Hello, people of the internet!
Today, I feel like discussing something. Not just anything, but something that I have been thinking about for quite a while.
Many films are adaptations from books and so they are compared to one another, often with the thought that the books are better than the films.
But what gets me thinking is this: should they even be compared in the first place?
Spoiler alerts for Coraline (heck, I’ve been talking about this story for a while…) and The Lovely Bones.
Books and films are very different mediums of story-telling: with books, the words alone help the reader to imagine the story that they are reading. With films, visuals as well as sounds tell the story with only the audience watching it. Depending on the length of the book and film, how long it takes for the story to be told is different for each medium. For example, a book can take several hours, even days, to read all the way through whereas a film takes a couple of hours. Imagine all this without breaks.
How each medium is created, made and told to the reader is very different. So when a film is being adapted from a book, changes have to be made due to several factors. It could be due to time constraints, budgets, or even what the director interpreted from the book themselves. There are lots of reasons why changes are made. Some for better and some for worst.
I compare books and films all the time as I understand that changes are to be made in order for the film version to stand on its own as well as work for the medium. For me, it’s interesting to see what changes there are and how it is executed. Some are executed well and others just are executions of the whole bleeding thing.
There are changes that are not only needed for the film medium, but also strengthen some aspects of the story that the book didn’t. Take, for example, Coraline.
I first saw the film before I read the book. Several changes were made for the film. A new character named Wybie was made solely for the film and doesn’t even exist in the book. He was made because the director, Henry Selick, wanted someone for Coraline to talk to otherwise she would have been talking out loud to herself. In the book, we read her thoughts and so understand her. In the film, this would have been very tricky to pull off without it coming off as exposition, hence why Wybie was created. As a fan of both the film and the book, I was happy with this change as not only did it develop Coraline’s character, but Wybie was a lovable character himself. Another significant change made was how many times Coraline enters the Other World. In the book, she only enters it once before she is offered the deadly chance to stay in the Other World forever. In the film, she visits the Other World three times before she is offered this chance. It made the film longer, which meant it dedicates more time for Coraline to bond with the Other World which she finds more exciting and lovely towards her, which I felt was missing from the book. Besides, the book itself is a novella and if the film was exactly like the book, the film would have been a lot shorter. These were the changes from the book that I personally made no problem with.
But then again, I have seen films adapted from books that just infuriate me.
For this example, I give The Lovely Bones.
Like Coraline, I saw the film first before reading the book. The film does have good aspects, but overall I prefer the book mainly because one of the changes seen in the film just…emotionally broke me. In my Books That Have Stayed – The Lovely Bones post, I said that I read the book, hated it, but when I reread it, I realised how beautiful it actually was. I didn’t mention the film because I wanted to write a separate post as I didn’t want to compare them at the time as it gave me a horrible impression on The Lovely Bones in general. To tell you the truth, I was very close to not giving the book a chance because of this specific plot point I’m going to talk about now. I’ll give you a little background: the protagonist, Susie, has been murdered by her neighbour and, near the end of the film, the neighbour goes to a sinkhole to dump her body, which is hidden in a safe. Susie then has the chance to go back to the living world, swapping souls with another girl, who just so happens to be right next to the sinkhole with her friend, who is Susie’s crush. Now Susie is back in the living world for a brief moment and knows that her body is in the safe, how does she spend her last moments on Earth?
She kisses her crush.
WHAT THE HELL?!?!?!
What a stupid thing to do! Susie’s family will never know where her body is, her murderer escapes justice and is free to murder other girls and what does she do? Kiss her crush! No, no, no! This doesn’t happen in the book because she’s stuck in her personal heaven and can only watch her body be dumped; it’s only many years later when she’s given the opportunity to revisit the living and, even though she could have told him, it’s implied that it’s too late at that point to tell anyone (regardless it would have been nice if she did, but honestly it would have given the book a fairy tale ending that it didn’t need). In the film, she could have told her crush where her body is at least! Like, as she is kissing him, her body is about to be dumped! She could have saved her family more heartache! But no, she wants a kiss. Yes, she was never kissed before she died and it’s her last wish, and, yes, that’s sad, but what’s even sadder is her family having to cope with her murder and not know where her body is! What was supposed to be an emotional, romantic moment is ruined, it becomes the moment where I actually yelled! Like, “No, stop kissing! Your body is getting dumped in a bloody sinkhole! Use those lips instead for telling someone, anyone, where your body is!!!” How the whole film played out and how the blurb at the back of the DVD box flat out said that she’ll do anything to help her family solve her murder, so for this to happen all of a sudden just ruin the whole watching experience!
In fact, that’s why I didn’t like the story at first because I thought what Susie did was stupid! Thank God it doesn’t happen in the book otherwise I would have thrown that book away and only look back in anger. I don’t know why that change was even made and it worsened the story more than strengthened it.
…Okay, I’ve calmed down a bit. And that’s just one change in the film that I couldn’t stand. There are others, but that’s for another post altogether.
What I’m trying to say is that books and films should be compared for better and for worse. Some changes can strengthen the story for the film medium, like with Coraline, and some changes can…*gives the film The Lovely Bones a death glare*…completely ruin it.
So, yes, there is nothing wrong with comparing books and films. They should be compared if the audience wants to and understands that changes are bound to be made. It opens up discussions on what worked and what didn’t and what should be changed and what shouldn’t. We can be thankful that if one medium (whether it be the book or the film) messes it up, we can appreciate the other version that nails it.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?
Thank you for reading!