As the Story Goes
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Does this time-honored axiom hold up in modern cinema? We have watched through the decades as film-making has advanced ten-fold with improved CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) and motion capture technologies. We have even seen classics such as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” remade and retold in movies countless times since its creation in 1818, but to what end? Surely if you could capture the imagery kindled by a readers imagination on the big screen, we would have done it by now, no?
On the other hand, isn’t it much simpler to experience a story in vibrant colors and imagery without the tedious perusal of paragraphs on paragraphs of visual depictions and adjectives – not to mention keeping track of all of the names and references listed in longer novels?
The Bibliophile or the Cinephile
If you have read the book before you’ve seen the movie, already you’ve created a universe of your own imagining, and soared through the narrative arc creating personal meaning and memories of the tale. Each character’s name brings a face and a story of its own; the tragedy, adventure, or turmoil ascribed to them is the reader’s own. You walked with the hobbits through every step of the journey to Mordor, you stood in the court room alongside Atticus Finch, and you rode the dragons with Eragon. How can the experience of a theater buff possibly compare?
From the movie-goers perspective, though, how could one enjoy a book if they’ve seen the story in IMAX 3D? You could spend a hundred pages to detail one frame of the final confrontation in Avengers: Endgame or almost any moment in James Cameron’s Avatar. The pace of the silver screen is much faster too – you can watch 3 movies in under 4.5 hours, but reading a novel can take days, and the book becomes less of a page-turner when you can see the twists coming (plus you don’t get the convenience of pre-popped popcorn and a large soda in your recliner at home). In addition, the farsighted demographic may have a bias in favor of the cinema
Undoubtedly, the experience can be left up to the preference of the individual; though it seems more likely for an avid reader to go to see the movie than it is for a theater buff to pick the book up off the shelf. Directors of the silver screen are allowed to impart their own interpretation of a story to the viewer through the various scenes in a movie (whether including or excluding details of events), while novelists leave subjective context for the reader to create their own explication. So which do you prefer? Are you an avid filmaholic or a die-hard bibliomaniac?