Sunday, March 1, 2015

For The Love Of Words

I've seen two movies recently that have made me wonder about my love affair with the cinema vs. my love affair with books. 

The first movie I remember going to see in a theatre was one of the "Pink Panther" sequels. I'm not sure which one, but I remember being dazzled by the camera work. I think it took place in the south of France, which looked as glamorous as I'm sure it must be.  It was a caper -- which is my favorite kind of movie. And Peter Sellers made me laugh.  

I fell in love with the written word at a much younger age, and so books must be considered my first love. Laura Ingalls Wilder took me to the banks of Plum Creek, Agatha Christie took me to an English Country manor in Torquay and I never wanted to go home.Both of these authors have had their works successfully transferred onto film and television. In some cases, I've enjoyed their stories as they were told on television and film even better than I ever enjoyed their books. 

And so I find it intriguing that two books I was really looking forward to seeing adapting as movies, "Fifty Shades Of Grey" and "The Fault In Our Stars" fell so short in their big screen adaptations.

It wasn't just that the emotion I felt while I was reading the books wasn't on the screen. It was that all the little itty bitty details that were so important in my mind when I was reading the book weren't there. And that's what put me in the story and kept there and made me continue to turn the page. It was the worldbuilding that is done in books -- that is often taken for granted in film and television because it becomes part of the background.  

For example, in "Fifty Shades," Christian gives Ana first edition books by Thomas Hardy. In the movie, the focus of the gift is that the books cost $14,000. (I'm not sure they mention the title of the books in the movie -- but it was Tess of D'Urbervilles.) In the book, it's not the cost of the books that are as important as the quote that he sends with the books. It is a warning of what temptations lay ahead. 

In "The Fault in Our Stars" the old Swingset of Tears where Gus charms Hazel Grace in seen on screen but lacks all of the romance it had in the book.  It's just a swingset. It's small and useless, and not as important as it seemed in the book. 

These were key elements for me in the stories. Why weren't they   given enough reverence in the movies?  Personally I don't think it's a fault of the filmmakers in either case, but rather the fact that the camera just can't do these kind of things justice. They become objects in front of the lens, rather than story beats.

I'm certain that the best and brightest screenwriters were selected to adapt both of these books into screenplays. I can't fault the writers. I'm sure they attempted to grab the essence of the book and put it into the screenplay, so what went wrong?

Is it just because I'm pre-disposed to love books more than movies? What is it about the written word that completely enthralls and enchants me. Is it words or is it my imagination?

I don't have an answer just yet, but it's a question I want to continue to explore. 

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