Friday, June 24, 2011

To Read, or Not to Read? That *is* the Question

I have a question to pose to my dear readers. And that is this:
"When it comes to book-to-movie- adaptations, what is your policy?
Watch the movie first, or read the book?"

It is a question that comes up often in our house, since some of the younger girls want to watch movies that they haven't read the book to.
So how would you answer that question? For me, it is an easy answer:

Read the book first.

I think it is important to experience the story the way the author meant it to be experienced. Many movie adaptations, while wonderful, veer a bit away from the original manuscript, and therefore some part of the author's purpose could be damaged. Let me think of a situation where this came in....okay. Well, it's a little thing, but I always thought, per Louisa May Alcott's description, that Meg would look like this:
(This is Polly Milton, but if you gave her a hoopskirt, she'd be a perfect Meg! :)

(Ahh...yes. The one in the red dress is Meg :)

But when I watched the 1992 version of Little Women, I found they had cast the beautiful Trini Alvarado as Meg. She did a great job, and I grew accustomed to her, but I'm not sure she was just what Alcott would have pictured.

The way the characters look per their description in the book (or per their portrayal in the movie) is something that can bother me. :) It's a little thing, but something that I like to be careful with, because I've had it work the opposite way where I watched a movie, loved it, and then came to read the book and felt the whole time that the author had messed the character up, rather than the other way round!

There is one not-so-great thing about reading the book first vs. watching the movie first.
And that is, that often I would finish the moving with a disgruntling feeling that they had not been faithful at all. I begrudgingly admit I liked the movie, and I know I would have loved it, had I not already fallen in love with the original book.

That is the main argument my sisters bring up. "But then you *never* like the movie as well!" But that is not necessarily true. I have some book-to-movie adaptations that I love just as much as the book! :) I just tend to be a little pickier.
It can be hard to keep this standard up, and I *don't* always succeed. But sometimes I have made it a point not to watch the movie till I've read the book, among these, Charles Dickens's Bleak House and Little Dorrit. And I'm glad I disciplined myself to do it this way, because with such long books, once I know the story-line (as in having watched the movie) I'd be less likely to spend 900 pages finding it out. :)

But of course everyone is different. Some people who are not such fast readers, don't like reading especially, etc. might never read a classic book unless they had grown to love the movie. And for them? I say bravo for sticking it through! :)
I am only saying that if you are able to, I feel reading the book first is the superior way. :) Your thoughts? ~Rachel


Anonymous said...

Rachel, I completely agree! I would say read the book first. :-)

Anonymous said...

I always prefer to read the book first, for mostly the same reasons as you. I like to know what the author intended, and I always feel like the movie gives away the plot, so if I watch it first then read the book I'm always waiting for some specific climatic event to occur. Besides, the movie always seems like sort of an extra - a plus to a good book (even if they twist the plot and "ruin" the story ;).

Carilyn said...

I think reading the book first is a good idea, but for people like myself who don't read fast, watching the movie without reading the book first is okay. As far as getting actors that don't look like the character; a lot of times, it might be nearly impossible to get an actor who looks like how the character is described, while still staying true to the character's character and personality. Major things like the actor having black hair when the character is supposed to be blonde would be a problem, but if the character of the character stays true to the book, it is okay if looks aren't exact. If I ever publish a book, and it is made into a movie, I would probably end up being disappointed with who was casted, unless I casted them myself. =) If I had to read books first, though, then I would probably never enjoy such stories as Little Dorrit and Les Mis because I might never be able to get through the book, and that would be a shame to miss out entirely. ;)

Adelii Arrial said...

Hmm, this seems to be an ongoing problem, and I personally think it changes with each book and movie. For instance, I have yet to read a whole Jane Austen novel, but I've watched many of the movies. And I found that when I tried reading the books afterward, it made more sense; and the subplots that were added in the books that they couldn't do in the movies were extra tidbits that then made the movies more real. But then for other movies, Oliver Twist for one, our Mom made us read the books first. And that seemed to help out a lot. I guess the bottom line is, whichever you end up doing is fine, just don't expect too much from Hollywood and you won't be disappointed.:)