Books are constantly being turned into movies. Some of these film adaptations, such as the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice, are excellent, while others, such as Summit Entertainment's take on Divergent, are decidedly less so. However, even the best silver screen versions of novels,while they may be excellent examples of film and true works of art, always fall short of the novels they’re imitating for two major reasons, at least for me.
First off, reading books takes time, time that movies simply don’t have if they’re going to hold our attention for their entire duration. In a culture obsessed with instant gratification, this seems like it would be a plus for the film adaptations of books, but the need to be brief actually works against movies. On the one hand, movies often have to skip or gloss over a decent portion of the book to fit the entirety of the story into two or three hours. Indeed, this is the most frequent complain I hear from my friends about film adaptations of novels, that they’re missing scenes which added to their experience and character of the book. On the other hand, most books can’t be finished in a single sitting. Unlike movies, which you watch in a couple hours and then walk away from, the experience of reading a book lingers. You start reading it and then you have to put it down, story unfinished and waiting to be reopened. There’s a consistent anticipation in reading a book, the lure of an unfinished novel that becomes ravenous excitement when you finally get to pick the book back up again. This makes reading a book more emotionally engaging than watching a movie could ever be.
But books engage more than just the emotions. Unlike films, books are unable to show us anything visually, which allows readers to imagine everything. It’s much like watching a movie in which the casting, sets, and action are under your direction alone, thus allowing you to construct the film exactly as you want it. More than anything, though, this engagement of the imagination allows readers to essentially take part in the novel. When watching a movie, you're forced to recognize that your world and that of the movie are separate, walled off from each other by a screen. With a book, however, all the action unfolds inside of your head, and that’s a place you can go. Books allow you to live every moment of the story in exactly the same place the main characters do, your imagination, and that makes novels feel real in a way that movies, no matter how well they’re made, simply can’t match.
In short, matter how good the directing might be, a movie adaptation of a novel will fall short in my eyes. There will always be scenes missing, characters miscast, or scenes that unfolded differently in my head when I read the book. But most of all I’ll never experience a movie the same way I experience a book, never feel the same excitement and anticipation, or get the sensation of living vicariously through the story. In other words, the books are always better because when I read I'm not simply watching the story I love from a comfy chair. I'm living it.
With Excitement and Optimism,