Why Do We Prefer a Book’s Scenario More Than Its Film?

We, humans, have the need to express ourselves and our emotions in different ways. From this need, humankind has come up with numerous forms of art such as literature, music, and film. Although most forms of art play a significant role in our daily lives, literature and cinema are two of the types that we encounter the most.

We read news articles, books, short stories and we watch documentaries, films, and dramas. Literature was present long before cinema became a thing. After cinema started to be considered an art form, many literary pieces started being the primary source for filmmaking, and most literary pieces were converted into films. So have you ever wondered how your favorite book was transformed into a film?

Today, we will be taking a look at the relationship between literature and cinema. Do you know how after reading a book, then watching the film adaptation, most people will say that they were disappointed? Well, we will also delve into the process of adapting a book into a film and try to understand why most people find it disappointing to watch the film after reading the book.

Literature was a solution for humankind’s need to express themselves and to pass on their ideas to the upcoming generations. We can say that literature is the art of expressing one's ideas, feelings, and experiences in a written or oral way; while we can define literature within general constraints, it is impossible to completely define it, as the definition may differ from artist to artist and it may not be accepted by everyone.

As Berna Moran states in her book titled Defining Criticism, Theory and Literature, defining literature and art forms is quite difficult since, in order to define such a big group of literary pieces, we must find one or more common characteristics among them. Finding common characteristics among pieces of art is fairly challenging since there are only small similarities that help us group them. All literary works have very little to no common features and even if we manage to find common features and define them, we may encounter a different piece of art that does not fit into the definition we made. Art is not as concrete and completely definable as certain theories and ideas in math and sciences may be, therefore it is not possible to set a proper definition.

Now, let’s talk about film. Film was also a solution to people's need and desire to make moments, experiences, and ideas long-lasting and pass them on to the next generations. Before the Industrial Revolution, people would use paintingsas a way of making moments everlasting. People would have their portraits or scenery depicted by artists to produce a long-lasting product that would allow them to look back on memories. When photography was discovered and Nicephore Niepce took the first photograph in 1826, film and cinema were close to being discovered. After the Industrial Revolution, the Lumiere brothers presented the first cinematic works and found a solution to making moments everlasting. The first films were produced through a series of photos that were then one after another. After cameras were invented, cinema was not just a display for photos, it became a new art form.

Now that we have talked about the two artforms and their general definitions, let’s take a look at how they are related. Even though they might seem very different, they have a few common characteristics. First of all, both art forms help distribute ideas and could be used to give information about certain topics. They also both serve as a form of entertainment to get people’s minds off of work or their life problems. With their fictional characters, supernatural powers, and fantastic storyline, they are a great source of entertainment. We can see that both film and literature are made up of pieces that when come together form a piece of art. In films, the smallest pieces are scenes. From scenes come episodes, and from episodes come a drama or a film. In literature we can see that a book is made out of chapters, chapters out of paragraphs, paragraphs out of phrases, and phrases are made out of words.

Along with these similarities, they also have a few big differences. Films use visual effects, music, and images to give a message or to make the audience feel something. Whereas in literature everything is written down with words and everything is in the reader's imagination. We can also see that a literary piece of art can be written at any given time, without having a time limit to complete it. In films, however, the process needs to be completed in a given time. This is because writing is usually a one-person job. But in order to create a film, a lot of people have to work together since there are so many aspects to a film. The key difference here is that when you are reading a book, everything is in your imagination, but when you are watching a film, everything is laid out in front of you. When reading a book, you can imagine the characters and the storyline yourself, but when in a film you are watching everything from the director's point of view.

We have looked into the key differences and similarities between film and literature, now we can seek answers to ‘Why does the film industry use literary works as their source for content?’ ‘How do they adapt a book into a movie?’ and ‘Why are people usually more fond of the book than the adapted movie?’

The reason the cinema industry relies on literary works so much to create films has multiple reasons. They want to earn more money and there aren’t enough scenarios. When you think about it, the whole film lies in the scenario. If the scenario is not good, no matter how good the effects or the music is, the film will not turn out well. Therefore, in order to make sure the scenario is good, scenarists just take the storyline of a good and well-known book and turn it into a scenario. Doç. H. Hale Künüçken wrote in her article titled ‘‘The Transition of love From The art of words, Literature, to the art of visuals, Film’’ ‘’Since these are already well-known literary works and are liked by people, the film adaptation will also surely gain attention.’’ When you think about it, most of the well known and liked movies are actually adapted from books. We can give Twilight, Little Women, The Divergent series and Harry Potter as examples. Most of Studio Ghibli, a Japanese animation studio, movies, for example, were also adapted from books. I personally was a big fan of the movie titled ‘Howl's moving castle’ and did not even know that it had a book.

So how do we adapt a book into a movie? Well, first of all, once the book is chosen, the director and scenarist must read it together to discuss which parts would be suitable for a film and how they would be able to give the same feelings and messages as in the book. Some directors will actually talk with the writer to get their ideas and their point of view. But some directors won't and will just carry on with their own methods. Whether a director should speak with the writer or not is a good debate topic since some people think it is essential and some people think it will make the film unentertaining. İn order to turn a book into a film, it is essential to be careful about the differences between the two art forms. As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, the language is very different. İn literature there are words and everything happens in the reader's head whereas in films, everything happens before the viewer's eyes. In order to prevent these differences from getting in the way of making a good adaptation, directors use some methods. One method is for example, to not include the complete storyline and to leave some parts open ended. In order to transform some methods used in literature such as monologues, the director can have the viewer see the actor and have a voiceover to narrate the characters thoughts. Adapting a book into a movie is not an easy task and requires a lot of careful planning.

The reason some people are disappointed after watching the adaptation of their favorite book is because of the differences between the two art forms. They were too happy with what they imagined in their head and what they imagined did not match with how the director interpreted the film. So next time you read a book and watch the movie, keep in mind the differences between the two art forms, and remember that adapting a book into a movie is not an easy process. Maybe after thinking about it you will not feel as disappointed :)

Works Cited:

MORAN, Berna (2006). Edebiyat Kuramları Ve Eleştiri, İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları.

KAYIM, Cevahir (2006), ‘Uyarlama Biçimleri’, Cinemascope, S.10

KUTLAR, Onat (1985). Sinema Bir Şenliktir, İstanbul: de yayınevi.


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