Friday, 11 June 2010


By Richard Jay Parker

For most readers the argument is pretty academic. Books win hands down and the movie adaptation is often only interesting from the perspective of how the director's vision and actors' performances stand up to what you created in your imagination.

Movies rarely convey the depth and subtlety of books and frequently overpump them to satisfy a Hollywood sensibility.

But it all depends on whether you read the book first. If you didn't, how much of the movie is already implanted when you pick up the book? I recall finding it impossible not to think of Jack Nicholson as McMurphy when I read Kesey's ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST.

I also read Jeff Lindsay's DEXTER after enjoying the series. Michael C Hall was in my head throughout. It's one of those rare instances when a lot of readers believe the TV series to be better than the books. Personally, I found the books darker and more humorous - Dexter's backseat psyche whispering blackly funny ideas into his ear was something that wasn't conveyed on the small screen.

Then there are movies that attempt to take on books that are unfilmable. THE NAKED LUNCH by William Burroughs for instance. The movie became a very different entity with little to do with the novel. AMERICAN PSYCHO took a different approach to the wealth of subject matter and merely tried to use key scenes to create a representation of the themes that Bret Easton Ellis explored. I thought that Mary Harron did a pretty good job but watching a movie and reading a book are simply two very different entertainment experiences. One serves it up while the other requires the complete investment of your imagination.

So is there an instance of the book and the movie being equally enjoyable? Personally, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is one of the few examples I can think of. I enjoyed the book and its moral dilemma as well as simultaneously learning the language of Nadsat. Kubrick's interpretation of the story, his striking visuals and undeniable stylising of the character make it difficult to separate the two in my mind. FALLING ANGEL is another example. I saw the movie (ANGEL HEART) first but enjoyed Hjortsberg's book because I knew what the ultimate destination was.

Obviously, it's all subjective but I think it's often the case of not expecting the movie to be as good as a personal reading experience but that it should use its own devices to add something extra.

Anyone out there have a book and a movie they enjoyed equally?


  1. Great blog Richard could not agree more , a couple that spring to mind for me are Silence of the Lambs read first thought the film was brilliant. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo read first loved the film , though i am not to sure about the up coming american remake. Mark

  2. Couldn't watch Dexter on TV as I had read the books first and had my own picture of Dexter in my head. The Bone Collector film did start me off on the Lincoln Rhyme books though but the book was better and on the whole much prefer books over films any day.

  3. Agree with Mark on Silence of the Lambs. A Midnight Clear also worked as well on the screen as it did as a book for me.

  4. I've tried not watchin the films so I dont get disappointed but curiosity normally gets the better of me and the disappoinment brick lands with a thud! The films would b soo much better if I'd have directed them lol. I agree with karmaperle that The Bone Collector got me hooked on the Lincoln Rhymes books but they were much better! I must admit I'm a Stephenie Meyers fan the books were amazing the films however are terrible and such a let down I just hope The Host will be better! On the other hand The vampire diaries series is pretty gripping but has hardly any similarities to the book! So after that long rant books over films any day!!!

  5. Yes The Girl with the Dragon Tatto definitely and I must add Shutter Island. Overall I far prefer the book but when it translates well to the big screen I say thumbs up as so many director,producers have a different vison from the book and end up ruining the essence of the story.

  6. Lesley Holdway11 June 2010 at 13:51

    Just watched Time Travellers Wife and it was not as good as book, also I hated the tv adaptation of Thorn Birds thought it was dreadful compared to book. Paul Newman made a dreadful ham of Exodus as well. There are loads of films I adore but most of them I have not read the books. I did watch Barbara Taylor Bradford's Woman of Substance before I read it and I did enjoy the series of books she did for that

  7. Yvonne Johnston13 June 2010 at 05:25

    I read Daphne Du Maurier's 'Don't Look Now' before watching the film. The film is very different from the novel, but both are equally well executed and both are very scary!
    I also agree with others' comments about 'Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.'

  8. I saw the film version of 'No Country for Old Men' before reading the actual novel by Cormac McCarthy. I loved the movie, and I don't think that was solely because I came to it without preconceptions. But the combination of the Coen Brothers' genius and the fact they stuck so closely to the book meant that even if I'd read the book first I don't think I would have been disappointed.
    I have, though, acquired a copy of McCarthy's 'The Road' which I intend to read before catching the movie this time.

  9. Hi Mark. Thanks for your contribution. I agree about SILENCE OF THE LAMBS - powerful book and movie. I haven't read Larsson yet!

    Hi karmaperle. Interesting point about DEXTER. I do recommend the TV show though.

    Hi Elizabeth. Loved A MIDNIGHT CLEAR on the screen but have never read the book. Like a lot of movies people assume they are written specifically for production.

    Hi Rachel. Yes - I'm usually tempted to watch the movie of a book I've read and am often disappointed. There are a few that confound your expectations though.

    Thanks anonymous. I'd like to see both those movies but I'm going to try and read the books first.

    Hi Lesley. Even though the results are frequently mediocre there does seem to be even more of a symbiosis between movies and book sales now. Larsson being a case in point.

    Hi Yvonne. Have never read the book of DON'T LOOK NOW but love the movie. Looks like this is another example of book and movie offering something different.

    Hi Janet. Am fan of Coen Brothers but have not read NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Didn't like the ending of the movie which seemed to throw the tension away. Must track down a copy to see how McCarthy envisaged it.