Bookish Musings // Book-to-Movie Adaptations

Most of the films we watch these days are based on books. For example, The Hunger Games, Room, The Book Thief – even Breakfast at Tiffany’s! But, when you’re translating a novel into a movie, the story may change or characters are lost. Therefore, I thought this would be an interesting discussion to have!

The first question I have for you is whether you read the book or watch the movie first? I’m a strong believer in reading the book first because I like having the freedom of deciding for myself what the characters and setting will look like and just letting my imagination run wild. However, there are some instances where I find myself in a situation where watching the movie first is easiest. The most recent example I have of this is The Danish Girl. This movie was based on the memoirs of Lili Elbe who was one of the first identifiable recipients of sex reassignment. Did I read these memoirs? No. Am I planning on reading it in the future? Maybe. This is one of those situations where sometimes the message from the text will have been adapted faithfully to the screen and you leave the cinema having learnt something.

I’ve also noticed that my three favourite films (Brokeback Mountain, V for Vendetta and 10 Things I Hate About You) are all based on short stories, comics or plays but I haven’t read the original text of any of these. Maybe it’s my distance from the originals that allows me to have so much love for these adaptations. Therefore, if you watch the movie first you’ll be able to appreciate it without criticising every change and you’ll be able to enjoy both formats freely.

My next query is how faithful should an adaptation be? The dictionary definition of adaptation is “alter for new use or new conditions”. Does a movie have to follow the novel chapter by chapter? Or can they take several liberties and make changes? One of my personal favourite adaptations is Catching Fire, because it remains true to the text it’s based on, but is ever so slightly tweaked to fit the film environment. On the other hand, we’ve got the Divergent series…

The first movie followed the book and was everything fans expected it to be, but then Insurgent offered some alterations and from the Allegiant trailer it looks as if the story will be taking an alternate route. But, does this make the movies bad? For me, I think it’s important that we separate the film from the book because for a story to work well in two mediums, it won’t remain exactly the same.

There you have it, a discussion on the varying forms of media we use to tell our stories. So, what’s your opinion and how do you feel about book-to-movie adaptations?


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