Difficulties in making a movie from a book essay

Essay Topic:

The major issues of the differences of a book and a movie made on the basis of the book.

Essay Questions:

Why do cinema and literature oppose each other?

What is the major difficulty between a book and a film?

Why do not all the book details suit for a movie?

Thesis Statement:

A film presents just of those patterns, but it still does put a tag on the book. The only thing that can reflect the book perfectly is the book itself.


Difficulties in making a movie from a book Essay


Table of contents:

1. Introduction

2. Major difficulties

3. The example of “To Kill A Mockingbird”.

1. A short summary of the book

2. Delivering the message though the movie

3. Distortion of personal perception

4. Where is the truth?

4. The example of “Mice And Men”.

1. A short plot summary

2. Book details and conclusions vs. movie

3. Movie „diagnoses“

5. Conclusion

Introduction: Cinema and literature… These two words have a opposing each other for quite a long time now. Since the beginning of the XIX century cinema has produced a great number of films. Some of them are worth of the spectator’s attention, some of them are not but nevertheless nowadays it is hard to imagine a person that does not know “what’s new” in the movie world. Literature is a complete different world. It is a world that in spite of its openness and accessibility still remains unreachable for the majority of contemporary people. We are not to analyze the reason of this phenomenon but it is important to say that a movie does save time in comparison with the book. This “time saving process” of course in the first place influences the quality of the “product” and as a result we have endless amounts of poor quality movies that are claimed.

As every production, movie-making needs “raw-materials”. Books become a perfect never-ending source where film producers borrow or sometimes even steal the ideas of writers’ imagination. People, as it has been said before, do want to save their time, but they also want to stay educated and get acquainted with the works that are considered to be “the classics”. Therefore the only way to get acquainted with the most stunning literary works is through watching movies made form these books. Only a few producers have an aim to truly show the reader what the book is about, making their movies truly objective. This fact makes the contrast between films and books even bigger. The “immortal” books have inspired many producers to make films out of them, unfortunately quite a few can state that their filming had a successful result. Of course for a person that has not read the book the film might seem rather good and sometimes even splendid. “Yes, yes, now I know what Hemingway (Shakespeare or anybody else) meant“, - is usually heard after the film. A film becomes the reflection of the book. But thought it is sad to mention, a garbled reflection with rare exceptions. No one will argue with the fact that it is very hard to do a one-year novel in a two-hour movie. This is primarily due to a set of external and internal difficulties.The “charm” of the books lies in its ability to give the reader countless hidden and revealed messages. One single reader will get only one combination of messages from the book; another one will get another combination. Therefore, no reader gets the same “pattern” of the author’s ideas and this pattern is unique for every reader.A film presents just of those patterns, but it still does put a tag on the book. The only thing that can reflect the book perfectly is the book itself. Otherwise people face difficulties in understanding the movie. Producers, like no one else, know what these difficulties are about and dedicate their work into their elimination. They try to convert a product of the word-dimension into a product of a visual-dimension and this process has a lot of barriers.

2. Major difficulties

One of the major difficulties in making a movie out of a book is that it is hard to make words into image and sometimes it results in a movie with poor quality. This is a theorem that does no need any other proof except watching existing movies and therefore it becomes an axiom.

One of the most important fields concerning this problem is the media field. Books deliver their core with the help of words; the book-descriptions create corresponding imagination responses in the brain of a person. So it may be even said that the book does not only penetrate a man through his consciousness but it actually shapes the book-based consciousness of this man. In this case the person becomes the media himself, creating a magnificent effect on the reader. The contents of the book becomes an integral part of the reader: not just the author’s perception of the world, but also the readers perception, too. This imposition of two philosophical worlds one over each other produces the “effect of presence” that a film can hardly claim to achieve.

Movies, in their turn, provide visual images that are already given and unchangeable. They represent a product that is all ready for its consumption. There is no need to turn on the imagination or make a deep analysis of what is being observed, because the producer has processed everything for the viewer. In other words, the information is already been “chewed”, so the spectator simply needs to open his mouth and eat it. So generally, the reader’s personal opinion is replaced by the producer’s perception of the books contents. These difficulties are impossible to overcome even with the help of the latest contemporary video techniques, equipment and effects.

