Turning books into movies: Why I appreciate the differences

I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in sitting for a 10-hour movie.

But it seems like many die-hard fans of certain books would like to. Seeing “The Hunger Games” recently and hearing other people’s opinions of the movie reminded me that most people have unrealistic expectations when it comes to adapting books to movies.

“The movie just wasn’t like I imagined the characters and scenery would look.”

How exactly is a film director supposed to get inside your brain? Without pictures, there’s no way to standardize how readers should visualize a character. That’s what imaginations are for. Even with a vivid description, readers all interpret it slightly differently. So when moviemakers don’t get it quite like you imagined it, think of it as a different interpretation — their interpretation. If you wanted the characters to look exactly as you imagined them, well, you should have volunteered to direct the film first.

“They missed my favorite scene!”

Of course the movie will miss your favorite scene. The whole book is your favorite scene. If they made the whole entire book into a movie, you’d be sitting there all day, or they’d have to come out with movies like “Harry Potter: Part 19” every year. The movie is supposed to be based on the book — not a word-for-word acting out of the entire saga.

“The movie changed the order and changed what happened in some parts.”

If the movie isn’t an exact retelling of the book, the directors need to get creative with how to tell the same basic story that the author told but in many fewer words. That means some things need to be changed for clarity’s sake. Relax! The big picture is still the same. In terms of the order, much of what happens in many popular books happens inside the characters’ heads, or are narrations from the author; if that can’t happen in a movie, you need to change the order to allow for the backstory to come out clearly.

“The movie just felt so different from the book.”

If the movie felt the same as a book, it would be a big white screen with black printed words. Movies and books are different media. Books have the luxury of spending page after page on details — what the character wore, how she pinned up her hair, the way the grass smelled. Movies have to show what’s going on, so of course you won’t get the same detail in the movie that you would have gotten from the book. Books must use words to convey emotions; movies can take advantage of music, editing, flashbacks, lighting, facial expressions, costumes, and sound effects that allow us to really feel like we’re there.

“I loved the book but I just didn’t like the movie.”

Instead of thinking of the movie as an acted-out version of the way you imagined the book, think of it as one person’s interpretation of something you loved. When I hear a cover of a Beatles song, I don’t hate it because it’s different from the original; I think it’s a really cool interpretation of something I enjoy. Four artists painting the same landscape would create completely different pieces of art, and that’s okay; it’s part of the beauty of our diversity.

I hereby request that next time you see the movie version of your favorite book, embrace the differences and learn to really appreciate how lucky we are that we have the technology to use different media for different purposes. When they make “The Hunger Games: The Interpretive Dance” or “Harry Potter: Paper Mache,” I hope everyone will appreciate these new renderings of the stories we all love.

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