Caught between the book and the movie

Last week at work, I came across this excerpt while editing:

A film is limited to the length of time that the production is allowed to run, and the director must use this time to create an immediate, sensory impact, not a visual retelling of a book….Though it may be difficult, The Great Gatsby must be taken off its literary pedestal before one goes to see its filmic (sic) counterpart. Books are capable of inspiring countless interpretations. Film adaptations deserve the same creative space.

The above excerpt was taken from a comparative study of F.Scott Fitgerald’s The Great Gatsby and it’s numerous film adaptations. 

Let’s rewind back to 10 years ago.

Harry Potter and the wizarding world of Hogwarts have been my staple diet. I grew up along with the three lead characters: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.  It’s not surprising that I wanted each Harry Potter movie to stretch six hours, or may be more. I wanted each page of each book to be replicated into a perfect visual scene for the screen. The movie had to stick to Jo Rowling’s exact words, otherwise there won’t be magic, at least for me. I had put the books on the proverbial pedestal, and i was disappointed by the movies.

Fast forward to the present day. I grew up. I educated myself enough to become a better cinema viewer and appreciate the different mediums of storytelling.

I often indulge myself by making pompous claims of being a hard-core book buff than a film buff. However, there have been instances when I have been forced to eat humble pie. I have been compelled to take off a beloved book off its pedestal. There have been occasions when I have committed infidelity, when I have liked the movie as much as the book and sometimes…even better.

1.Me before You, Jojo Moyes:

me_before_you_book_largeYes, there is still a couple of days for the movie’s release. But as someone said it to me, “The trailer is adorable!” It is, indeed. I am not much into mushy stories. The book was splashed all over social media. It piqued my interest. I read it, because I was simply bored and wanted something light to read.

Well, Me before You is far from light. Lou Clark, the protagonist, is an embodiment of the book. She seems like a normal girl with eccentric dressing sense. The book seems like a one of those Nicholas Sparks-template “romance”. However, the characters and the book itself are more than their surfaces, more than what meets the eye.

2. The Godfather, Mario Puzo:

IMG_20160528_224713 Puzo’s story of the Corleone family is a universal story of all families, whether your family belongs to the Mafia or not. The story is brilliant with enough meat. Along comes a cinematic genius called Francis Ford Coppola and turns the Puzo’s book into a masterpiece. A part of the film’s success was probably because Puzo was involved in the script. He brought to life the characters he built in his book.

The most memorable scene in movie was the one where movie mogul, Jack Woltz, discovers the head of his beloved horse, Khartoum, in his bed. The haunting theme music slowly builds up in the background. This scene got me hooked to The Godfather. This was my first instance of watching the movie before reading the book and also one of those rare instances when I read the book because I was blown away by the movie.

3.IMG_20160528_224736V for Vendetta, Alan Moore, David Lloyd:

This was the second instance where I saw the film before reading the book. The argument that whether the book was better or the film is null and void here. The movie’s plot moves away from the book’s storyline in quite a lot of places, specifically the end.  It is not disappointing, though.  For me, watching the film and reading the book have been…goosebumpy experiences.

The hero of V for Vendetta is essentially the idea of V and the manifestation of the character through his/her awe-inspiring dialogues, always quotable, both in the movie as well as in the book. Believe it or not, I wouldn’t give up one for another. The experiences of watching the film and reading the graphic novel with David Lloyd illustration are mutually exclusive, mainly because the movie deviated a lot from the original story. The movie shines through; maybe because it got the Wachowski Brothers magic.

Apparently, Alan Moore, the creator of V, distanced himself from the movie. As he was neither involved in the script writing nor in any aspect of the movie, he did not want to be associated with the movie version.

4.Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk:

fcSeen the movie, not read the book, yet. From what I hear, Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote the book, “applauded how the film’s plot was more streamlined than the book’s”. I’d rather hold my opinion until I read the book. [Edit: A couple of weeks back, I finally read the book. Maybe, the film was more streamlined than the book. But Fight Club is about chaos. Palahniuk throws you right in the eye of the chaos. The film hooks you, but the book pulls you in.]

5. Harry Potter, J.K.Rowling:

IMG_20160601_233735Although J.K Rowling’s magnum opus should be on top of my list, I kept it for the last. Before all the Potterheads come screaming for my head, I want to clarify that I do not think the movies are better than the books. In fact, I hated the movies when they came out. I thought they were a sacrilege to the magical story weaved by *Queen* Rowling. I abhorred them and after the disappointment of the first movie not showing chapter by chapter rendition of the book, I never watched the remaining sequels. Until, last year. What happened? What changed? Or rather who?

I did. I began to look at the movies within the realm of the medium. Controlling my impulse to not flip the pages of the book and compare each scene, I began to see the movies based on their own merit: effects, sets, visual experience, brilliant acting and casting, great music and effective storytelling within the limits of time permissible for a movie. All said and done, one thing is irrevocably true: I’d read the each Harry Potter book thrice or more , but care to watch the movies just once. Coz, you know, fidelity, first love, and all that jazz.


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