April 29, 2006

Books or Films?

Just had a ridiculously long conversation/debate over which is better, books or film versions of books. I find it hard to see how people can argue that by putting a book onto film it can ever make it better. If you've read a book as it should be read then how can someone elses interpretation of it surpass your own imagination and understanding of it?

I'm interested in peoples opinions on this, and expecially if people can suggest and films that they think are better than the books they come from.


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  1. kai motta

    I agree with you. A book is open to all sorts of interpretation where as in a film you are forced to accept the environment they provide and what they think the characters should look like etc. But I still like film and think there are moments when film improves on the book form. Fight club in my opnion was better on film, whereas 1984 was much better as a book. Also watching a film doesn't take much effeort whereas a book takes a lot of work.

    Kai

    29 Apr 2006, 13:00

  2. Fight Club was one I was going to suggest too, even though it's still a cracking book. The Princess Bride is arguable, I think the reason I love the book so much (and prefer it!) is that I saw the film first and loved it – the book just added even more.

    The Guardian had an article recently on the 50 best adaptations which, in my opinion, listed completely the wrong kind of thing. It seems like the list was just "good flims that were based on books", or "great literary works where the film wasn't dreadful". Hence how The Godfather, Blade Runner and 1984 made it in.

    The Godfather novel was badly written and trashy, but look what they made of it by just taking the bare story and re–casting it as a film. Blade Runner has very little to do with Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? – it's not an adapatation at all, it just took an interesting premise and ran with it. As for 1984 (the 1984 version at least), it was pretty good for a film of the book. The trouble is that the book is so sublime it can't be surpassed.

    You're right in general though, it's very very difficult to take a good book and make an equally good (or better!) film from it. I think it's hardly ever been done.

    29 Apr 2006, 16:09

  3. I tend to prefer the book to the film (normally because I've read the book first), though I can see The Da Vinci Code being an exception to the rule.

    29 Apr 2006, 17:16

  4. Book defeat film.

    Book —> interior, people's thoughts, gorgeous subtleties of the written word, unlimited freedom in imagination (don't have a budget), but strongest point is interiority.

    Film —> exterior. everything. everything exterior. so lazy and quick yoiu don't get emotionally involved. yuck.

    30 Apr 2006, 15:49

  5. Thanks for your thoughts, and its helped to calm me down somewhat too. The general feeling does seem to be book better than film, although I must say that for a few on the Guardians top 50 list I did not know they were a book before being made into a film and so I suppose that it does go to show that some films can take the book and make it more (or at least different) to what it oringinally was. I do agree though that some of those films listed are not great films at all, and like you said are surely only there because of the quality of the book in the first place.

    Another quite contentious issue arose when we got talking about Brokeback Mountain. I still havent read the book (and I really know I should as it not long) but can this really be included in the list if the film has so much more to it than the book. I guess the question is really is there a difference between a film being 'based on' a book and a film being 'adapted from' a book?

    30 Apr 2006, 16:54

  6. James

    Books have it most of the time, for the reasons others have given above. But not always: Jaws is another exception.

    One reason is that it's not really fair to compare the two. To film every scene in an average novel would take hundreds and hundreds of pages; the only stories one can adapt accurately are short stories. Then again, images and sound in a film can be incredibly moving, and in a way that written words cannot be. 2001 is a good example, though the novel came afterwards (not that that should make a difference).

    14 Jun 2006, 14:33

  7. David Horne

    Books are always going to be able to build up a much more real world as, there’s more information and your imagination coupled with the authors actual written word will surpass any film made. Where the film comes after the book it’s all going to be interpretation using tools not available to the writer, a complimentary soundtrack, the cinematography, the actors used and their interpretation of the part. We also feel personally connected to the stories we read after all we make them real in our minds so when you watch a film you can’t help but think, “this isn’t as good as my version was”. It’s for this reason I hardly watch film made from books I have read, except only interest to see how another has interpreted/ruined a much loved book.

    P.S. Was doing a search on my name found my way to this page and was pleasantly surprised to see you had some of the same opinions as me, so though I might leave a footprint here.

    04 Feb 2007, 14:12

  8. Elizabeth

    Wow! I’m so glad I found your blog! You see I’m doing a persuasion speech on books made into films and I’m trying to get information and opinions. This really helped. I thought I would add my own opinion too.

    Well I’m a big reader, but I also LOVE movies! I agree with what people generally say, “The book was better”, yet sometimes I do appreciate the movie because the movie or actors will convey emotions that are harder to get at then in the book. I do see your point too and I like it! Why should somebody else set the standards of a book based on their interpretation? I also think that the story flows much better in the book then in the movie.

    16 Apr 2007, 05:04

  9. Raluca

    Well, I guss I have to agree, I prefer books too. I love watching films also, but when I’m watching it I don’t have the same fear as when I read a book, I don’t wish to continue what I’ve started and I don’t have the same things in mind as when I watch a film.

    wE cannot say that films aren’t equally with the quality of the books, but we can say that nobody can put in a movie what an author of a book wanted to say in that time.
    Personally, I prefer the books. But, each of us can choose the way he want to receive the information.

    I find television very educational. Every time someone turns it on, I go in the other room and read a book.”
    Groucho Marx

    24 Sep 2007, 21:27


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  • Well, I guss I have to agree, I prefer books too. I love watching films also, but when I'm watching … by Raluca on this entry
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