By Kidogo Dermott
Sunday evening, or very early Monday morning for those of us tuning in from Africa, the tradition of giving little golden men to weeping actors and actresses will take place. The Oscars are upon us again This past year was a particularly good year for movies.
It has been a particularly strong year for movies adapted from books. After decades waiting and a dozen or so failed attempts a version of Jack Kerouac's On The Road was successfully adapted to the screen. There was yet another version of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina - which was possibly less successful, but still. The movie version of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas was another crowd pleaser.
In 2013, we have even more page to screen adaptations to look forward to, including the long awaited film version of Midnight’s Children, originally written by Salman Rushdie. What I am fingers-crossed hoping will be a great version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, will be roaring onto screens. There will also be Craig Davidson’s Rust and Bone, the thriller The Silence and many others.
Here is my advice to you. Do not rush out and read the books before you go see the movie. I repeat DO NOT.
Whenever you are leaving a cinema after viewing a movie adapted from a well-known book and listen carefully you will always hear someone say “It wasn't as good as the book.” Answered by someone saying, “The book is always better than the movie.”
This heard leaving everything from young adult genre Harry Potter to Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winning The Hours.
(This, of course, is not at all true. There are several notable exceptions that even the authors will admit to - Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club being the chief of these.)
The truth of the matter is that it is unfair to compare the films to the books that they came from. Not because “The book is always better,” but because the two are completely different mediums. Books are by nature internal, while films are external. Books are meant to be consumed alone, while movies are meant to be consumed in a group. They are, in fact, two totally different experiences/adaptions of the same story.
Because of the internal nature of books and the fact that we usually consume them while alone and quite often as an escape. Because they tell the story in a deeper and more thorough way, and because we spend more actual time with them, we will almost always feel more connected to the book.
For some reason, people have it in their heads that they should always read the book before they see the film. It should be the other way around. If you haven’t read the book, leave it alone until after you see the movie. Why spend your time and money for something that will ultimately leave you unsatisfied because you have already consumed the story in its internal and deeper form?
The trick to enjoying all forms of a story that you enjoy is to treat the film as a trailer for the book.
Yes a trailer.
A trailer is more or less a shorter version of the movie that shows you a bunch of the good bits. If you like the trailer most of the time, you will enjoy the movie. Likewise a movie is just a shorter version of the story that mostly covers the good bits and important plot points. If you love the movie, you are usually going to love the book even more. Then you get the enjoyment of loving both versions of the story instead of one just tarnishing the enjoyment of the other.
Try it - it works - trust me.
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Kidogo Dermott is a staff writer for The Kalahari Review.