Beautiful CliffsNotes

When it comes to books and films, I cannot shake the feeling that books are somehow better as an art form — harder to make, more densely layered, a greater commitment of time and energy on the part of the consumer. I know that's probably absurd — a kind of ingrained snobbery that certainly doesn't account for my strong — almost obsessive — desire to see movies that are made from books I've loved. And every once in a while a director with a sure vision will make a movie that's even better then a flawed book. (Peter Jackson really nailed Tolkein — and Anthony Minghella made something both compassionate and coherent out of Ondaatje's English Patient.) Last night I saw Atonement, Joe Wright's movie based on English novelist Ian McEwan's book. I was secretly hoping it would fail. It seemed disloyal to McEwan — a writer who is in my desert island pantheon — to wish that a film could come close to his cleverly crafted book. (Never mind that McEwan is one of the producers.) There were lovely bits, a few strong performances, some really beautiful camera work, and a killer silk dress. And the truth is, even though I felt the movie ultimately failed, I savored every minute of it — it was a bit like watching a really professional karaoke singer perform one of my favorite songs. A beautifully illustrated CliffsNotes version of the book. Last night I was thinking, though, if I really believe that books are better then movies, why do I anticipate these adaptations so much? After all, you can't just listen to Rostropovich playing Bach all your life, even if he is the best — sometimes, you've got to root for another vision. A movie is a chance to experience a novel I've loved all over again, and indulge in a little bit of schadenfreude, too (if it fails). Or maybe I actually am hoping for the film to succeed, that another interpretation will make the book even more dynamic, more conscious, then it was on my bookshelf. Whatever it is, I know I still love these movies — and if anyone out there's got information on the movie version of The Other Boleyn Girl, please tell me. I'm dying to see it.

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Barrie,
I feel you are trying to compare cattle to buffalo here (rather than simply apples to oranges).
Reading a book is a personal journey.
You have to interpret the words and their meaning(s). But you do this in the context of YOUR life experiences. This might take days (or even months).

Movies are usually a shared experience.
I invite my family to see a movie together, I've never asked them to read along with me.

I have regretted re-reading Contact (by Carl Sagan and his wife) before going to the movie (starring Jodi Foster). Although the movie was VERY entertaining, is was just different! Fewer sub-plots and completely left out the final irony in the book. The movie was also shorter (~3 hours .vs 3 days of reading). But, that's the compromising that has to happen sometimes.

Sent by Harold | 1:32 PM | 11-29-2007