20th August, 2020

Bookish Stuff: Book vs. Film

I suppose most of us bookish people are the same in that, when we plan to watch a film adaptation, we prefer to read the book first. It is a common contention that the book is always and inevitably better than the movie. That the source text is holy and should always come first. That screen adaptations always leave something out and that this is bad. 

However, there are cases where this doesn't hold true. Of course, opinions are a highly subjective issue, but I have had several occassions when, even as a die-hard defender of the printed word, I had to grudgingly admit that the screen version was actually better. This can happen due to a multitude of factors: it's possible that I just didn't connect with the author's general style of writing or that I had trouble getting into the story because of the way the first scenes were introduced. Anything, really. And then, sometimes, the film version captures my attention in a fashion that the book didn't manage to do. One example for this would be the Game of Thrones series (even though that's TV and not film). I know many people who adore the books but I just couldn't read them and I can't even exactly explain why. 

Then there are the occasions where you watch a film and you absolutely adore it, and then you realise that it's actually a novel. You promise yourself to read the book as well because it MUST be great, right? But then said book sits on your shelf for years and years... and years, and you just can't seem to pick it up. Is it fear that you might be disappointed? Is it weariness because, after all, you already know the story?

This phenomenom has happened to me with the film adaptation of Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys, a brilliant movie from 2000, starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes and Robert Downey Jr. I came across the film by accident, zapping through channels late one night and stumbling over this undeservedly underrated gem (a synopis of the story can be found here: Wonder Boys). I immediately wanted to read the book and yet it took me 15(!!!) years to finally order it. It has now been sitting on my shelf for the past year and I haven't touched it yet. Have I rewatched the film in this time? Yes! Weird, I know. Will I ever get to the book eventually? I honestly don't know. I plan to, but I don't know. 

What is your experience with this? Do you always read the book first or are there instances where you prefered the screen version? Let me know in the comments! 

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