Friday, January 28, 2005

Books Into Films

Making a good film is a difficult proposition. Making a good film that will please the fans of the book that inspired it is all but impossible. What’s more, it’s a bad idea even to try.

The thing to always remember about books and movies is that they are two very different and distinct mediums. You can't expect a film adaptation of a book to resemble its source material in anything more than surface ways. If you watch a film expecting it to somehow capture what made the book special in your mind, it is inevitable that you will be disappointed.

What makes a book special is not its plot, nor the physical attributes and actions of its characters. Not the dialogue, nor the pacing, nor the setting. Rather it’s all of those things put together in the author’s own unique way. Translating that from the page to the screen is impossible. It makes about as much sense as drawing a picture of a symphony.

In order for a film to be any good, it has to reflect the style, talent and artistic personality of its creators -- and the author of the book is not one of those creators. It must work on its own, as a motion picture. To the extent that the book, and the author’s vision behind it, can be used to contribute to the making of that film, so much the better. But above all, the film must be the unique creation of the filmmakers.

The chances of a reader being disappointed by any eventual film version of a book they love are nearly overwhelming. There is just no way that any filmmaker can capture what it is that you see in your mind when you read the book, no way they can duplicate that magical connection between the reader and the author. This is especially true because that vision and that experience are unique to each reader.

The only reasonable way to view these projects is simply to think of them as fun, disposable pieces of entertainment, almost completely separate from the books that inspired them. That and a fat paycheck for the writers, most of whom are pretty cool people.