Reading vs. Watching: What Exactly Are We Comparing?

“It is said that a picture can say a thousand words. Well, so can a thousand words. They are the keys by which we can unlock new and amazing worlds, some of which ascend beyond the imagination, and it all begins on the first page.” – BookNerd

It is said that a picture can say a thousand words. Well, so can a thousand words. They are the keys by which we can unlock new and amazing worlds, some of which ascend beyond the imagination, and it all begins on the first page.”BookNerd

Greeting Fellow BookNerds,

I often see people get themselves all worked up with excitement when they learn that one of their all time favourite books is going to be made into a movie – myself included, of course –  and just as often, I watch as those same people who went into the theatre with such high expectations, came out looking not unlike a cartoon character with a thundering cloud hanging over their heads, as the image of the story they had in their heads didn’t come out quite the way they hoped it would on the big screen.

It’s in our nature to compare things. After all, how else can we determine what is good, what is bad, what is better, what is worse. We do it to figure out what food we would rather eat, what clothes we would prefer to wear, and my personal favourite, what books are more worth our time reading than others. Just like anything else, however, making comparisons has its ups and its downs, based primarily on the context in which they are being made.

Harry Potter Books

When I first got into reading the harry potter books back in grade school, it felt as though my brain was giving birth to my imagination for the first time. I developed a deep attachment to the series, and when I found out that they were being made into films, I just knew I had to see every single one of them. Why, you ask? Well, the only thing better than reading a book for the first time is getting to experience it all over again, but in a very different way. Unlike books, movies cater to all of the senses; synchronizing music and moods to tug on our heartstrings, playing with colours and special effects to keep our eyes glued to the screen, creating masterful scripts that tell us so much, while at the same time saying so little, and fitting actors into the roles they were seemingly born to play. Such is the beauty of films, which differs greatly from the beauty many of us find in books.

Authors struggle tirelessly to create stories using their native language, which the readers can then create images from that are unique to their own interpretation of the words. No two people will perceive a story the exact same way, which is what makes reading such a personal, internalized experience. What’s more, most books are created by a single individual, making them solely responsible for creating the characters, the dialogue, the setting… basically, everything, unlike in movies where you have hundreds of people working to bring the story to life.

Another striking dissimilarity between the reading and movie viewing experience is that books are not designed to be enjoyed in a single sitting, whereas movies are. Unless you’re a ridiculously fast reader capable of zipping through seven hundred pages in less than an hour as if it was nothing, then it’s going to take you a few days to get to the end. This is especially true for those readers out there who, like me, need time to visualize what they have just read before they can continue… perhaps that’s just me 😛

Group of boring people watching movie in cinema

Movies, on the other hand, are typically a two to three hour experience, and you can choose to enjoy them alone or with 200 other people crammed inside a dark room which smells of popcorn and is occasionally lit by a smart phone that someone just couldn’t bother to turn off for the sake of everyone who is sitting behind them. If movies were to be made any longer, the audience would get bored, feeling as though the story is being drawn out longer than necessary, not to mention the increasing soreness in our backside from sitting for such a long period of time. When you’re reading books, you can stop and start whenever you want, but with movies, we tend to want to sit down and watch it to the end before diverting our attention to anything else.

Now, we come to the unique scenario of book to movie adaptations. The thing with movies that are based on books is that they always seem to miss the mark. In other words, they fail to meet the expectations of everyone who see’s it, because as mentioned before, we all have a tendency to interpret the same book in very different ways, meaning we will all be going into the movie theatre with very different expectations. There is also the added pressure on directors and the crew to make the movie as true to the book as possible, but this isn’t always feasible, especially when dealing with a book which has managed to throw the laws of physics entirely out the window. But they do their best, and some of them have turned out rather brilliantly.

The Fault In Our Stars

My favourite book to movie adaption to date has been The Fault In Our Stars, a beautiful story about a girl with lung cancer finding love in the unlikeliest of places, and discovering that “some infinities are bigger than other infinities”. In my eyes, the movie was a brilliant interpretation of what I am certain will someday become a classic novel, but I am certain there are others out there who found it to be unbearable. Why? Well, I’m sure there are many reasons, but every time I hear someone start to rant about every little thing they changed in the movie, or how the actors they chose weren’t good enough, or how they could have done this or that to make it more believable, I just feel like telling them one thing: why are you comparing two things that weren’t meant to be compared?

The story might be the same, but the purpose and the means by which they are executed are just so different. It would be like comparing music videos to musicals. Just because they both have a music component to them, that doesn’t make them any more comparable. Now that I’ve had my say on the matter, I would love to hear what you guys think. Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or on my blogs facebook page, and until next time, keep on reading!

Cheers,

BookNerd

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