Last night I attended a debate with my friend, during which the three women on the panel discussed at length whether books and films can be compared, and if one is better than the other. Now, seeing as I suffer from a debilitating inability to participate in group discussions without getting shaky hands and clammy palms, I figured I would voice my opinion, as I am wont to do, in writing.
The ‘book vs film’ topic is hardly anything new. People have been arguing for years which is the better storytelling medium and as yet I don’t believe anyone has been able to reach a satisfactory conclusion. That’s because, on the whole, you cannot compare the two; they’re simply too different. When it comes to specific examples however, there will always be two sides to the argument.
I love books. I was that nerdy kid who got put up three reading levels in primary school because I devoured every book I could get my hands on. I was reading at high school levels by the time I was eight. My love of literature has been a part of me since I was a wee little’un but it was only later that I developed a real interest in film. Reading has always been a passion of mine and my love of the written word was one of the reasons I got a job working at a bookstore. Though to tell you the truth, my ex-boss and good friend informed me that she hired me first and foremost because I talked so much.
Loving film and loving books aren’t mutually exclusive. I know many people, myself included, who love both. Of course, then there is my brother, who thinks reading is for losers and frequently tells me that my beloved books are only good for kindling, but he is an uncultured swine and so his opinion doesn’t count. (For the record, that was a joke. Regardless of his disdain for books, my brother is one of my favourite people in the world.) I think film and literature can help each other in a lot of ways. When I worked at Collins, I had a customer who had just seen the film Stardust, and upon learning it was a book, came in to buy it. That struck a chord with me both because I was glad a girl so young was reading and because I have a particular fondness for Neil Gaiman. Similarly, I had a customer asking about Chuck Palahniuk (incidentally another of my favourite authors) and I was able to recommend that she watch Fight Club, as I felt the film adaptation of the book was excellent.
Being a self-confessed book geek in no way inhibits my ability to appreciate a good film. And while I often believe specific books are better than their silver screen counterparts – for a varied number of reasons – there are definite exceptions to that rule. Bridget Jones’ Diary is one of the few chick flicks that I really enjoy and yet I found the book to be tedious and dull and once I had read it, I went entirely against my nature and gave it away.
Though I do actually enjoy both versions, the Harry Potter series is one example where I believe the books to be better than the films. The reason I prefer the books is largely due to the fact that Peeves was omitted from the films entirely and I felt ever so slightly cheated by this. Another main reason for me was the portrayal of Sirius Black’s death in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I know it’s a cliche but when I watched it, I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed and notice that it had occurred in a completely different way inside my head. When I read the book, I’m not ashamed to admit that I bawled my eyes out at the loss of one of my favourite characters but I was completely unmoved by the same scene in the film. There are other reasons I prefer the books too; small things, perhaps, yet they make all the difference.
I don’t hold with the notion that films have no merit, in the same way I get offended when someone says books are pointless. It has been my experience that some book lovers can be rather judgemental about those who prefer film and take the stance that they they themselves are more intelligent because they read. I find this to be a pretentious and rather a rude point of view. Both books and movies can be useful, entertaining and even educational. My youngest brother has no interest in traditional learning but sometimes he comes out with facts that surprise and impress me. When I ask how he knows any one piece of information, often his answer will be that he learnt it from a film. I’m talking about real factual information too, not something dragon related that he picked up from Game of Thrones and assumed was real history.
There are always going to be people who prefer movies and those who prefer books. Even down to individual adaptations there will be two sides to every argument. I personally believe polite debate on the matter is healthy,and the more perspectives you can get about either side of the argument, the better. For me, I cannot say whether books in general are better than films or vice versa. I know there are certain books that I prefer compared to their film equivalent and other films that I prefer over the books. So after all this, which is better; books or films? The answer is, paradoxically, neither and both. It all depends entirely on your preference. Regardless of what that may be, enjoy them both freely and happily. I know I do.