It’s a classic conundrum. Many books are made into movies, and many movies nowadays have origins in books. Some film adaptations of books work out very well; others, not so much. Sometimes the plotlines just don’t transfer very well; other times, the script is changed in such ways from the book that it makes it nearly unrecognizable.
Now, I’m a big fan of reading, and books, and libraries and the like. I try to read a lot, and if I happen to see a trailer for a movie that sounds interesting – I’ll look if there’s a book behind it. Basically, I try to read the books before I see the films.
That’s what I did as the Harry Potter series came out; read the book, saw the movie. Read the next book, saw the next movie, and so on.
Doing so gave me a chance to, while reading the book, form my own opinions of the characters. Reading their descriptions as the author intended, I formed specific pictures of how these people looked in my head. I had the freedom to create their world in imagery in my mind – which I think is part of what makes reading so wonderful. At one point, a writer sat down and turned the images and thoughts in his or her head into words, and now you’re taking their words and turning them into images in your head.
So when things get flipped around – in other words, when I see the movie before reading the book – it isn’t quite as enjoyable an experience, in my opinion.
The first time I can remember being aware of this was with the book and film titled “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” I saw the film several years ago, but didn’t get my hands on a copy of the book until after……. and it just wasn’t the same.
I know the book is absolutely wonderful, and has its own magic. But while reading it, my experience of it was distorted. Instead of being able to create my own images in my head of how the characters appeared, I already saw them as the actors in the film, and I couldn’t shake that. Where minor changes happened, I became disoriented, and overall, having seen the film first took something away from the enjoyable experience of reading the book.
The same thing just happened with “Silver Linings Playbook.” I saw the film when it came out in theaters, partly because I happen to enjoy Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. I loved the film. I read the book, and could only imagine the characters as the actors who had portrayed them.. and there were quite a few major differences I noticed between the film and the book, which angered and disoriented me and overall disrupted my reading of the novel.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m fully aware that changes need to be made when adapting a book to a film. Some scenes just don’t translate well to film, or they’re extremely difficult or expensive to capture. Some books that are in a first-person narrative need to be altered, largely so the moviegoer is able to understand and enjoy the film.
But seeing a film before reading the book takes away that magic I get while reading, that freedom I have to interpret things the way I see them and make images of the characters as I wish, not as some casting director wished.
So it’s a popular issue – but here’s my opinion on it all. If it’s at ALL possible, read the book before you go see the film. Have the magic in your head first, and see how well or how poorly the film matches up with that. Be creative, be inspired, enjoy the reading experience.