Friday, March 9, 2012

Books vs. Movies

This morning I started thinking about a couple of movies I'd like to see, and I caught myself wondering whether there is a book version of any of them.  Old habits die hard.  As an avid reader, I used to be a stickler for reading the book first, before seeing a movie adaptation.  But now I've changed my mind. For me, reading the book first nearly always results in a disappointing moviegoing experience.  Allow me to cite some examples.

The Prince of Tides - I think this was the first book/movie combo I really disliked.  The book was fantastic - absorbing, well-written, with interesting characters that you really wanted to know more about. I just couldn't get into Nick Nolte & Barbra Streisand - even though I think Nick Nolte did a really good job.  The chemistry just wasn't there for me - at least not like it was in the book!  But I think I might have enjoyed this film without the book to compare it to.

Harry Potter - I loved these books so much, there's really no way a movie could have done them justice. They're pretty good movies, too - an all-star cast, cute kids, good screenwriter, incredible sets, etc.  But I couldn't help noticing all the things they had to leave out, and the liberties they had to take with the plot, in order to fit an entire book into 1 movie.  (Or in some cases, 2 movies.)  Plus, even the most spectacular sequences paled in comparison to how I'd imagined them.

In short, I think these movies were "ruined" for me by the books.  But I wouldn't trade the experience of reading them for the experience of watching a movie.

I also have two instances of movies that I watched first, and then loved so much that I read the books.

A Room with a View - Arguably my favorite movie, ever.  I was about 15 when I saw it.  I'd never heard of it, or the book. My mom and I were channel-surfing one evening when we came across this movie on PBS.  Wouldn't you know it, we came into it during the bath-in-the-pond scene.  Complete with partial nudity - George Emerson and Mr. Beebe cavorting, splashing and frolicking - and getting caught by Cecil, Lucy and Mrs. Honeychurch!!!  Needless to say, we were HOOKED.  We rented the movie so we could watch the rest, and ended up buying a copy because we loved it so much.  Fast forward another 15 years, when I found a battered old copy of the book at the library in Naples, Maine.  I devoured it in a matter of hours, and delighted in new scenes, new details, and a deeper understanding of the characters.  Truly a pleasant and satisfying experience.

Pride and Prejudice (BBC miniseries) - I confess I'd never read Pride and Prejudice before seeing this adaptation.  I saw it while visiting my friend Emily in Seattle.  We made a marathon of it, drank tea and DROOLED over Mr. Darcy.  When I read the book a while later, it actually really helped me wade through some of Jane Austen's more subtle passages.  I already had a basic understanding of the plot and the characters, so I was able to follow along much more easily.  I must say, the BBC adaptation was so good and so true to the book, I'm not sure this one would have been ruined if I'd read the book first - but we'll never know.  :)

Which do you prefer - book first or movie first?

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