I’m a devoted booklover. After seeing a movie based on a book, I almost always say, “the book was better.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the book is better than the movie. Not always.
With very few exceptions, media is best enjoyed in the format in which it was originally conceived.
The book is better than the movie because the movie was derived from the book. The book, as the original form, is better. It’s more complete, more whole, more nuanced, more enjoyable.
If you’ve ever read a book derived from a movie, you get this. Even if the movie was wonderful, the book feels flat and empty in comparison. This isn’t done frequently for adults (thank goodness) but it happens with children’s books all the time. Try picking up any Charlie and Lola book, or the book version of the Charlie Brown Christmas special. They’re summaries, shells of the original. They’re the Cliffs Notes, and no one reads those just for fun.
Great movies are just that: great movies. Turned into books, they lose their greatness. (For a richer appreciation of what makes a great movie great, I highly recommend McKee’s Story, which immensely deepened my appreciation of the craft.)
Occasionally, a movie will be better than its book. Very occasionally. Only two spring immediately to mind:
A Room with a View (1985)
E.M. Forster’s classic becomes an absolutely gorgeous film, complete with soaring arias and Italian vistas. I’ve loved this film since I was young.
(Heads up: there’s some serious nudity, but as my high school teacher would say, it’s nudity with a European sensibility–completely natural, not at all sexual.)
Nora Ephron turned a ho-hum book into a delightful movie. The film version hums because Meryl Streep brings Julia to life, Amy Adams portrays a much sweeter spirit than the author’s, and the mediocre parts are gone.
What movies can you think of that are better than the books? (Or, which films did you enjoy more than their literary counterparts?)