Books vs Movies: 3 Arguments for the Literary Experience – by India Roberts

by Jul 11, 2021Article, India Roberts, Writing0 comments

Picture by Kevin Carden


Books vs Movies: 3 Arguments for the Literary Experience

The book or the film? It’s the debate that has seen literary lovers and film enthusiasts divided for decades. For reasons yet undiscovered, it seems impossible to be in both the literary corner and the corner of the world of film, but as someone comfortably nestled in both let me tell you why you should always read the book before its film adaptation – it’s somehow more magical that way.


Film adaptations are a Godsend for many people, pupils especially. Students whose brains feel like a helicopter has been hovering in there for months, its propellers chopping it into frazzled chunks that can never be pieced back together, need the respite of a hassle-free film. It’s those students that, when faced with yet another book the width of their student loans calmly ask, “is there a movie?”. However tempting this may be, here’s why it’s not the answer:


    • 1) It’s a known fact that films always take liberties with the plot. Even ones that stay as close to the book as possible must stray slightly, often so that the timeline makes sense. This, however, severely alters how readers or viewers receive the story, and therefore their opinion on it (or their essay on it – teachers always know!). It’s not so much the abandonment of certain fragments of the book that gives films away, but the addition of new material. Even just one line that isn’t original to the book version is capable of changing how the story is perceived and is seen as an interloper, so much so that some book lovers will refuse to see their favourites gracing the cinema screen!


    • 2) Though many people do devour books in one sitting, the norm is to take at least a couple of days. So, how do you condense and cramp almost a week’s worth of a story into a film that’s an hour and a half long? Little do some people know, but settled in between the starchy pages of a book is an abundance of character development and nuances in the story that filmgoers miss out on. By dedicating a week to a story, you’re investing yourself into the characters and their lives, rather than watching passively. Of course you can be invested in a character on film, but in my experience, books are the only things that can make a reader think of a character as if they were sitting right beside them, reading their own story over your shoulder.


    • 3) One of the most magical aspects of a book is the escapism it allows the mind to delve into. The same is true of films, to an extent, but not in the same way as holding feathery pages between your fingers and moulding a new face out of soft clay in your mind for every character introduced. Books exercise the imagination in a way that films cannot, because in films the creativity is already taken care of. It’s breath-taking a lot of the time, cinematography affecting audiences to the point where they’re gazing at the screen in a catatonic haze. However, this is an escapism that we don’t need to think about, and books give us the freedom to dwell in a world that is made by the author, yes, but decorated by the reader. It’s normally the decoration that makes something complete.


These points are not to say that there’s anything wrong with curling up on the sofa to watch a film that you know will make you weep, or storing your books on the shelf for a while because your eyes are dry from excessive reading. Both entertainment mediums are ones that offer sanctuary, and different creativity offers it in different ways. What would be your favourite way to enter a world that isn’t your own? Are you team book or team movie in the ever-argued debate…

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