Usually when musing, I tend to create an interesting title then get all ambiguous before bringing all together and attempting to make sense of it all towards the end. I like to think that it makes it interesting. Not this time. Not so much.
READ!!! ALWAYS READ!!!
Whether it be the daily papers, blogs, biographies or novels… Immerse yourselves in the words of others as often as you can. They can challenge you, enlighten you, offend you or uplift you. But most importantly, they can open your world up to ideas that you may not have had without them.
But, while I whole heartedly believe this noble idiom… I’m gonna bang on about something a little less cerebral.
I don’t read much anymore. That confused you, right?
I am mildly dyslexic. So I can read a page four or five times and still think ‘whu?’ (I used to have the piss taken out of me SO much at school when it was my turn to read the next page… But again, not the point I am making today. That said, thank you Audible. Never go bust. Cos I’d hate to lose access to the couple of hundred audio books that I have bought and enjoy).
So while I may not have ‘read’ them… I have listened to fair few (unabridged, always unabridged) audio books in the past… um… while. And then I have seen the films that have been made of them. And this is what I'm going to waffle about today.
If I felt the urge I would include the works of Mr Tolkien and the subsequent renditions of Mr Jackson. But I don’t. Those comparisons have been done to death. And everyone (who embraces either creators works) has their own opinion on their greatness or lack thereof.
I’m going on about the ‘lesser known’ works that have hit my DVD player in recent times.
I bring to your attention ‘Ender’s Game’. A novel by Orson Scott Card, which was made into a film directed by Gavin Hood. ‘The Hunger Games’. A novel by Suzanne Collins, which was made into a film directed by Gary Ross. And ‘Divergent’. A novel by Veronica Roth, which was made into a film directed by Neil Burger. These are not the entirety of examples I could give , but they are three that spring immediately to mind.
In each of these cases I don’t know who was responsible for the adaptation from page to screen, and to be perfectly honest… I don’t give a shit. I only looked up the directors to give a little balance to my nod to creativity. But the names are completely irrelevant of the point that I am stumbling towards.
I have often had the argument, usually in the pub, about whether it is better to read the book before seeing the film or not. Having read the book you have more insight into the thoughts of the characters, what is driving their actions, about the world that the story is taking place in. Things that could not be covered in the film unless (like Mr Jackson) you are going to take a reasonably short book and turn it into three 3 hour films, and still miss out the stuff that makes the world come alive in the mind of the reader.
But going into the film without having read the book, you have no preconceptions. No ideas of what the world is. What the actions of the characters should be. What everyone and everything should look like. What you feel is actually important to story.
I read all three before I knew that they were making a film of each. Yeah, I know. They were all pitched as ‘teen fiction’. But don’t be fooled by that. Anything that does not have an adult lead character (or contains a certain amount of messiness… ‘The girl with all the gifts’ would be teen fiction if it wasn’t for the ##SPOILER## [And I recommend this as a read too!]). But it does not mean that it is any less well written or less engaging than books aimed at the ‘adult market’. And all three that I mention here have a particularly nasty edge to them, and all left me a little unsettled in their own particular way. (but only cos I chose to think about the subtext. You can gloss over that if you just want a good read).
But would I have enjoyed the films any more if I had seen them before reading the books? Or enjoyed the books any less if I’d seen the films first?
I really don’t know.
To be honest, all three films confused the fuck out of me. I found it very difficult to follow what the hell was going on. This may well be because I was trying to relate what they were cramming onto the screen with the long, involved and engrossing stories that I had read. Or it may have been because they were trying to cram a tale that took someone 8 to 10 hours to read to me (again, thank you Audible… Do I get a discount for name checking twice in a single post?) into a 90 minute film? Or cos I was a little drunk.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed each of the films. But it did take a second watch where I wasn’t relating it to the book to achieve this.
So would I have been better to watch then read? I don’t actually think so.
The films will never… can never capture more than the merest essence of the book. Of the prose, the poetry, the thoughts, the flavour that the words (if well written) can create. But it can capture the storyline, the tale (often at it's simplest), the shocks and the twists. So if you watch the film first, you will still get to immerse yourself in the glory of the writing… But you know what is going to happen. You first read the name Eddard Stark and you know what happened to Sean Bean. It has been reduced from a gripping page turner that you will stay awake for ‘just one more page’ to find out what happens next, to quite a nice tale that fills in the back story that the film didn’t have time for.
You could, and many have, argue that the same goes if you reverse the case. Reading the book first dilutes the potency and impact of the film. I suppose it all comes down to your choice of medium. Shit, I love films (I just looked over my shoulder at my DVD collection. I need another bookcase. Maybe two. The piles behind the sofa are getting quite large). But I will always, given the choice, read the book first.
Why? Cos when I read the book I am seeing the story that I am being told my way, through my eyes. That way the delights and failings of what I see are those of my imagination. When I watch the film, I am watching someone else’s vision of the tale. That way, when I come to the book, I am reading it through their eyes. I am seeing what they saw, which may be vastly different from what I would. It has nothing (or at least, very little) to do with what they missed from or included in the film. It is all about what they saw, and what I may have seen if I hadn't experienced their vision first.
I kinda like watching a film and thinking, ‘wow, I saw that totally differently. But I get it, and that works too… Mine was better tho’.
So, yeah. In my meagre opinion… Read it first. Always read it first.
Now I’m gonna watch ‘The Raid 2’. Excessive violence and not a book in sight.
What? I never claimed to be an intellectual.