Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Read Or Watch?

I’ve rarely come across a film, based on a book, that I loved more than the book itself. And that is usually the case with most people I’ve talked to also. I think the reason behind this is that movies are essentially competing with our imagination. As we read a book, our mind conjures up images that go far beyond the written word. We picture in our minds what is written but since our imagination is boundless, the pictures we come up with are usually quite fantastic. But the directors are forced to show everything to us. They have to visualize everything and leave nothing to our imagination. Naturally they usually end up as a disappointment since even the best special effects don’t stand a chance against our imagination.

My favorite example of something whose effectiveness vanished when translated from book to screen is the character of Lord Voldemort in the first Harry Potter book. With her descriptions, Rowling created a being whose very presence inspired fear. We imagined the scariest, most fearsome creature in our mind as we read the book and we were never forced to actually assign a face or image to him. But when Voldemort was shown on the screen, it was a huge disappointment. That was not a fault of the special effects. Nothing they could've done would've stood a chance against what we had imagined.

I think thrillers and suspense novels hold up better when made into movies. Action sequences and stunts definitely give us a much better adrenaline rush when seen rather than read. Kiss the Girls and The Firm are two books that I think the movies did full justice to. Ofcourse the list of movies that failed to recreate the magic of the books they were adapted from is much longer. Absolute Power, Timeline and Along Came a Spider are a few that spring to mind right away for this list.

With The Da Vinci Code’s release just 2 days away, I wonder which of the two lists the movie will fall into…

22 Comments:

At 12:27 AM, Anonymous ram said...

looks like it's going to fall into the second category, from what i read on cnn.com it has opened to "catcalls"-nu potrukaan...not just coz of the controversial subject matter but also due to the supposedly "wooden" acting and screenplay...
but am gonna watch it on Friday, anyway!

btw, bb, being an NRI and an MBA graduate, is it okay for you to look forward to a commercial movie like this?? Or should you spend your Friday evening revisiting one of your MBA project presentations?! ;) Kozhuppu-ngara vaarathai ode spelling ena? en first name-aa?!

 
At 12:30 AM, Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...

Balaji..I am eagerly awaiting Da Vinci Code.!

Let's see where it falls into.!

Did you watch - Akeelah the Bee. I did last weekend. Superb movie.!

 
At 1:37 AM, Blogger pagala'k' said...

"Timeline" what a book. I have often read and heard people describe how some books are unputdownable. This was the first book that made me understand what they meant.

It felt as though I was along with them in medieval England-France. Unfortunately the movie, which I think was released during thanksgiving was dull.

 
At 1:38 AM, Anonymous F e r r a r i said...

Day of the jackal? :-)

 
At 3:31 AM, Blogger Maverick said...

Looking at the reviews that are coming for the DVC movie, it looks like it is a dud compared to the novel.

Bourne Identity and Supremacy - 2 movies that I felt did a lot of justice to the books.

 
At 5:34 AM, Blogger Me said...

The critics have rated the Da Vinci code as boringly simplified. Lets wait and watch

 
At 6:07 AM, Blogger VC said...

Another key comparison factor between movies and books is the characterization of.....well, the characters. In books, the author pretty much has carte blanche when portraying a particular character - writing about all the inner thoughts etc. In movies, we are kinda restricted by the actor's talent. After all, there is only one Kamal Hassan in this world.

 
At 6:20 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

seriya sonneenga VC :-)

The main problem is that when you read a book, it is only limited by your imagination and it is your interpretation of the book; but when you see a movie, it is the director's/screenwriter's interpretation. Perspectives might be different. Sometimes you can relate to it, most times not.

There are some classics that come out good. P&P and Emma, for example. When remaking a popular book, it is probably tougher as the buildup is pretty high.

 
At 6:32 AM, Blogger prakash said...

Balaji, the one case where I enjoyed the movie and book equally is 'Jurassic Park'. Saw the movie first, and then read the book. Hardly a resemblance between the two. The book was quite informative, and Spielberg understood what works onscreen, and modified the plot quite a lot.

 
At 7:07 AM, Blogger Kumari said...

W.r.t fantasy stories on silver screen, I feel LOTR & Narnia were much better adaptations than Harry Potter. The only misgiving i had with LOTR was that it wasn't made into 6 movies :p I feel the director of the Potter movies didn't think from a kids point of view while aking the movie and hence it fell short.

I liked Bourne Identity as a book, felt the movie just didn't live up to it.

