Books v Film, Horror Writing

Books v Film: A thought.

Perception matters

I’ve been writing to you a lot lately about books v films, talking about the adaptation process from book to film and what gets changed or lost as a result.

I was going to write to you about Horns today (awesome book go read it, also an awesome film go watch it) but it got me thinking, which lead to something of a mental tangent.

With Horns, I saw the film before I read the book and to be honest, this is my preferred way to do things. I often find that if I watch the film after reading the book, I will nearly always prefer the book, although there may be the odd exception.

I think this is because when you watch a film first you get a story, then when you read a book you get a much longer story. So, you are making a net gain in story. When you read the book first you almost always make a loss in story.

Books can do so much more than films. They have far more space to tell a story, they can really get to grips with characters, events, settings etc., whereas most films have a limited run time. It’s just not possible for them to create as much as books due to this limited time.

Also, films are a purely visual medium, whereas books are more, they engage all the senses as well as the imagination. This means that books can create an emotional reaction in readers in a variety of unexpected places and ways, the author has the power to make you feel what they want you to. For example, a setting in a book can be described in such an emotive fashion that you cannot help but feel a certain way towards it. Whereas with films, they can only show you the setting and try to influence your feeling towards said setting via music. While music is a unique and powerful tool I often find that emotive language will trump music every time.

It’s not inherent that one medium is better than another, simply that they are different and can do different things to influence the consumer. I find books can do more, as I said due to the tools at their disposal and their length. There’s something about words that really pull us in, we pay more attention to them. Try a test, watch a show in your native language, then watch it again in another language with subtitles, I expect that the episode watched in subtitles will have resonated with you more and this isn’t because one language is better than another, it’s because your attention was pulled in further.

Watching films is very passive, while reading is much more engaging.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a little off track, I was talking about Horns. I watched the film before I read the book and as such, I feel I enjoyed the film more than I would have had I read the book first. I put this down to a number of reasons. If I’d read the book first I would have an image of the character’s and location in my mind that might not have gelled with what the film presented, thus causing me to instantly prefer my own imagining (biased Katie is biased). I also would have been far more aware of cuts and changes to the story in order to allow the transfer to film. There will always be cuts and changes because of, as said above, the infinite amount of time books have compared to films.

So, my whole take away from this is that when possible watch the film before reading the book.

In short, if you watch a film before reading the book you’re always going to gain by reading the book, whereas if you read the book then watch the film you’re always going to lose something.

I'd love to hear what you think, please comment below.

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