Would you choose to watch a film or read the story it was based on? Many stories have been depicted on the big screen, particularly in recent years. If it’s a best-selling novel, the chances are that it has made the transition to the big screen. Gone Girl, The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, the Harry Potter series and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly have all been depicted on screen, to the delight of many.
For some people, reading a novel is either too time consuming or they simply don’t have the patience to spend time getting into a story. If reading is something you aren’t able to do, watching a film can be a great way to enjoy a nail biting, magical, poignant or hilarious tale. The depiction of novels on screen means that people who would not have read the books can still enjoy the story and appreciate the message the writer is trying to convey, in a way that is easier to understand.
However, the film of a novel is never going to be appreciated on the same level as it is by the reader. Your imagination is one of the most powerful tools you have. When you read a story, your brain constructs an alternate reality that is entirely unique. All those seemingly insignificant details combine to create a series of pictures that only you can see, and there is something really special about that.
When you read a novel, you gain an understanding of the characters. Good, bad or in between, they become multi-dimensional beings whose thoughts, words and actions are the consequences of their experiences. When they do something terrible, for example, you will have an understanding of why they have done this, and may even empathise with their plight. A novel that has been made into a film portrays the actions of characters, but you might not understand why they are behaving as they do. If you can see what they are doing, but not the thought processes, feelings and experiences behind those actions, the story will not have the same level of resonance.
Watching a cinematic adaptation of a novel, then, is not comparable with reading it. It can be very enjoyable, and can give people who don’t read the opportunity to hear a good story. However, reading a novel means engaging with it. You develop your own interpretation of what the world looks like in the context of the story, and your own appreciation of the characters. The big screen is no match for the human imagination.