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Saturday, 6 September 2014

WAS THE FILM AS GOOD AS THE BOOK?: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

This is a pointless conversation. We'll have it anyway.
   Let us suppose there's such a thing as average reading speed. You fly through the text at a minute per page. We'll allow 250 words per page. Every second you take in around four words, and you manage to follow whatever-the-hell-it-is the author is trying to say.
   Now we'll call this book a novel and set the limit at a minimum of 75,000 words. Below that, the book is a squished doughnut, a biodegradable bra, a weapon of mass-extinction, or something cheap of your choice.
   That matters not.
   We'll let the reading speed collide with the word-count and suppose you devour the pages like a rat-bastard motherfucker. No account is taken of the requirement to empty your bladder.
   Maybe you just sit and piss anyway.
   The writer sticks to small words everyone understands. Remember the most important point: Latin is dead.
   You are reading this epic tale in a room devoid of distractions. Fuck, there isn't even a door out. The lack of door proves no distraction.
   There's zero breeze to blow the pages in your face. You never lose the place or slacken the pace.
   After three hundred minutes, you finish that book. Converted from the old money, this means you perused the tome for five hours.
   The movie adaptation comes out. That film runs for two hours. We'll throw the end-titles in on top of that out of niceness. Can you show a five-hour novel in a two-hour movie?
   Yes. As you read the book, you take in the descriptive passages. The author sets things up on the basis that reading is viewing. There's a lot more to it than that.
   Cinematic technique did not develop on its own. A shocker, I know. Film fans, get the fuck over it.
   We aren't surprised that books written pre-cinema come across as cinematic. The crossover terrain, dreams to cinema and back again, is vast.
   Dream and reality fuelled our fiction before we delved into the possibilities linked to persistence of vision. Cinema was an extension of human existence.
   Granted, cinema took on a few tricks and twists along the way. The flashback is pre-cinema. What about slow-motion? Writers may have written of everything slowing down suddenly, in tales written pre-cinema...
   But we write now of slo-mo as a definite cinematic technique worked back into the text we write down. Slyly, perhaps, we are angling for a movie deal as we make the text more cinematic.
   I have veered the fuck right off the point. When the movie of the book comes out, the descriptive passages are filmed.
   Seeing all the stuff in the movie transforms the original text. This allows lengthy descriptive passages to pass rapidly. Running-time is condensed. Well, you'd like to think so.
   Cinema is littered with examples of the photographed stage play.
   Yes, you can shrink the novel to movie-size without losing anything. What do you gain? Accents, whether or authentic or not. Effects. Same goes for practical effects - they may not be that special. And the computer generated imagery?
   The Chronicles of Narnia, transformed into movies, must feature battles. In writing battles, C.S. Lewis concerned himself with character rather than the blow-by-blow account.
   There was a battle. Sometimes, that's all that need be said in a novel. Lewis was content to stoke imagination, rather than nail every detail to the page.
   Movie-watchers may demand more than mere mention of a battle. Readers use imagination to fill in the blanks. Cinema-goers do this too, it's true. Not to the same extent.
   Books and movies are related creatures, occupying different pages of the Bestiary.
   So dare we enter into the non-argument over which is best? A great book poorly-adapted will still gain fans who weren't fans of the book. Deal with it, authors.
   A poor book that somehow transforms into a fantastic film? I don't think I have anything to say on that point.
   I understand the need to do a movie tie-in. But I don't care to see photo-covers torn from the movie plastered with NOW A MAJOR MOVIE iconography.
   My shelves are littered with paperbacks like that. Many are from some other century, koff koff, and the wording NOW may no longer be relevant.
   And the descriptor MAJOR might never have applied to the movie in question. Excuse my while I line up more comedy koffs.
   I will not disgrace this pointless chat by naming names. Except, of course, that I mentioned C.S. Lewis with purpose.
   So I won't name names and declare the book better than the film, though narrower than the T-shirt, while being as tall as the marketing opporchancity.
   That way lies madness.
   Was the story entertaining? And the movie? Does the book give you stirring character insight that must be shown using a glance in a time-constrained motion-picture?
   Can the cinematic wizards bring a strange world to life? Or does everything look as though it's been smeared in marmalade? Is the music intrusive?
   If there's music at all.
   Was the film a good story, as a film?
   Oh, and please. If you must match one against the other, at least read one and view the other. Don't pretend you've read something you haven't.
   Authors sometimes pretend not to have written something they clearly did, but that's another tale.

   

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