It’s always interesting to compare books to film adaptations, outside of ‘the book was better than the movie!’ (which I’ve definitely said before) They are very different art forms; a movie has to convey the story or idea of the book through fewer words and scenes, but it also has the opportunity to enrich these themes through set design and music and a million more things. I’ve always found it easier to feel intimately connected to characters and worlds through books than movies; though good films do forge a connection with the audience, for me, the precision of words on a page has always felt more rich.
That’s not to say that films, including adaptations of books, don’t have a powerful impact on me. I love how film adaptations can bring a new dynamic to worlds that the reader is already familiar with, and I’m always a fan of taking a piece of art, in this case a book, and reinterpreting it and adding new bits to create a new piece of art.
I don’t want the film to be exactly the same as the book because most books don’t translate literally to screen. I like it when films use the material of the book to service their own distinct creative vision. The best outcome is when a film feels like it has the same vibe as the book, but it also works as a cohesive film with its own motifs and other interesting aspects.
For instance, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han. I love the aesthetic of this film, all pastel shades and a cute summery vintage-y feel. This aesthetic feels like it captures the tone of the book, in a way that the book could never do.
There are some books that feel even more electric when brought to life as movies, such as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I love the book, but there’s something about seeing everything happening that intensifies the power. Maybe it’s because I feel like we’ve become slightly numb to seeing protests on the news, and seeing it from a more personal perspective onscreen gives more context to it, in a way.
I love Call Me by Your Name, both the book by André Aciman and the film adaptation, but I love them in different ways, for different reasons. The book is complex and moving, written in such detailed and intense prose, and evokes a deep sense of empathy and other emotions. The film is much more immediately affecting, and you get a deep sense of pleasure watching the characters interact in the beautiful landscape. The brilliant direction and dialogue and the skill of the actors make it a good movie. It doesn’t create the same intense claustrophobia as the book, as we see both Elio and Oliver from the outside.
I’m not a huge Lord of the Rings fan (I like it, but it’s not my special passion), but I’ve always been struck by the difference between the books and movies. They are both clearly epic fantasy, but the movies feel more irreverent and casual than the books in one sense, perhaps because we can never forget in the interactions that these are all human beings. By the same token, the books are weirder than the movies by far – Tom Bombadil anyone? – but also feel infinitely grander and ancient and far-removed from our world.
Then again, there are books like The Princess Bride by William Goldman when the movie adaptation is so perfect because it adheres faithfully to the book and provides practically the same experience as reading it.
I almost forgot about the Harry Potter movies, because I honestly don’t think of them anymore as adaptations of the books, but as their own canon.
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