Monday, November 22, 2010

I Never Read That Movie

This is not going to be a major revelation here, but if you read a book and then see the movie made about that book you will not like it. It’s just not possible. Doesn’t this make total sense? Forget about the fact that you can only picture the characters exactly as you envisioned them and likely Julia Roberts was not one of them. The main thing is you already know the entire story. You know how it ends. There are no surprises here.

I’m trying to think of the last movie I saw that was from a book I read and I just can’t because I just can’t do it. There were fantastic movies that were made from books that I never read, including, off the top of my head, “Fight Club,” “Clockers,” and “L.A. Confidential.” But what if I’d read the books? Would anyone really want to see “Fight Club” knowing how it would end? I won’t reveal the ending here, but trust me, you wouldn’t. Except there are those people, well, you know, everyone really, who rush out to read the book precisely so that they can then see the movie. But why? These are the very same people who will tell you that they liked the book better. Exactly.

The exception to this, as everyone knows, is A Clockwork Orange, which is just as perfect a book as it is a movie and I read and saw both about a million times each. But hang on, could I be talking about the exception that proves the rule? Let me digress for a moment. Okay, so you have the rule: movies made from books are never as good as the books. Then you have the exception: A Clockwork Orange. Now, how does this prove the rule? It proves that the rule is not a rule because there is an exception. It is the exception that disproves the rule. Is what I think! Except that if you google this expression, you’ll find a reasonable explanation that points out the origin of this legal saying that came from the Latin Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis. So fine. What’s it going be then, eh?

There was me, writing about books and movies. So. What happens if you see the movie first and then read the book? This tends to work out pretty well and I’m not sure why. But to be clear I am not, repeat not, talking about those books made from Star Wars screenplays or movie tie-in books. I just mean the regular old book, though sometimes reading one of those can make you feel sheepish because the new edition of the book has a scene from the movie on the cover instead of the normal cover and it looks to everyone like you just bought the book because everyone was talking about the movie, which you did, but whatever. I’d probably read Fight Club is what I’m getting at.

This is all on my mind because a certain person in my household has taken it upon himself to methodically watch all the movies he missed since January 2001, which coincidentally was just after our older daughter was born. I believe he is now up to February 2001. When I mention us watching movies that came out, oh, I don’t know, last year, his response is, “Oh, we’ll get to it…eventually.” But luckily he tends to agree with me about movies made out of books. Which means that this new, er, long-term project will go just ever so slightly faster. Meanwhile, I’m just going to keep on reading what I’ve got here and pretend not to notice that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” is playing just down the block.


Hope Perlman said...

Well, I think that one movie that is better than the book is A Room With A View. The book is a little sketchy, and the movie fleshed it out beautifully. As a side note, I recall reading somewhere that E.M. Forster was interested in movies, so perhaps had he lived longer he would have become a filmmaker.

superdewa (Deirdre) said...

I mostly agree with you. But there have been exceptions. I preferred the movie of Coraline to the book. The movie and book of Twilight were both pretty crappy but at least the movie was shorter, so I preferred it. It was kind of fun. Note that these are not classic novels.

David Wilensky said...

The old saying, "the exception proves the rule" is thoroughly misunderstood today. It does NOT mean that, because there is an exception, the rule must be true. Logic dictates that the exact opposite is in fact the case.

In this instance, the word "prove" simply means "test," as in the sentence, "they took the experimental car out to the Great Salt Lake Proving Grounds and achieved a new land-speed record."

When I learned this it cleared up the contradiction within one of the stupidest sayings I'd ever heard, which is now quite understandable to me. Hope you enjoy this bit of useless trivia!

SZ said...

Ha, I hate reading the book with the scene from the movie on the cover. It's embarrassing and a good reason to buy a Kindle. (Not that I have done so. Not yet.)

I loved The Remains of the Day in both book and movie form. About a Boy, too. There are probably others. The book Silence of the Lambs was an abomination that became a great film, but I can't count that one 'cause I saw the movie first.