On Books and Their Film Adaptations

On the eve of the release of the film “The Fault in Our Stars,” I’ve elected to re-read the book one more time. This has always been a habit of mine — read the book before the film, and usually read it once more right before I go see the movie.

Here’s how I see it. The first time I read a book, it’s a completely new experience. I know nothing about the characters and rely solely on the author’s descriptions and my own mind to shape how I envision them. I don’t know what happens in the book, how it ends or who dies or who moves away or anything else like that. It’s a pure experience, and there are many books that I wish I could go back and read for the first time again.

When a book is becoming a movie, I start to see trailers of it online and elsewhere. I start to see photos of the actors and actresses in their parts, see clips of different scenes and piece it all together in my head. It starts to align the written version of the story with this other version that’s being put together in front of us. Then, when I go to read the book once more before I see the film, it almost becomes a jumble. I read the descriptions of the characters and try to see if they match up with what I’ve seen in the previews for the film. I hold on to the purity that the book has, savoring every word and enjoying it because I know that once I’ve seen the film, my experience in reading the book will change.

Once I see that film, it will become a challenge for me to read the book the same way. My perspective will be different. Instead of seeing my own visions of what the characters look like, I’ll start to see them as they appear in the film. I’ll start to notice the differences, the things that were left out or changed for the big screen. It may even anger me or upset me. I know the movie company and everyone involved has done their best possible job to maintain as much as they can of the book, but even so, it can’t be exactly the same.

Now, as I re-read TFIOS before going to see the film, I find myself reading it and wondering how they’ll do this scene or that one; will they keep this part in, or edit it out? Have they really captured the true essence of Augustus Waters’ personality? What does the author of An Imperial Affliction actually look like? Can they do this scene justice, or will it become a hurried moment, kept in for the reader’s sake but rushed through due to time constraints? There are so, so many questions, but I guess for now, I have to focus on enjoying the book one last time in this way, because in the future, I’ll still enjoy it, but not in the exact same way as I do now.

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