Friday, April 17, 2009

Books VS. Movies

Another in between questioned borrowed from Booking Through Thursday.
Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie?

I don't know that I want different things from a book and a movie. I want a good story. However, I have noticed about myself, that I'm much more forgiving of the movie if I saw it first. Here are some examples:

I read the Chronicles of Narnia, before seeing the Disney version movies. When I saw the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, I had this lingering erk that the White Witch was supposed to have black hair! And don't get me started on my issues with Prince Caspian.

However, I grew up watching "The Sound of Music", I loved it, it's still one of my favorites. I read Maria, around my senior year of high school. I was upset about some of the things that they changed, but I understood why they did. The movie wouldn't have flowed and had as many highs and lows if they'd totally stuck to true time frames and personalities etc.

It was the same with The Counte of Monte Cristo. I saw the movie first and really liked it. When I read the book I thought, "That's not even the same story!" I liked most of the book better, but I totally understood the movie changes, even liked one of them.

I've read Janette Oake's "Love Series". When they made Love Comes Softly into a Hallmark movie, I was so excited. I couldn't wait to see it. When I did see it and the sweet and loving two year old in the book was a snotty, rotten 7 year old in the movie, I was furious. For years I thought, "They ruined the book!" In truth, they told a very cute story, it's just not the same story.

Most recently was Journey to the Center of the Earth (by Jules Vern) My son and I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago, so last night we rented the old 1959 version, because I knew that the newest version was really different-just from the commercials.  I got onto netflix and looked up all the different versions. Read about the plots of the movies and chose the one that sounded most like the book. When we watched it last night, even my son kept looking at me saying, "That's totally different that in the book!" or "He wasn't even a character in the book." "Where did the girl come from, they don't have a lady with them in the book."

We also rented Moby Dick after we finished that and that movie had big differences as well, although, after reading the novel, I totally understand why.

I haven't figured out why I can forgive the movie makers if I see their versions first, but I do know that if you want me to go watch Twilight with you, you better ask before I get around to reading the books.

Well, now it's your turn. Which do you prefer Movies or Books? What do you expect out of them?


Mrs. Mordecai said...

I always judge a movie by how it compares to a book. Usually I'm disappointed, but sometimes the movies can be fun anyway. The one movie that I think is as good as or better than the book is The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Sharon in KY said...

I like your choice of words Shimmy Mom, that you are more forgiving of a movie if you see it first. That is true for me too and I believe it is because my mind accepts those first images and characterizations "trustingly" I'll say. I have nothing else to compare them to and so I take them as my own. And then when I read the book I tend to take the movie's "pictures" and overlay them onto the story, rather than creating my own "pictures" from scratch. So I retain, as if they are my own, something of the movie's scenes as I read the book.

However, if I read a book first, my own imagination, my own eyes, my own heart get the experience of first interpreting an author's scenes and characters and ideas. I believe this is much more personal, more intimate with the author, and VERY powerful. I now have my own, self-created, movie in my mind and it doesn't depend on a budget or impossible special effects. My mind can create it all. It is fantastic really.

Now I admit that I sometimes use Hollywood characters as I imagine a story. A simple example being Reep-a-cheep in Prince Caspian. In my head I heard the voice of Antonio Banderas. And so the movie voice wasn't nearly as Zorro-like as I had imagined it, and it was disappointing to me.

My son and I have been disappointed again and again so that he now refuses to watch a movie if he's read the book. When he was young I read Heidi to him. This is a book full of faith and prayer with strong and good male characters throughout. Like you Shimmy Mom I searched the Amazon comments before purchasing a version I thought would come closest to the book. Boy were we disappointed. Grandpa was a wimp in this movie as were all of the men in Heidi's life. And I don't recall that prayer was mentioned at all.

After reading Pollyanna, another fantastic book of relationships that includes faith, I rented the Disney version. A totally different story and no where as full or wonderful. My son refused to watch it.

Disney's The Jungle Book is a fun movie that I saw before reading the book. But it wasn't long into reading Kipling's actual stories aloud to the family that my husband and I looked at each other and said, "Wow! Disney has done a huge disservice to Kipling. How sad that most people have no idea how deep and wise these stories are!" In Kipling's story, when Bagheera, Baloo, and Kaa send Mowgli back to men it is about coming of age. And the wise elder-creatures all knew it was coming and knew the part they had to play of pushing Mowgli from the nest even though it hurt them terribly because they had raised him and they loved him. And Mowgli was moody and didn't understand his conflicted feelings. My husband and I were in tears, knowing this is what it will feel like when the children leave home. This is why we raise see them grow up and live their own appointed adult lives.

In the case of The Jungle Book, Kipling's stories were so well-written and so powerful that I was unable to hold the cartoon characters in my mind even though they came first. Fuller, wiser, more noble characters replaced them.

You know what I wonder? As many children today watch much more television than we did growing up and play video games in imaginary worlds that have been created by someone else and play with toys that often already have a movie and so an existing story with them, is their sense of imagination impaired or enhanced? Can they create their own powerful images in their minds from an author's words with greater difficulty or greater ease?

I don't think I answered the original question - Do I want different things from a book versus a movie? No. Which is why I don't enjoy many movies. Every now and then I'll enjoy a quick read with very little character depth, such as Around the World in 80 Days, but not very often because I prefer stories that ask the questions I wrestle with - Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is wrong with the world? How can it be made right? - stories that address spiritual concerns. The previews given for most movies make them seem silly or immoral or both. But perhaps if I watched one now and then I'd find there is more to it than can be described in a 1 minute preview.

Plus, I like the idea of "savoring" something. I like to read a chapter or two and think about what the author is creating and wonder why. I like to relate what I'm reading to my own beliefs and experiences. I like to anticipate a solution to a conflict. I enjoy the experience of going from the author's created world back into my own real world and waiting for revelations of the two worlds intertwine so to speak. A movie is just too fast to ponder and I don't tend to carry them with me for as long...unless it is exceptional. I did once rent a foreign film that was about a son taking his father on a pilgrimage cross-country from France to Mecca maybe? There was very little dialogue and it was all about their relationship and strangely how they came to understand each other a bit on this journey. And when the father died at the holy-for-him place, the son genuinely mourned him. It was real and it was haunting and though simple held layers of meaning about father-son relationships, the intimacy of a journey, the pilgrimage of life, the call of the holy in our lives.

Ahhh!! I've been here longer than anticipated! I must go, the day beckons! In short - I like books best!!!

Sharon in KY said...

Mrs. Mordecai, Thanks for your comment about The Scarlet Pimpernel. I haven't ever seen the movie but will be on the lookout for it.

Shimmy Mom said...

I loved the Scarlet Pimpernel. I haven't watched it since high school though. I think I'll go see if it's on Netflix!

Thanks for all your thoughts Sharon.