No matter how good the movie based on the book is, it always has it ownbuts… It may be good, but it will be always unilateral; always the producer’s personal interpretation and perception of the book. A book, literary, is a sequence of words that produces a unique effect on the reader. The words appeal to the imagination and the imagination complement it with all the necessary attributes taken from the book-descriptions.

A film is a sequence of image, sound and only then words. The focus is taken away from the meaning to the words. Words are visualized, but the main controversy or difficulty is that as soon as the word becomes visualized it is not a word any more. It becomes just an image and sometimes it possesses a small amount of the original message of the author’s word. This is the primarily reason for reading a book before watching the movie. This will make the movie not good, or bad, but different. Reading the book will make it just another opinion on the book. Of course, if it goes about qualitative productions.

The temptation to add words of his own is great for the producer and is ordinarily done. Once in a while the world sees great films made from books, but no matter how objective they try to be, subjective interpretation is the essential quality of a human being. So while a book represents author’s pure thoughts resulting in the reader’s unique interpretation, a film results in a twisted reflection, which is based on a garbled interpretation of the book contents made by a producer.

3. The example of “To Kill A Mockingbird”

As every statement requires a proof, the best way to prove the inability of a movie to completely reflect the book is two show it through a vivid example. The first example is the Harper Lee’s book “To kill a mockingbird”. This novel has produced a great response in the souls of the readers. It is set is the times of the Great Depression, when the racist manifestations were still common and the Ku Klux Klan was not gone yet. The life of black people was very hard and social prejudice surrounded them. People were poor; they did not get sufficient education and were very limited in their world outlook. Pakula with the help of the art directors Golitzen and Bumstead produced the movie in 1963, thirty years after the depicted events. Of course the prominent work of the movie producer resulted in splendid creation of “small Alabama” in the back lot of the Universal studio. All these tricks were made for drawing near the true spirit of the book. Aspiration to make a movie from a book of such a “caliber” was very ambitious.

3.a. A short summary of the book

Harper Lee’s book is an outstanding literature work with so many messages in it that it completely surprises the reader. Though it does have central characters it is possible to say that it does not have them at all, as every person plays a very important part in the book plot. It mainly deals with the Finch family and everything that happens to the members of the family. Scout is a girl who tells the story. The reader observes the events from the point of view of a grown up woman recalling her perceptions of the events while being a little girl.

Atticus Finch is a lawyer in an old town of Maycomb; he has lost his wife and lives with his two children Jem and Scout. She looks back into the past and tells the story that has thought her so much in her life.

Atticus decides to defend a black guy accused of raping a white girl Mayella Ewell. Her father is brutal and drinks and Mayella herself is not an example of “spiritual purity”. She tries to have a private relation with Tom Robinson and kisses him, a black male worker and when her father catches them she tries to cover herself up by telling that Tom tries to rape her. Atticus shows respect to black people even being rejected by his white fellows. Tom, in spite of all the evidence of his innocence: his left useless hand, previous record of conviction, is charged with the rape. Harper Lee shows how the “herd feeling” makes people act the same on the example of Maycomb’s society. Scout and her brother learn through the case with Boo Radley that people, who even seem different and weird, are not necessarily bad and evil, as Boo saves them from the revenge of Bob Ewell. So nothing upstages the girl’s belief in the goodness of people and leaves her heart pure.

3.b. Delivering the message though the movie

It goes without saying that the major goal of the movie was to reveal the book’s main messages supporting them with corresponding important dialogues and decorations. It needs to be said that generally the movie revealed the time of the events; the racial issue of the book, but it left insufficiently touched the problem of “being different”. The producer focused a lot on the Alabama scenery while though Harper Lee did depict the town of Maycomb he did not do it long, but rather sharp: “tired old town”[Lee, 9]. Just in couple of pages Harper Lee shares with the reader what the producer tried to share for the first fifty minutes: “Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself”, it had “nothing to buy and no money to buy with it”[Lee, 10]. The Alabama scenery does impress but its importance is overestimated. The primary distortion occurs due to this overestimation of external factors. The spectator focuses not on the inner life of the town, but mostly on the houses, clothes and so on. The importance of some dialogues is therefore imperceptible and damaged. The image given in the movie does not entirely correspond to the “Maycomb spirit” seen in the book, though the attempt to do it is rather professional. So important places are cut out, and some that are less important are emphasized. For instance the fact that Atticus attended the black church and showing respect to black people, rejecting the word “nigger” is not cross lighted in the way it should have been. Therefore the world of Atticus’s values is not open to the spectator, while this is one of the central moments from the book for this is what he teaches his children and the message of the book: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb in skin and walk around in it” [Lee, 34]. This is what the movie, the visual image, did not show, but the author managed to put in simple words.

