It seems that most books nowadays are being adapted into a film or television series. I guess this is a compliment to the author as the plot is clearly worth exploring in a different form. But I cannot think of a single screen adaptation which I have preferred over the book. Of course, some are done more effectively than others. Here are a handful of books which I have read and succeeded to watch the film:
Life of Pi – The majority of this story revolves solely around a young man, Pi, who becomes stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after the ship he’s on becomes caught in a terrible storm. Unlike Castaway which offers all the thrill and exploration of a desert island, Pi simply has the vast surroundings of the ocean to entertain him. Now, although the film provides great cinematography with stunning use of colour, angles which are effective in creating emotive etc. I found myself being bored with the lack of variety in characters and scenery. This was far from how I felt when reading the book. The author, Yann Martel, describes every tiny detail of every square centimetre of the boat which Pi is stranded on. The reader gets to know the ins and outs of every thought that passes through Pi’s mind and vivid descriptions of every smell, colour, taste that he experiences. This makes it much easier for the reader to relate to and understand the concept of being alone and stuck in one place for such a long time. The film just didn’t do it for me I’m afraid, but I can see why it won multiple Oscar’s for the director, the visual effects and cinematography.
Enduring Love – I loved this book. I love psychological thrillers. I love reading about the mind and the many ways in which it can work. The author, Ian McEwan, goes into strong detail about the backgrounds of the various characters which really helps the reader understand why they act in certain ways and he makes it very easy for you to picture their mannerisms and behaviour. There is a lot of involvement from the narrator’s views on the science and the battle this causes between his girlfriends very arty and emotional take on life. The strong connection this creates between the reader and the characters in the novel is sadly lost in the film adaptation. The viewer is not able to see in comparisons in thought processes and how these come about nearly as effectively as it is portrayed in the novel. Rhys Ifans, who plays the psychotic Jed, does play this role well as does Daniel Craig who took on the central role of the very ordinary middle-class, Joe. I definitely felt a lot more absorbed in this adaptation compared to Life of Pi and The Kite Runner; the director has followed the story fairly closely and the eerie nature of Ifans is well done. Definitely worth a watch but make sure you read the book first because it makes the characters a lot easier to understand.
The Kite Runner – The Middle East is an area I didn’t know much about previous to reading The Kite Runner. This story concentrates on Afghanistan in particular. Khaled Hosseini does an incredible job of portraying the landscape, colours, traditions, nature of the people and the general culture of this fascinating country. This made it all the more distressing to read later in the novel about how the Russian invasion has completely destroyed this and turned into a skeleton of its former self. As with Life of Pi, the strong colours of the landscape shown in the film are captivating, and you feel like you’re being transferred to that place. The director and actors did a great job of embracing the personalities of the various characters and it did feel satisfying to put a face to the character, as they were visually similar to how I had imagined. But the fact that certain details are missed out (as with any film adaptation because it’s simply not possible to include everything in such short viewing time) spoilt the film for me. I felt frustrated because I saw the book as the ‘original’, with constant comparisons between the two and when details didn’t match up I would temporarily give up on the film, feeling let down. In this case, I wish I’d watched the film first and then read the book after to embrace all the details which make the story so special, as the film deprives you of this!
I find that I become much more emotionally attached to the characters, location and story line of books because you are spoilt for detail, enabling you to picture everything so vividly. With a film, this is done for you. You’re just handed it on a plate and the freedom of being able to expand on what you are experiencing is spoilt. Films are the lazy option, and even then you can’t take your time to absorb what you are being shown because the director has already decided to move on to the next scene. All three of the above novels are incredible and well worth a read. Unless you can read a chapter a minute, of course watching the film is the quicker option but in my opinion it is 90 minutes I’d much rather have absorbed in the words of a book, creating my scenes and letting my imagination run wild.