I want to go back to the movie/book notion that I talked about last week. It seems more and more often I see movie trailers and turn to my husband and say, “I read that book. It was awesome. I wonder how they’re going to do the movie.” Translating books into movies is nothing new. In fact, they’ve even gotten to the point of novelizing movies. They go hand in hand, even though they aren’t really the same.
Like I said last week, I used to be very judgmental about books and movies, but then I heard a screenplay writer and a novelist talk about the difference between the two. A film has limited time in which to tell its story. Usually, that fits into the 2-hour time slot. There is a lot in a book that can’t be condensed into that amount of time. There can also be a lot of subplots and different character stories in a novel that won’t necessarily translate well onto screen. A screen writer has to pick what they think is the most important/interesting story line in the book and put that onto screen. Are they always right? Of course not. We’ve all seen the results.
I believe the reason the vast majority of us find the book more enjoyable than the movie is because it becomes a deeply personal experience. Using the author’s words, we build the characters and the world in our minds. We project our experiences and emotions onto them, and we form an attachment. It’s possible to do that with a film, but it’s not on the same level as a book. When someone else brings their vision to the story, which is often what happens when it is translated onto the screen, it takes away from our personal experience.
I recently read The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis and then watched the movie of the same name by Wes Craven. The book was amazing. Dr. Davis’s narrative was incredibly engaging and fantastic. It felt more like fiction than it did nonfiction. His emotion came through the pages, I felt what he went through.
The movie wasn’t that spectacular. Even if I hadn’t read the book beforehand, it would have been slow. The emotion was missing, so was the connection with the other characters. At the same time, I knew what he was doing. He was trying to portray the very complex social and political environment of Haiti, along with their religion, in a short amount of time. Wes Craven was also trying to make it horror, so he used a lot of visual clues to scare the audience.
I know a few people that this movie scared the hell out of. The thought of someone else having control of their mind frightened them to the core. They didn’t read the book, but they didn’t have to. The experience of the film was enough for them. And that’s fine. Everyone experiences things differently.
I’m pretty sure that no movie is ever going to be better than the book because the experience between watching and reading is so much different. I have seen some that come very close (No Country for Old Men being one I can think of off the top of my head, but it also followed the book almost word for word). The one thing to remember is that you have to watch and experience books and movies for what they are, not what they could be.