My most recent inspiration to read a novel that is being presented on the silver screen has been The Time Traveler’s Wife. For as long as I can remember, there have been movies that inspired me to read source material. I can recall that after seeing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I ran out purchased all of the books and over the course of the next two months read each book in the series.
I fully appreciate that films cannot cover all the material in detail found in the source text(s). I am perfectly okay with that. This leads to the point of my post. The expectation that some readers have when a favorite novel of theirs in adapted for the screen just downright boggles the mind. Nowhere is this observation more apparent than in one of my current favorite TV shows, True Blood). The discussion boards for this show are littered with folks going on and on about “how in the books, this or that happened,” or “the show is SO NOT like the books,” etc. You get the point.
In one respect I guess I generally get where the text fans are coming from. After reading something that you find yourself totally engrossed in, you bubble with the excited of actually seeing it on the screen, only to think afterward, “Well that isn’t exactly how I pictured it.” That leads to the obvious in my opinion. THAT is the very point of reading – you create the movie in your imagination. There is no way that any movie can match the human imagination. By our very nature there are details and biases we interpret from our reading. That is what makes reading and discussing with others such a wonderful social enterprise.
Take Confessions of a Shopaholic for instance. Prior to watching the film, I knew that many of the elements that made the film so much fun to watch had been altered. Moreover, I refused to let that alter what I had imagined when I first read the books.
So going into watching the film, I figured that my having read the books served of little use, except I knew the story arc. Sure enough, that is exactly what I experienced. This is perfectly fine. Granted, for me the movie served as “passable” entertainment. I probably could do without watching the film again for many reasons, least of which was the adaptation from the source material.
On the other hand, take the following two Jane Austen adaptations from 1995: Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice. I love these both novels and the film versions of these works, although I was not a fan of the choices made in the casting of some of the key roles. Given that, I was deterred from appreciating both media as forms of art.
Now back to The Time Traveler’s Wife. One thing that interests me is that after reading the film and watching the trailer, I think they did a good job of casting, especially with Eric Bana as Henry. Will that be enough for me to enjoy the film? Probably not. The most I hope for is a well-made movie based on a story that I am familiar with due to my reading the source. Nothing more. If I get more, that will be the icing on the cake.
For another, articulate take on this dilemma, read this article on the Saint Louis Today.