Life Can Only Be Understood Looking Backward

Life Can Only Be Understood Looking Backward

(On the Recognition of Books and Films as Two Separate Art Forms)

Alot of novels have become more commercially successful because of their having been adapted into films. Many people—especially bibliophiles—would argue that, compared with their film counterparts, novels are far more elaborate and well-told in their original, book forms; especially that books can be hundreds of pages long. On the other hand, those who are not big fans of books but are rather film buffs prefer the movie versions because, being audiovisual, these are easier to follow and understand. This is unsurprising, because books are indeed hard to digest. They demand a deep sense of imagination and creativity. To fully comprehend a book, one should be able to animate the characters, build up the settings, and create the scenes in his mind. In fact, an average reader could spend days or even weeks to finish reading a novel. With a film, one simply needs to sit back, listen, and watch for about two hours.

Each Has Its Own Merits
I don’t really compare these two art forms—the book and the film—to the point of pitting them against each other to determine which is better, because I acknowledge that each has its own merits as well as its own limitations, and for this that I can appreciate both in equal measures. I could get lost willingly within the pages of a thick fantasy book for hours, creating the plot secretly on my own. In the same manner that I could enjoy a movie with its cinematography, computer-generated imageries, and cast of characters in the company of friends or loved ones there in a theater, in the living room, or in the comforts of the bedroom. For instance, I love and revere the original The Lord of the Rings books by J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, but I also recognize the artistic merits and entertainment value of the film versions. Finally, your preference will depend on your mood, circumstance, or the amount of time you can spend on reading or watching.

Film adaptations are usually based on novels, but they could be also derived from other sources like comics, biographies, video games, and stage plays.

Here are some relatively new films that are adaptations of novels.

The Notebook (2004), adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’s novel of the same name (1996); Eragon (2006), of Christopher Paolini’s novel of the same name (2003); Notes on a Scandal (2006), of Zoë Heller’s novel of the same name (2003); The Da Vinci Code (2006), of Dan Brown’s novel of the same name (2003); The Golden Compass (2007), of the first book of Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials (1995, 1997, 2000); Stardust (2007), of Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name (1998); Inkheart (2008), of the first book of Cornelia Funke’s trilogy Inkworld (2004, 2006, 2008); Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008), of Jules Verne’s novel of the same name (1864); The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), loosely based on the short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1922); Angels & Demons (2009), of D. Brown’s novel of the same name (2000); and Dear John (2010), of N. Sparks’s novel of the same name (2006).

The Last Leaf
Comparing books with films to determine which art form is better is unfair and unscholarly because each has its own artistic merits and entertainment value as well as strengths and weaknesses. Not disregarding taste, a true art enthusiast has the ability to see the two works of art as separate entities.