Literature vs. Film

At the moment I’m reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, a novel which made it into the top ten bestsellers list and has since been made into a major film starring the likes of Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley. The book is unusual in its combination of idyllic English countryside with a bleak dystopian future – it has been termed by many as a new sort of ‘British science fiction’.

The problem is, I saw the film first. As a bookworm, I normally insist on devouring the novel beforehand, postponing going to see the film until I have read its original. Back in February, however, I decided to break my rule and go and see the film anyway. I loved it. I don’t think I have ever been trying so hard not to get teary in a cinema! The film was beautifully shot and brilliantly acted, managing to capture a heartbreaking bleakness. Okay, it wasn’t the happiest of films, but it was definitely one of my favourites for 2011.
Now I’m reading the novel, and I have to say, albeit reluctantly – I’m a bit disappointed. It’s just not having the same effect on me; Ishiguro’s writing style is extremely unemotional, almost bland. The film emanates the same atmosphere of restrained Englishness, but somehow its visual beauty makes a difference. This is one novel which I feel actually works better on screen – although I must add that I haven’t quite finished it yet. Maybe in the end it will surprise me!

As a book lover, I can’t think of many other films I prefer over the written versions. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Wonder Boys (maybe just because Robert Downey Jr’s in it)… anyone else?

Sara Magness, Editorial Administrator

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One thought on “Literature vs. Film”

  1. Film fan that I am, at the first whiff of a film adaptation I postpone the reading of the book indefinitely, the upcoming One Day a perfect example. Never Let Me Go is another.

    For one thing, it’s because there’s nothing worse than seeing a film and spend the whole thing mentally noting what isn’t there and knowing how it will end.

    And also if you do pick up the book later you’re also spend the pagination noting the differences and with the relevant actors faces in your head.

    I’ve heard Harry Potter fans wistfully remember the time when they didn’t have Daniel Radcliffe participating in the book and not their version of Harry.

    Theatre is of course curiously different, as are classic novels with multiple adaptations. Then part of the fun is seeing how this director and actors and adaptor have treated the story in comparison to others.

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