Film VS The Novel: What Is The Ultimate Form Of Storytelling?

Orla Newstead

As a species, we have told stories for as long as we have been able to communicate. From cave drawings right up until the silver screen, storytelling is as old as language itself. Be it in a novel or in a film, stories can transport us into a new dimension. But what is the ultimate form of storytelling? Do novels hold the same influence over us as they did in the past?

Immersive cinema experiences such as ‘4DX’ allow the audience to experience storytelling in a way a novel cannot as you are thrashed around in your seat, and have water squirted in your face. It is more of a form of torture than a cinematic experience. However, novels are the most traditional way of storytelling: nothing can quite beat the feel of finding a new story that excites you and keeps you turning page after page of entertainment.

When books are adapted into films often crucial details are lost within the plot

As we live in an age where technology has rapidly progressed, it is difficult to imagine what life must have been like when books were the primary source of entertainment. Since the first film was made in 1888, filmmakers have taken stories loved by the public and adapted them into moving pictures to be enjoyed by the masses. Films are easily accessible to people whereas books can be tough to read, particularly works from the likes of James Joyce, a writer who produced notoriously challenging works throughout his life. Additionally, films can help those who have learning difficulties such as dyslexia to consume stories in a way that is more available to them.

However, when books are adapted into films often crucial details are lost within the plot. For example, in Thomas Harris’ novel The Silence of The Lambs the upbringing of the harrowing serial killer “Buffalo Bill” is explained in more depth, whereas in the film directed by Jonathan Demme this explanation is simply glossed over, which ultimately changes the way the audience responds to the character. He loses his complexity and the ability for the audience to empathise with Buffalo Bill is lost.

In fact, films can completely decimate the story that was created by the author. Perhaps one of the most obvious and painful examples of this is Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Branagh takes the original ending from the novel and turns it into something completely different, something that I found disrespectful to the legacy of Shelley’s work. Controversially, I also found that the 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby to be one of the worst examples of book to film adaptation. Whilst overwhelmingly loyal to the book in terms of plot, I found that the tone of the film and the soundtrack made for a confusing piece of cinema – it felt more like a modern story, rather than showing the audience an adaptation of arguably one of the most famous books of the twentieth century.

Films can inspire people to read novels, particularly young adults

Despite this, I do believe that films can inspire people to read novels, particularly young adults. I am sure I am not alone in this- as a young teenager I watched the Twilight films and was compelled to read the books. This is possible with so many young adult fiction franchises, like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and The Maze Runner, to name a few. I imagine many of my fellow avid readers can credit these franchises for being our gateway drug into the more challenging novels that we choose to read as adults.

No matter how the stories are being told it is important that these stories are retold from generation to generation

According to YouGov in 2020, only “19% of UK adults [are] reading every day.” This is a shockingly low statistic, and it arguably could be contributed to the rise in our use of technology for entertainment, requiring less effort and focus to consume films than books. I firmly believe that there is a genre of novel out there for everyone, and even though it can be time-consuming and difficult to find the genre that works for you, there is a novel for everyone that will leave a lasting influence on you. However, no matter how the stories are being told it is important that these stories are retold from generation to generation in order to inspire the new storytellers that will shape either the literary or the movie landscape of the future.

Orla Newstead

Featured Image courtesy of Teslariu Mihai via Unsplash. Image use license found here. No changes made to this image.

In article trailer courtesy of Movieclips Classic Trailers via YouTube. No changes were made to this video.

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