Book vs. Movie – Balance on the Screen
With The Hunger Games movie coming out in less than a week, I got to pondering film adaptations of books. There is truly a delicate balance filmmakers have to strike when bringing a book to the screen. Everyone who has read the book will have certain expectations of the film; from how scenes play out, how the setting fits, how characters on the screen become characters from the page. That is an undertaking everyone involved with a film probably hopes to get right, while still bringing their own vision to the tale. However, a film must also bring an entirely new element for fans, yes, even the rabid fans hopefully can appreciate some nuance to the story they hadn’t taken in before. People who haven’t read the book will be presented this “new” story, “new” characters, etc., but will not share that special and familiar relationship those who have read the book will most likely have with the story or characters, that relationship remains for the readers to hold on to.
Some films have maintained that delicate balance well. I admit I saw the BBC miniseries Pride & Prejudice before I read the book. It was seeing what was brought to the screen that made me want to read the book. Key elements of the story and characters shined, making it a truly lovely film that somehow sill paid reverence to the story while maintaining it’s own period piece identity as well. It was the film/book that gave me my appreciation for Jane Austen. There was a later film adaptation that was a bit loser with adapting the story, but for me it remains the BBC version that has completely affected me. A more modern film and recent book, The Help, was able to keep true to the story of 60s racial issues in the South. Some things were left out, but moviegoers were still brought into this affecting story, and readers could appreciate the tale filmmakers told. Again, the film managed its own identity extremely well, while acknowledging the source material. Jurassic Park was oddly another movie I found that made the most of source material. It departed from the book, but a truly amazing film was brought to the screen from the book that was a tale of science fiction at its best. The book and movie were each quite the ride in their own way.
Horrible adaptations have also graced the screen, sad to say. The Great Gatsby was one of those unmemorable adaptations for me, it just didn’t make much of the story for me. It was beautiful to look at, but the emotion and depth was lacking. The Scarlet Letter was just utterly horrible and ridiculous, I went to see that after reading it in my high school English class, and it was truly a waste of time. In those films, readers never got what they deserved, and the audience new to the story didn’t really get the chance to see what the story could be.
I am eagerly awaiting The Hunger Games, and hope it will not disappoint. Hopefully filmmakers and the actors have brought this story to life well. I am glad filmmakers bring books I love to the screen, and love seeing how their own vision is brought to the story, but I will always keep my own special vision of my favorite books.