With the now not so recent release of The Great Gatsby and a new Hunger Games looming in the wings my mind has turned recently to the age old quandary book or film?
For some people this is a clear cut decision – a love for moving images, the creation of a world you couldn’t begin to picture and a soundtrack to give you goose bumps is without a doubt the greatest way to portray a story. For others, a film is cheating, someone else shouldn’t create the world for you, use your imagination, stretch the boundaries of your mind, let the rise and fall of the language of the author take you along. For me, it’s not that simple.
What I will say is where possible I prefer to have read the book first. I was nearly moved to tears when Peter Jackson brought a world that had existed in my mind to life in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, it was just how I had imagined it and whilst the makers of the Harry Potter films had JK Rowling to consult with Jackson couldn’t just check with J.R.R. Tolkien that his casting of Frodo or the depiction of the Ents was correct. So how did Jackson get it so right for so many people, the answer, the book gave him everything he needed. Tolkien’s descriptive skills laid it bear for all to imagine and for Jackson and his team to create.
Sadly not all transfers from page to screen go quite as well. Often changes are made to the story, for what purpose who knows? On many occasions the depth and length of the book is just too much to be address in a film. Relationships aren’t given the time to plant roots and grow and all to often the director realises they’re only 3/4 of the way through the story with 15 mins of footage left if the film is to come in under 3hrs! It just doesn’t work when everything is wrapped up in a fast action montage.
So how do we get around this?
The success of 24, the Sopranoes, Game of Thrones, The Wire and other serialised drama is proving to be the best format to do justice to great stories. The popularity of these shows demonstrates that we do still have attention spans longer than 1 minute. That we don’t need to have fast moving, high intensity scenes and ear popping soundtracks for us to stick with something. We are capable of connecting with a character over a series of episodes, joining their journey over weeks, cancelling all other plans on Monday nights because to miss an episode is to miss catching up with close friends. Of course, for those of us who struggle to wait 7 days there are always box sets, Netflix and bank holiday weekends to immerse ourselves in hour after hour episode after episode.
All of that said, I still think there is a certain magic to curling up with a book, the feel, the smell, the turning of pages all of it is an experience that should be passed down through families and along through friendships. I don’t know who said it but I think this quote is fantastic,
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors and the most patient of teachers.”
No one is ever going to say that of a film or TV series!