In my opinion, what’s wrong with either? I enjoy both. But I wonder sometimes about the difference between a book and the film version. Is it better to read the book first and then see the film version or vice versa? This past weekend, my husband and I watched the sweet family film, “We Bought A Zoo“. A good story based on the Mee family’s real-life adventure with a zoo in Europe, the movie changes nearly everything about the original story, moving the locale from France and England to California and the characters from the Mee’s extended family involving grandparents and siblings to one man and his two children. Should I personally care about the differences? After all, I enjoyed the movie. Mr. Mee and his family went through a terrible family tragedy and they turned their lives and the lives of 200 animals around. That’s the story. And the story is what sells to the public. So, no, I probably won’t read the autobiography any time soon.
Whether true story or fictional novel, a film version just can’t be a visual mirror image. Interpretation as well as adaptation is open with characterization, wording, action and location as well as the intended audience. Of course, it always helps if the screenwriters work with the original author to ensure cohesion with the storyline. But that can’t always happen – look at all the interpretations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew.
Then you have the Young Adult blockbuster series like Twilight and the Harry Potter books – all written ahead of the film versions (sometimes barely I think, and by the way, I was always Team Edward). Watching the media frenzy as each of those books came out, I wondered if the film versions would do as well and by all accounts they have. Are the film adaptations mirror images of the stories? I don’t think so, but that doesn’t take away the charm of either the novel or the movie.
There are millions of books that will never be translated into a screenplay or television series. I don’t think the authors wrote them with the idea in their heads that a film version or a television show would be made down the road. If that were the case, I think the blood, sweat and tears that the author spilled out into creating their work would have gone into a screenplay first. Now wait. Before you go off on a tangent thinking I’m dissing screenwriters, you couldn’t be more wrong. They are a genre onto themselves and in many cases deserve all the accolades they receive for their work. Even playwriters write their stories with the intent that an audience would “see” the story rather than read it. They also deserve their own accolades.
Books and cinema appeal to us visually and I appreciate the efforts that go into developing them. But, as I’ve been very nearly deaf since early childhood and worn hearing aids to help with daily life, my bent is towards the written word. Even so, over the years, my husband has bought me increasingly sophisticated and expensive ear phones to help me enjoy the television at our home so I could sit and watch with him. And I thank heaven for the folks who created closed captioning. I enjoy going to the movies and have gone on my own to see chick flicks that my husband (God bless him) wouldn’t be caught dead watching, even for his love for me. Recently, I saw Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help”. Both the novel and the film version broke out in 2011. I related strongly with the story as a Girl Raised In The South in the 50’s and 60’s. However, I have yet to read the novel and I don’t really plan to. I lived it.
My point, and I do have one, is this. To me, the value of both the written word and the film version of a book can be the same regardless of the poetic license taken with either. The reader can enjoy the book and the cinema-goer can enjoy the film. If you happen to enjoy both, you are twicefold enriched.