It’s the great debate: the movie or the book? Having grown up in a pretty pretentious environment, I’ve heard a lot of “the book, obviously” followed by long tirades about how movies have done the books injustice. Of course, books have their merit. They usually go into greater detail because they’re not as limited by time. Books also give the reader the freedom to interpret the imagery in the books however they want. Sometimes books offer a quirky narrative voice that can’t be fully captured in film.
But as much as I agree that books often have details and exposition that movies take liberties with, films have the power of everything sensory. Stirring visuals and soundtracks can change the game. All this being said, I’m not really trying to say that one medium is better than the other — a lot of the times, I think the version people prefer is usually the one that they were exposed to first. In the same vein, here are some films that led me to appreciate the books they were based on. After all, literature and film don’t have to compete with one another. They can play off each other beautifully.
The Princess Bride (1987)
A charmingly hilarious film, The Princess Bride was definitely a watch before a read for me. The story’s action scenes and quirky humor translate particularly well on screen. I carried the film’s energy and humorous tone with me as I forayed into the book, where they informed my reading of the text.
The Princess Bride: “This is true love” | The Princess Bride (1987)
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Filmed in various English locations, like Groombridge Place and the Peak District in Derbyshire, the serene, quintessentially Englishness of the movie’s setting truly sets the scene for the period piece. The film’s moving, classical soundtrack lends power to its already stunning visuals, drawing the viewer into the story. These visuals stuck with me as I read Austen’s piece. Pride and Prejudice (the book) revealed the characters motives, thoughts, and emotional journeys to me more clearly, and the film’s artistry helped me create a compelling visualization of the story’s backdrop while I read.
Pride and Prejudice: Pride & Prejudice (2005) Director: Joe Wright Cinematographer: Roman
The Lord of the Rings Series
Because there are so many details in these dense books, the movie helped me immensely with simply keeping track of all the lore and characters. There’s so much fantastic and complex exposition in the books to work through, it was helpful to have watched the movies first where the story is realized on the screen. The movies provided me a shorthand guide that helped me to better understand and enjoy the books.
The Lord of the Rings: Where are the most iconic Lord of the Rings locations?
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
There’s something to be said for movies bringing fantasy stories to life. Although the book has a different tone from the movie, the film still captures the whimsical magic of the setting and story. Beautifully and charmingly illustrated, as is the Studio Ghibli trademark, Howl’s Moving Castle (the film) remains one of my favorites to this day. Years after I first watched the film, I read the book and fell even more in love with the story and the characters. Naturally, the book explores in greater depth Sophie’s background, her relationship with her sisters, the family dynamic, and her thoughts. But although the movie and book are not perfectly aligned, the movie enriched my experience of reading the book.
Howl’s Moving Castle: Anime classic ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ to screen at IU Cine