Why read when you can just watch the movie?

I finished reading the Three Musketeers this weekend—actually I started it on Saturday morning, and I completed it Sunday evening. I read a modern unabridged translation, and it went by really quickly. There have been many movies based upon the Three Musketeers, and so I thought I would order one and compare it with the book.

Of course, how can they possibly make a movie about at 650 page book and stay within any kind of realistic time line? I am afraid I will be disappointed when the movie arrives. A few months ago, I read the Fountainhead, and then watched the movie … I was really disappointed. The funny thing is that when I first saw the movie, many years ago, I thought it was a great movie. However, with the book fresh on my mind, I saw that they shifted the entire focus of the book as they were making the movie. Just like the Three Musketeers, the Fountainhead is a lengthy book, and in order to make a movie from the book, they have to leave out a lot of stuff. In deciding what scenes to keep, they are in effect telling a new story. In deciding how they stage each scene—the position of the actors, the camera angles, the items displayed on camera, they are making decisions that support their particular interpretation of the scene.

Performance is interpretation. When you watch a movie, the camera controls what you see—in a book, your mind controls what you see. When you watch a movie, the actor tells you his interpretation of a character by dress, voice, facial expressions – in a book you often decide what the character looks like, how they act, and in what manner the line is spoken. At times, when it is essential to the characterization, the author will provide clues, but at other times you are on your own.

Reading is therefore a more demanding process, but at the same time a much more rewarding experience. Movies are fun, but books are stimulating.

Comments (1)
  1. Ute Simon says:

    I fully agree, if the book is a fictional story. I have not seen one film based on a book, that I liked more than the printed version.

    But for non-fiction, especially for handbooks, this is not fully true. For some software tutorials you need a lengthy description. And even if it is accompanied by screenshots, users need time to understand the process. In many cases, a short tutorial video can transport the information quicker.

    On our Office 2010 blog, http://www.office2010-blog.de (in German) we combine text and videos. And website statistics shows that users love those videos.

    We plan to distribute short videos also on the CD accompanying the PowerPoint handbook, which I co-author.

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