watch & read

With all the books being turned into movies these days, there’s a lot of discussion about whether people should read the book before watching the movie, and about how good each is in relation to the other. This might seem controversial coming from a book-lover, but after recent discussions with friends about certain books/movies, it might seem that the maximum enjoyment is achieved by watching the movie first.

Please, let me explain.

I watched “The Book Thief” (the movie created from the novel by Marcus Zusak) on the week-end. I went to see it with a friend who had not read the book (yet). I did enjoy the movie, and I thought it was actually nicely done, but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about the things that were left out that I wished were in the movie. And there were certain details that were slightly different in terms of placement in the story and stuff like that.

My friend, however, seemed to enjoy the movie more than I did. Fair enough – that’s to be expected, right? However, I do believe that she will still enjoy the novel as much as I did (? ok, not sure about that – I did really like it). Reflecting back on the book, I feel like it was written in a way that allowed for “spoilers” somewhere in the middle that didn’t actually spoil the rest of the book, so whether or not someone has seen the movie probably has little bearing on how much they’ll like the book. As such, you could have optimum enjoyment of both media.

Another example is “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (novel by Audrey Niffenegger). I watched the movie before reading the book – it was the movie that made me want to read it – but I liked both a lot. However, my friend read the novel first (I lent her my copy because I thought she’d like it and, I don’t mean to brag (ok, I kind of do), but she did like it) and then watched the movie, and didn’t quite like the movie as much.

This is probably because there’s so much depth in these novels such that when you’re reading them you’re not just picturing characters and images. And, yes, actors and directors and whoever can be good at portraying and evoking emotions, but it’s hard to translate the depth of several hundred pages onto a couple of hours of silver screen time.

And then there’s also the question of leaving an appropriate time interval between one medium and the other. I think, ideally, enough time should be allowed to elapse, not so you forget the first completely, but enough so that it is a fond, distant memory. As such, when you view the other medium (I believe this applies regardless of which comes first), it’ll be like re-discovering a small treasure (assuming you actually like the story and basic concepts).

Getting back to “The Book Thief”, I just wanted to say that I reckon Sophie Nelisse, who played Liesel, and Nico Liersch, who played Rudy, were outstanding. I was disappointed, however, that this line, which featured in the trailer, did not make the final cut in the movie (unless I missed it because my mind was busy comparing things to the novel). It was something like this: “Sometimes, when life steals something from you, you have to steal something back”.


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