Is making a good movie based on a book, all about meeting viewer imagination?

March 8, 2010 | By Rakhitha | Filed in: Me, Myself & I, Movies.

I was motivated to write this post after reading “Why a book can not be turned in to a movie without blames?” post by chanux. His main point is, when a movie is made out of a book, or some part of the movie (Ex:- one or more characters, concept, theme) is based on a book, whether the viewers like it or not, depends on how well the movie going to comply with imagination of viewer. He uses his experience of watching Sherlock Holmes movie as basis for it.  But I can’t completely agree. I am not educated enough to talk about books or movies.  I am not trying to criticize his post as few tried to do in the comments. I am just trying to share my opinion about the same topic. Probably I will get the same criticism.

Obviously one of the major differences between a movie and a book, is the space it leave for imagination. But both books and movies entertain viewers in various levels. This include the story, build up of characters, presentation, individual performance, ect. This imagination theory is not entirely correct. There are movies which leave a massive space for viewer imagination. But unlike books which leave this room within the story itself, most movies leave this space outside the story line. Movie becomes the fuel for imagination. Check out some good si-fi movies if you want to see this in action. I would recommend watching “The Man from Earth“. It has no action, no special effects, no nothing. Just a bunch of guys sitting in a living room throughout the entire length of movie, talking while emptying a bottle of Johnnie Walker. But it will push your mind to the limit.

I was a big fan of Sherlock Holmes books when I was a kid. If you take Sherlock Holmes stories, they have common way of making room for imagination, apart from the general space it create just by being a book. One common thing you will find in most Sherlock Holmes stories is, nothing is explained until you reach the end. It make the reader try to figure things out on his own. But often it leaves out vital detail without which you cannot solve the mystery. But at the end, Sherlock Holmes give all that missing links and explain what happened. You can find the same concept in the movie. Sherlock Holmes character in the movie did not match my imagination. I did not expect him to be a brilliant fighter with  good stunts. Only a brilliant detective who loves music, with a smoking problem. But I still loved the movie. I have watched some other Sherlock Holmes movies/TV series. But most of them sticked to the core plot. But this movie has much more flavor/value addition beyond the plot. Which is a good thing. All the action and humor made movie more interesting. What I like most about the movie is, how it recreated old London city.

In my opinion what matters is whether the movie meet/exceed your expectations or not. It is not about being consistent with your imagination. But imagination is not completely irrelevant ether. When the movie or a part of it known/related to the viewer before hand, because some part of it is based on history, previously published work, ect, then the viewer will start watching the movie with some expectations. And if the movie fail to exceed these expectations, it will leave the viewer unhappy at the end. This is a challenge when making a movie out of already famous book/story/historic event.

Obviously when the earlier work is a book, readers imagination leads to expectations. But still in my opinion, movie does not have to comply with the imagination, instead it should try to exceed collective expectations in one way or another. It can be massive movie settings, special effects, presentation style, humor, or anything that will add value.  When they fail to do that, viewers obviously get upset. Also a movie has to present the story in a limited time. Which means not everything in the book will be there in the movie. In my opinion this can lead to viewer dissatisfaction. A satisfied viewer will not blame the movie just because it is not what he imagined. But if the viewer is not satisfied, that’s a different story.

This can work the other way around too. For example, in my opinion the movie “This is It” was not a brilliant piece of art. But we all loved it. Because we loved King of Pop. Also a movie can use other ways to make viewers enjoy it even though they know its base. For example it can show a different side of the story. It can make viewer take a step back and look at it in a different angle. It can add more human touch to it. ect. In my opinion most of the time it’s all about how brilliant the director is and how he/she make the viewer relate to the movie. For example, if you watch the movies like  “Einstein and Eddington“, “Bobby“, you will realize that, they completely shift your focus from what you know about real history, and focus your mind on something totally different. So you end up with a completely new experience.

Well that’s all I can say based on my limited knowledge ( or lack of it ) about movies. Feel free to disagree and/or comment.


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8 comments on “Is making a good movie based on a book, all about meeting viewer imagination?

  1. sajini says:

    Dont get mad about me comment in your every post. When read Your posts its makes me wants to comment. 🙂
    I agree with You about the sherlock holmes film.. He is not the one I imagine…. The film was good… But I didn’t get the same feeling as I read a Sherlock Holmes books. May be it is because I expected the film to b exactly like the book. 🙂

    • Rakhitha says:

      He he no problem. So far you are the only regular visitor 🙂 .
      Yep. Detective is not exactly what I expected either. But probably director wanted to shake things up a bit. Since the story is an original it’s only the characters and background taken from the book.

      Now get back to work 🙂

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  3. chanux says:

    Good read. And almost the part of my train of thoughts when I write my post, which I kept mute in order to make sure that the core idea is communicated well.

    I agree with you that the movie is a totally different media and it has it’s own ways of doing things. And the movie Sherlock Holmes for example uses it quite well IMO. It really is a good movie.

    But again I should say It was not the Sherlock Holmes I used to know. So I was slightly disappointed.

    To make the idea a bit more clear, I haven’t read Lord of The Rings books. So the movie turned out to be a great movie. I don’t know how it is for the people who read the book.

    I hear Harry Potter readers complain that the movies are good but it really isn’t as good as the book itself. This is what I tried to explain in my post. 🙂

    • Rakhitha says:

      Thanks for the comment!
      Have to agree about Harry Potter thing. Once I watched Half Blood Prince with a friend who had read the book. Director had skipped his favorite part of the book. I think you can imagine how he reacted.

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  5. ???? says:

    yes I also agree with u. On my side, Actually I do not like to watch film. I spent 2 weeks to watch “Benjamin Button” it is not finished yet 🙂

    Yes we have a freedom to imagine the role or situation of the Novels or book but “Movie becomes the fuel for imagination” as u said….

    good post

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