CRITIC’S CORNER COLUMNIST
Too often, we get caught up in comparisons. In the book, that didn’t happen. In the movie, the CGI looked fake during the battle scene. It goes on, and probably none of us can claim innocence in having a part in those discussions.
On a fundamental level, there is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking and discussing the differences between the book and the movie for the same story. The problem comes when we expect them to do the same things for us.
The truth is that it is against the nature of a book to accomplish what a movie does, and vice versa. They are different media, and while they are intended to convey meaning, usually in the form of a story, to us, they are different storytellers. No one can tell stories like my sister, and no one can tell stories like one of my best friends back home.
But I could never tell you that one of them is better than the other because I enjoy both their stories for different reasons. I also appreciate them because I’m terrible at inventing stories on the spot, but that’s beside the point.
In a book, we as readers can enter the mind of a character. For a few hundred pages, I can become an Alethi princess, a despised and lonely thief or even a murderer. “Crime and Punishment” quickly rose to the top of my list when I discovered this novel and its incredible psychological analysis of the human heart in a murderer. In “Jane Eyre” I explored the recesses of an abused woman’s conscience.
Frankly, I don’t get that on the screen. No matter how many times I watch “The Lord of the Rings,” I still can’t know exactly what Frodo is thinking regarding the Ring, since it takes pages to describe in Tolkien’s words.
However, I am in no way discrediting “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy in movie form. To be honest, they’re some of my favorites. Yet I love them for entirely different reasons than I love the books—the biggest distinctions being that I can’t hear Tolkien’s tone in the movies, and I can’t visually see Middle Earth before my eyes as easily when reading the books.
In a movie, the viewer encounters cinematography that awes the senses and can give adrenaline rushes. We hear the audible sounds of the human voice and the music of instruments, which are irreplaceable because of their diversity and ability to communicate beauty.
Beauty is the key in both media of communicating stories. As long as there is beauty, there is some truth being brought to the page or the screen.
Comparison is indeed the thief of joy, and if we spend all out time arguing about the differences between media that simply cannot and should not serve the same purpose, we are wasting our time. I’m not against having a friendly debate comparing the themes of two works within the categories of book and movie, but let’s not stoop to simply debating whether book or movie is “better” (whatever that means).
Now before I end, I must issue a disclaimer: there are some movies that simply dishonor the books they are meant to represent. That is an absolute shame, and in those circumstances, I will not discourage anyone from making a comparison, in order to bring to light some truth that was present in the book and not communicated well on the screen. However, in most representations, (even the ones that make us cringe) there are elements to be found which are unique to that production that are an attempt to convey a truth about that story.
Take the opportunity to appreciate a good book and a great film for the purpose that it was crafted for: revealing something to you about yourself or about the world around you.