Haven't read Absolute POwer but seen the movie and being a die-hard fan of Clint "The Handsome" Eastwood, i found no fault in the movie ;)

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, but looks like ebert's giving it a thumbs up. interestingly, he didnt like the book all that much. maybe its a case of people who liked the book not liking the film and vice versa? now i'm curious what berardinelli's gonna say since he hasn't read the book...

narayanan, thats the 2nd recommendation i've heard for 'akeelah and the bee'. siva nara loved it also. can't wait to see it :)

pagalak, yeah i know. had some amazing action sequences. with all that action, i felt it could've made a really good movie. but what a disappointment that was!

ferrari, loved the book ofcourse. but haven't seen the film(the original).

mav, i thot they were fun movies but didn't do justice to the books. they were too much action and not enuf story while the books were a lot more complex...

me, waiting to watch :)

vc, very true. the 1 book where i felt that was very true was erich segal's 'love story'. the lead couple's inner feelings were the best part of the book but they were completely lost on screen.

munimma, true. i completely missed out on the interpretation part. plays a huge part in how much we like the movie.

prakash, thats exactly what i did too. i read 'jurassic park' after seeing the movie. and agree with what u said. though i felt 'the lost world' was a bit too simplified and watered down and so lost my interest.

kumari, interestingly, i havent read 'narnia' or lotr. so can't compare. but LOTR is universally acknowledged as a great adaptation...

as for 'absolute power', the book kills eastwood's character halfway thro and the 'hero' is another character who was completely eliminated from the film!!

 
At 10:24 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

I was going to mention Narnia as one of the few good ones. Bals, do read the series. And I agree with Kumari on LOTR, not long enough :-)

Sometimes, I see the movie first and then get motivated to read the book, for example the Destroyer series. There was just one movie I think. Can't remember the name right now.

Then there are those comics that are made into movies. I love those :-) BTW, were Archies ever made into movies?

 
At 10:36 AM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...

Balaji-

I am an avid Harry Potter books fan, simply adored reading every book over and over again. The movies didn't quite portray what my imagination of some characters were, like Voldemort, Harry himself etc.

Anyways, coming to The Da Vinci Code, the book was superb, but still had lots of flashbacks and small stories within that made me go back on the pages already read to refresh my memory. But, i am looking forward to catch the movie this weekend to make that more clear and entertaining.

Incidentally, i am currently reading Patterson's Along Came A Spider. Didn't know that Kiss the Girls has been made into a movie till you mentioned it.

 
At 10:38 AM, Blogger Me too said...

Many a time its after watching the movie that I get to read the book. My favourite is 'To kill a mocking bird'. I still can't tell if I liked the movie or the novel better.

 
At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found these movies to be as (or even more) enjoyable than the books they were adapted from: Shawshank redemption, Godfather, Jurassic park, Day of the jackal.

 
At 2:02 PM, Anonymous sks said...

maverick, i am sure you haven't read the bourne series of books. The movies although good in a different way has got nothing to do with the pace and complexity of the book. Ludlum pushed his luck too far when he wrote supremacy and ultimatum. Since the Bourne series are low budget movies the crew making the second version did get their pay back.
Shawshank redemption and rita hayworth an amazing book and an amzing movie mainly becuase of morgan freeman and his narration. Same with green mile. Guess stephen king's character are more deeper than other fictional writters. Read his book sure you will love him and his directness. sure there are other movies that do justice to the movie, to kill a mocking bird, gregory peck got the oscar for it. but i agree with balaji there are fewer movies better than books

 
At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw a movie "Stand by Me" which is based on stephen king's "The Body" short story series(Shawshank redemption and rita hayworth belongs to same series). The Movie very good.

I will completely agree with you agree with you on this topic. What I always belief is that a novel gives you a week(my reading rate) of fun but Movie just 2 hrs.

-Packer

 
At 7:47 PM, Blogger Nisha said...

It premiered over in Singapore and i watched it. I think you might be disappointed, Mr B. :) I know i was. I have to defend Tom Hanks, though. He really wasn't all that wooden. He just didn't bring anything particularly awe-inspiring into the role.

 
At 7:56 AM, Blogger Siva Nara said...

I saw the movie last evening and I liked it very much.

Ron and Tom did their role pretty good. They did a good job of making this book into a movie.

 
At 11:22 PM, Blogger anush said...

Ya , Ralph Fienes as Lord Voldemort was a huge let down !
But i think Peter Jackson did a really good job with LOTR trilogy its as good as the book
the extended DVD set of LOTR is a must for any fan of the series ...

 
At 4:16 AM, Blogger Bindu Vijayakumar said...

Hi Balaji,

Just happened to visit your blog, and its really cool.

Yeh, The Da Vinci code is attracting all the attention but unfortunate that the sensor guys are playing some game in india.

 
At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you find it? Interesting read »

 

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