3.c. Distortion of personal perception

Alongside with the overestimation of external factors another fact comes into play. Now, it goes about the distortion of personal perception of the spectator arranged by the producer. As the matter of fact, the producer shows “To kill a mockingbird” not with the eyes of a little girl that is a grown up now, but with his own eyes watching a little girl telling her story. This is not the girl anymore but the producer’s perception of this girl. This difference seems not to be very important from he first glance, but with a closer look the reader/spectator sees the importance of this moment. The whole attention of the producer is around Tom Robinson’s trial. And this is good, as it revels how an innocent person is accused of something he did do simply for having color of skin different from the “ruling majority”. At the same time it does not show Scout’s full reaction to the whole situation, her understanding that Mayella just wanted to be loved by someone, and that someone turned out to be Tom. The movie does not show how the girl, and a grown up woman now learns to see the best in people no matter how evil they may seem. The movie does not show the importance of being pure inside, honest and equitable even when other people act rude and humiliate you. The personage of Boo Radley is not revealed to the spectator, though he is truly worth of the spectator’s interest, as he remains a good man, even being despised by other people. The producer revels a very profession work, but it primarily touches the spectator through the music, the play of the actors, the scenery… Some important parts are missing. And this is the personal perception of the producer and nothing more than that. It is his personal interpretation of the events in Harper Lee’s “Too kill a mockingbird”. Booth of the book and the movie seem to carry the same message: ”When it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins”[Lee]. Nevertheless, the manner they do it and the additional characters not so well revealed in the movie make a great difference.

3.d. Where is the truth?

Books have always been and will always be about truth. The authors share their experiences with the reader creating an outstanding picture in the person’s brain, like an artist with his tassel. The truth is in the book because it is the original creation of Harper Lee and nobody will ever be able to repeat it, no matter how hard they try. Nevertheless, it is vital to say that the movie generally is of a meritorious quality and is quiet sufficient for a person that has never read, “To kill a mockingbird”.

Humiliation of black people is the central but not the only theme in both the movie and the book. And this central message is clearly characterized by Harper Lee: “It’s all adding up, and one of these days we are going to pay the bill for it”. The movies shows it only in this meaning, while the book shows it also in the meaning of bringing up children and sharing values with them. Harper Lee in his “To kill a mockingbird” creates an impression that the movie is not able to give, in spite of its professionalism and detailed approach. This not because the actors are not good enough, but this is primarily due to the fact that it is not the book. It does not mean it is bad, but once again it is not pure Harper Lee anymore. And the only way to feel a real Harper Lee is to read the book.

4. The example of “Mice And Men”.

John Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men” is one of the most prominent works of the time of the Great Depression, written in 1937. This novel reveals the reader the life of people of that period and their immense desire to become happy. It shows the dream of two people that is ruined, and as they have nothing except this dream after they lose it – everything is senseless. The most recent movie had been made in 1992. The producer of the movie made the best out of the one-hundred-pages book, but still the movie steps aside for the book. The opening scene of the movie is a very successful one – it describes a young girl in a red, torn dress running in fear away from something or somebody. This is the “symbolic” description of the dream that runs away after having been torn into pieces and this dream that has been destroyed by Lenny Small.

3.a. A short plot summary

Lennie Small, a huge but mentally retarded young man and George Milton, an average guy, are friends that have a common dream they want to achieve. They try to find it in the ranch of Soledad. Occasionally, “Soledad” means “loneliness” in Spanish and this describes the place better than any other description. Only George and Lennie work hard and are always together, trying to earn money in order to achieve their dream – to buy a ranch of their own in Soledad. Before they enter the ranch the make a stop at a creek. George says that if Lennie ever gets into any trouble he should run and hide in the creek until George comes to rescue him. Everything these guys do in the ranch in the Salinas Valley is they strive to survive and to get the least that is possible to get. They face rejection from the ranchers at first, and then it gets a little better, but still Lennie faces the hatred from Curly the ranch owner’s son. As Lennie is very strong he once starts touching Curly wife’s hair and kills her. He has to escape to the creek. George and Lennie’s dream is ruined and George comes and kills Lennie at the creek, as he understands that there is no hope for them anymore.

