29 June 2009

Manila Times column for 28 June 2009: "The book first or the movie first?"

original post here.

kaya lang bakit ganun? biglang na-mark ng google ang manila times website na malware eklat??? labo. pero sa other computer ko, hindi naman. techies, help nga! labo nito.


By Libay Linsangan Cantor
The book first or the movie first?

Now that novels-turned-films are lined up to be shown in the next months, that question about what audiences should patronize first—the book or the film—crops up again in conversations.

I’m reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince now in anticipation of the sixth installment of the Harry Potter films. No, I don’t usually read the book version first before I see the film, but with Harry Potter, yes, I do that. But before the knowledge of it being made into films, I’ve always read this series since it first came out. I find JK Rowling’s situations and characters very entertaining. Imagine having a whole world of wizards and witches existing in modern times with unsuspecting people, living like us but in their own dimension, having conflicts and adventures just like the rest of us folks, but with magic and other sorts of revelry. Yes, the pitch got me.

I have a friend who doesn’t like reading the book first. He said he’d rather see the movie first, because if he already knew what will happen in the narrative, the film will cease to be exciting, and thus it will just bore him. I find that an unusual argument about the more simplistic and usual “the book is better than the film” argument, and it’s good to know that people have different takes on this issue or topic.

As a filmmaker, my take on it is different. Usually, I’d rather read the book first because I want to know how they will condense the story to fit it into a filmic narrative. I am also interested to see how the stories will be audio-visually imagined, and it’s always fun to compare the filmmakers’ visual interpretation of the book story with my own visual interpretation of it, even if it’s just in my head. That exercise always excites me as both a reader of the book and an audience of the film.

There are times that the film fares better than the book for me. For instance, I really couldn’t appreciate JRR Tolkien’s way of writing The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, but I read them both anyway in anticipation of the film. For me, director Peter Jackson did a better way of telling Frodo Baggins’ adventure than Tolkien. Don’t hate me, Tolkien fanatics; we just have different tastes, that’s all.

Of course, there are times that the book is indeed better than the film. While I love Jodie Foster’s interpretation of Ellie Arroway’s character in Contact, I find Carl Sagan’s book narrative much more engaging than Robert Zemeckis’ film.

Yes, in the end, we do have our own ways of liking a book or its film version or both. But knowing that people are still watching movies and still reading books is good enough for me.

Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com. She is also at libaycantor.multiply.com.

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