IDEA #47. Find and read the book that is the basis for a film that you have liked. Find someone else who has read the book and engage them in a serious discussion about the differences between the book and the film; it’s not just about which is “better.”
It is no secret that many popular films are based on books, but in a surprising number of cases the books tend not to have been best-sellers, even if the movies become blockbusters. Or the books may be “classics” that have attracted the creative imagination of a director.
In all events, if you saw and enjoyed a film based on a book, why not pick up and read the book on which it is based? Several recent film series have been based on the fantasy novels of J. R. R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling, for example, and anyone who has not ventured into the Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter stories will be well rewarded. In these cases book sales have benefited from the films’ popularity, so the reader will be able to find plenty of fellow-readers with whom to discuss the books; happily, this sales synergy between film and book often occurs.
The differences in story-telling technique between book and film are of course a subject in themselves. Not only do length, scope, and number of characters play a role, but sometimes a filmmaker will choose to take a point of view in the telling that may differ from that of the author of the book. (Such differences sometimes create real friction between writer and director, but for audiences these differences can be a source of interest.) There are examples of short stories expanded to full-length films and lengthy novels compressed to a couple of hours, often with vast amounts of plot stripped out for brevity’s sake. Both art forms, film and writing, impose certain disciplines on artists, and it is in reflecting on these disciplines and how they manifest themselves when a book is adapted for film that the young viewer can sharpen analytical and critical skill.