3.b. Book details and conclusions vs. movie

The book is very tragic. The movie shows the tragedy but does not reveal it completely. For instance the movie focuses too much on the ranchers. Steinbeck in his novel does it too, but the focus is not as intense as it is in the movie. It is not the ranchers, but Lennie’s strength that he cannot hold leads to the consequences of a ruined dream for both of the man.

The messages as they are described in the book are not so obvious in the movie. For instance, the message that is given through the case of Candy and the old dog becomes the key to novel resolution. As soon as the dog got old and became useless the rancher suggests Candy to shot the dog. Candy does it, but later thinks that he should have shot himself, too. Candy shot the dog to put it out of the misery it was facing. The same thing George did to Lennie. Lennie’s only reason for living was the achievement of his dream to have a ranch. Lennie destroys his dream and George realizes that he has to shot him in order to “put him out of misery”. The movie emphasizes Lennie’s last words: ”Rabbits…”. Though it shows Lennie’s inability to be different because of his retardation, the stress should be placed on George and how hard for him was shooting his friend. These two different accents convert the book and the movie into two completely different works. As one makes an innocent victim out of Lennie, and the book shows the most important – the incapability of people to escape their fate and thoughts, as people during the Great Depression had nothing but hope and if the hope was gone – everything was gone. The movie seems to narrow down the true meaning of the book, a lot is lost in Candy’s character with its desperation.

4.c. Movie “diagnoses”

The moral of the book is substituted by the producer’s personal view in the movie and it completely changes the “core” of the story, because this is not just a story of Lennie and George but also a story about people during Great Depression and their hopes. True, cruel reality is covered din the movie as if it wants to say “Oh, it was not that bad back then”. But the truth of the book will never be open to the spectator only through watching the movie. In the movie “Of Mice and Men” the spectator observes the producer’s personal idea and perception of the whole situation described in the book, he reveals a general analysis. But as the matter of fact it is little details that make the book truly real. While Steinbeck does not get into the analysis he shows the personages attitude through little things. And this creates a perfect base for understanding that Lennie was just the way he was and there was nothing to do about it. He was just a man, the same with George. And the truth is that he believed that they are different: ”We are different. Tell it how it is, George”[Steinbeck, 34]. The movie is not is very close to the book, but still some part, some essential part, is lost. The “diagnoses” will be: “healthy, but needs additional training”. Lennie and George were different because they had Lennie’s dream. The movie does not reveal what loneliness was for all these people including Lennie and George back then. Steinbeck does in greatly through George’s words: “ I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. That ain’t no good. They don’t have no fun. After a long time they get mean. They get wantin’ to fight all the time”[Steinbeck, 45]. Lennie was the only creature that made George different from others and his tragedy is that he has to kill this creature with his own hands. George’s silent soul torments of losing a dream in the book are substituted by his sadness of killing Lennie. Although, the producer tried his best and the result is quiet convincing, the book remains the primary leader.

Conclusion: The difficulties that producers face, prevent them from making a true book-based work, making it just their personal perception of the author’s message. The truth is that a film was never meant to “match” the book, because otherwise the producer’s creativity would not be valued. And if Pakula makes a movie, it is not Harper Lee’s ideas, but only Pakula’s interpretation of what Harper Lee wrote. A movie is just an addition to the book. It is like a review that helps the reader to see other sides of the work. But as a person cannot make any judgments on the book basing on literary reviews, a spectator cannot make any judgments concerning the book after watching a movie on it. Another thing to remember is that: reviews can be bad! So may be movies should encourage people to read books, as they present the subjective producer’s opinion on it. As the film is the producer’s personal interpretation of what he had read it is nothing more that “his personal” interpretation. The spectator has to understand it and take it into account. In order to create the most objective perception, the spectator has to read the book, create a unique understanding of the author’s thoughts and then, and only then he may say, “Yes, now I know what Harper Lee and Steinbeck meant”!


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