I feel like there is often quite a bit of snobbery surrounding adaptations. There’s a constant thought of the book always being better than the film, often said before the film has even been released. I’ve felt like this for a long, long time and many aspects of the idea annoy me a bit! I decided to write this post after watching Charlotte’s (WonderfullyBookish) video on unpopular opinions and this came up as one.
I feel like I’ve mentioned this quite a lot on the blog in different posts but I am passionate about both books and films. There are always comments about books being better than films and more intellectual and worthwhile. If you spend a few hours watching films, it’s seen by most people as a waste of time. Sometimes people think this with books too but often it is seen as an achievement. Reading is important – we definitely need to encourage children to read from a young age. Many people find reading boring however and I often think this is because they haven’t found something they are into – it doesn’t even have to be books! Often school curriculums don’t help with this (but that’s a whole other post).
I hate the intellectual snobbery in this conversation. This also happens between different kinds of books. For example, telling people your blog mainly focuses on YA fiction is always fun – some people think it’s childish to read them and that they are ‘dumbed down’ so why not read more adult fiction? I’m not a fan of this. Between films and books however, there is even more of this snobbery.
This view of seeing films as passive and purely as escapism is so simplistic and it’s just not true. There are so many types of films and books, different genres, styles, age groups, topics etc. They can’t all be boiled down to one specific thing. Not all films can be brushed off as being vapid and one dimensional with nothing to learn or gain from them. Just like books, we can learn things from films and gain things too. Even if we do just have fun watching or reading something, why is that an issue? Something bringing you joy enriches your life and gives you something. You don’t have to read an overcomplicated classic to be seen as smart or to use your time valuably. It’s subjective to everyone and if watching a rom-com makes you happy and can inspire you in some way then go do that. Don’t judge others because they watched a film instead of reading some book that was chosen as a classic years ago by rich old white men.
The thing is, both books and films have value and merit. They are very different forms with different ways of portraying a story. With a book you can have such beautiful descriptions and narration styles. You can sometimes really see the author’s style through the writing however in film you can also sometimes see the director’s style or even the influence of the cinematographer. Also the writing style of the film can be unique!
As they are such different mediums, if you were to completely follow the source material and make a film of it, it may not even work. Some aspects would definitely not work. In the same regard, some scenes are added which bring more to the story which couldn’t be translated well into words. Both have great ways of telling a story or even just portraying something. It doesn’t have to be so story focused. There’s no need to compare when both of them are great mediums and offer such different things!
Sometimes, as books are seen as a solo achievement, I think they are regarded as being down to one person alone and that person is classed as a genius. Obviously a book is way less of a collaboration than a film however there are others who influence a book. Editors are a great help for one – a great editor can help to shape the book and story and improve the way something is told. Films are super collaborative but I think that adds to it. You get a merging of ideas and visions and different roles add new and interesting aspects to the story or concept.
Some of my favourite films are adaptations. We Need to Talk About Kevin is an amazing film and book. The book has more detail of the overall story but the film focuses on telling the story completely from Eva’s eyes. Though the book is told through her letters, the film uses little dialogue and portrays a lot through performance and visual aspects. I also think The Hunger Games is both a great film series and a great book series. Sure the films left out some things but they kept all the important bits in and the arenas were so amazing. The fact that people visualised and designed those is so impressive.
All in all, we are offered such a wide range of books and films now and you can choose what you consume quite specifically. Don’t judge others for watching ‘too many’ films and not reading ‘enough’ books. You’re not better than anyone else because you read more than them or because you value reading more than they do.
Do you have any examples of films which you prefer to the book or think they add another great angle to the story?