haven't see the movies. While I don't have to like both the book and the movie, I will definitely like at least one of them, otherwise it will be no fun to write about them!


The Monster said...

so what is your favourite - books or Movies?

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see alist of bad books that made good movies, and vice versa as well.

I must see if I can think of a few...