Which is better…the book or the movie?

Eat, Pray, LoveRecently we created a display, at the Steele Memorial Library, of books that were subsequently made into movies.  Many examples come to mind, including older titles such as “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett (1930) and the film version of the same title which starred Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor (1941). Additionally, there are many contemporary titles such as the memoir “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia” by Elizabeth Gilbert (2006), adapted to the screen starring Julia Roberts (2010).

In the process of making lists and gathering books and DVDs for this display, we became involved in that age old debate “which is better the book or the movie?”  The popular consensus seems to be that the book is usually better than the movie.  What I’m hearing from this discussion is that the reading process enables the reader to appreciate the written words and engages their imagination.  Greater depth may be created within the written story and the characters can be envisioned with much more detail.

I think everyone has to agree that sometimes a great book can become an even greater movie.  The first title that comes to mind is “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell published in 1936.  The movie of 1939, featuring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, became a timeless classic.  There is also  “The Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien, a wonderful fantasy story written between 1937 and 1949, and published in 1954.  These books are the subject of various film versions, but the one that stands out, directed by Peter Jackson, was produced in three parts: “The Fellowship of the Ring (2001),” “The Two Towers (2002),” and “The Return of the King (2003).”  These films definitely bring the story and its intricate fantasy world to life!

Another part of this debate is stories that were better on the big screen than they were in print.  “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo (1969), was made into the film version in 1972, directed by Francis Coppola starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.  This film won many awards, including an Academy Award for Best Picture.  This film brought the book and its author greater popularity.

Meanwhile, the debate continues.  What are your thoughts, which do you think is better the book or the movie?

Connie Ogilvie, Librarian
Steele Memorial Library