Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Which Came First - The Movie or the Book?

In the era of commercialism more and more bestsellers are turned into movies with the hopes of generating huge profits for the producers. In some rare cases, though, a very good movie may be turned into a book. Obviously, the choice between the book and the movie depends on the particular individual. Sadly, however, contemporary society prefers to spend 2 hours with popcorn and coke, instead of many hours actually reading. Still, some people read the novel and then watch the movie only to discover that it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the book whatsoever. So my question is Which came first - the movie or the book?.

I prefer reading the book and then if I feel like it maybe watch the movie. However, I have had many disappointments so lately I evade watching movies based on my favorite novels. It seems that the producers and the directors either haven't read the book, or have read a completely different one. Let's take Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. I understand that a 2 hour movie is incapable of capturing all the nuances of the book. However, dear producer, this doesn't justify you actually CHANGING part of the books. If you can't incorporate everything, do not add additional moments. I do not reckon Mr Wilde authorized you for this.

Same story with my most favorite novel Gone with the Wind. As much as I adore Vivian Lee and Clark Gable's amazing performance, I still cannot overcome the fact that two out of Scarlett's three children are simply eliminated from the story. As if they haven't existed. In fact, Scarlett had children from all of her husbands, which I believe is an important part of the story. The producers could have squeezed in two more children; I doubt this is such a waste of film time.

One of the books of 2010 is definitely Eat, Pray, Love. Not because it was just published, but because Julia Roberts stars in the movie of the same name. I wouldn't even start commenting on the differences between the film and Elizabeth Gilbert's book. Let's just say that if you felt very inspired to change your life simply by seeing Roberts travelling around the world, I would imagine you would conquer the world if you actually benefitted from Gilbert's writing. Much more influencing, enthralling, and inspirational.

Of course, there are some tolerable Hollywood examples. The Harry Potter movies are all very good, keeping of course in mind that the novels are enormously long and it is practically impossible to translate everything into scenes. Still, as I have read all of them as a child, I find it particularly enjoyable actually visualizing all the characters and the magics. And for the sake of little children, it is a great amusement.

i>Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote is another example of a book turned into a very good movie. Of course, some of the story is distorted, but Audrey Hepburn's amazing performance makes us forget about it and simply enjoy. I just cannot skip the fact that the ending is sugarcoated Hollywood style but there is no ideal satisfaction.

Finally, I was pleasantly surprised by the Swedish film industry. I loved Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy so much that I was dying to see it on a movie. The Swedish outran their Hollywood competitors and did an outstanding job with the movie adaptation. The actors are very good, the plot is as closest to the book as possible, and the movie keeps almost as excited as the novels themselves. I most certainly recommend them.

I haven't actually read a book based on a novel. To be honest I hadn't hear about one until lately, when one of the most successful Bulgarin TV Series, Glass Home was turned into a book. I cannot imagine what the feeling of reading something based on what you have watched be like. The author is a very promising young Bulgarian singer and writer and I expect the result to be worth it.

Here comes my greatest concern - the availability of most novels as movies does make reading superfluous. I am afraid that in some decades libraries will be extinct and will be replaced by more and more cinemas. As all of us passionate readers understand, reading a book has almost nothing to do with seeing the movie. I want to pick up on the plot through the author's own choice of words, to feel the characters'feelings through my own perspective and not through the perspective of some American producer, to extend the pleasure of reading a book beyond the two hours spend in the stuffy cinema, to appreciate the ending as a kind of completed "job". However, most people do not think that way. Their loss, you would say, but this loss translates into less and less books being bought and read. Which, of course, raises another question: Would very talented authors be bothered to write anything if the payout is close to zero. Of course, they could hope to sell the rights to some producer and see their piece of literature being torn to pieces and transformed into something else. Without being too pessimistic, this "bright" future expects the book of the 21st century.


  1. I just read your post about books being turned into movies. Well the other day I was reading about the film The girl with the dragon tattoo which is based on the book of course, but now the movie is being redone into a Hollywood movie, not long after the original movie was released lol. It'll have Daniel Craig in this one and the Swedes are a bit puzzled to why they are doing this.

    I found the story for you to look at


    Movies cannot really capture the essence of a good book, especially if a lot of what is good involves the inner dialogue of the characters plus your imagination that helps build up the missing parts of the environment that the characters are placed in. Picture a white sandy beach with a blue lagoon.

    I really liked the novel The Beach by Alex Garland, the film looked visually stunning, which you would expect from a Danny Boyle film, he always manages to work his magic in that department but I was disappointed with the changes he/they made in the story. The book was a lot darker and he never got the girl :(. My beach looked totally different to the one on the screen as well, mine was a lot better :) I had a jet ski plus donkey rides, no mention of that in the film or the bo

  2. The Anthony Bruno novel "Seven" was based on the 1995 film of the same name (starring Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey and Brad Pitt), and both were good, in my opinion. In most cases it's a hit-or-miss situation. I recently saw a new release based on that recent Bulgarian film, TILT. I don't know about Vanya Shtereva, but Lyuben Dilov sure knows his stuff. And, from one fervent reader to another, I send thee this rare gem:

    "Top of the World, Ma!" by Michael Guinzburg

    I couldn't put it down, and for the first time ever, had a soundtrack to my reading - "Jesus, Etc." by Wilco (played continuously toward the end of the book, and with the volume turned low, of course), which, to my surprise, had a tremendous effect. I don't know if you're keen on Jackson Pollock, but I think this book gave his legacy a whole new edge.
    And to the word, "Brilliant"

    You know, Groucho Marx, being the passionate reader he was, once said, "I love television. Everytime someone turns it on, I can go to the other room with a good book"

    As for the bright future you speak of, I guess we'll just have to stick around and see.

  3. It is interesting to note that more than 1/2 of the movies nominated for an Oscar today are based on books. Lately, I have noticed, most movies that feature on screen (excluding the stupid romantic comedies which even I can come up with) are based on books. Have directors lost their imagination or are just books an endless source of very good stories waiting to be turned into movies.

    The only thing I am really angry about is that they are turning Atlas Shrugged into a movie. If you watch the trailer, it looks like an action-thriller US movie. Nothing of Rand's world, ideas, and philosophy. This movie will be a disaster and more importantly, it will create a very wrong image of Rand in those people who haven't read her books. In such cases cinema indeed ruins a novel.

  4. That is true, but you forgot to mention comic books (both types), manga and anime.

    But I think that also applies to books, and writing in general. It's inevitable.

    Atlas Shrugged (the film) will surely be a sight not worth missing, even if out of simple curiosity. And I noticed this was Part 1. It comes out in a couple of months.

  5. Comic books are a whole other group and if I am to write a on them (good idea btw) I would need to dedicate a whole other blog post.

    As for Atlas Shrugged, I doubt I will see it. I just get really angry when directors ruin my fav books with terrible screen interpretations. Cinema and television in generally have far more propaganda power over people and I am afraid this movie is going to create a totally wrong image of Rand's world.

    Yeah, it is part I. I doubt that two parts are enough to capture the whole book. If they ever decide to turn it into something worth watching, I would suggest this be mini-series. There is so much going on in Atlas Shrugged that four hours of screen time is absolutely incapable of reflecting this.