Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What do you do?

When there is a film coming up that you want to see, but it is an adaptation of a book you have always meant to read, do you try to read the book first, or do you see the film, and then maybe catch up with the book afterwards? I was talking about this with my second son J (yes, Yorkshire pudding in answer to your recent enquiry- short for Jeremy!) who is mad on films. I always like to read the book first. I had bought Atonement, but he was saying that Empire Magazine, which is his film bible, had said it was better to see this film if you had NOT read the book first. My immediate question to that was how on earth would a reviewer know that? Either they were coming from a perspective of one who had read the book first, or from that of someone who had not, so how could they know which would be preferable.

Well now I have read the book and I have read the review. What it actually says is -

If you’ve read the book, you know what’s coming. If you haven’t, count yourself lucky, and watch with your heart in your mouth as events build to a climax barely halfway through.

I am not going to give anything away in case anyone seeing this has intends either to read the book or see the film or both in which ever order, but having read it, and I can't get it out my head some four days since I finished it, I think I kind of wish I hadn't read it first. I was left shattered by the way McEwan concluded the book, (and being a dumb bitch I hadn't picked up on the various clues he had dropped in as the story progressed,) but how will the way the book ends be translated on screen? And how will I be able to bare watching it knowing what is likely to happen? And if the ending is not as it is in the book, is it inevitable that I will come away thoroughly pissed off that the film was not 'true to the book?' Or will I find the film as glorious as all the reviews are promising it is and be able to leave the memory of the book itself aside?

Yet I am still overwhelmed by what was one of the best (and sexiest) books I have read in years, and can't recommend it enough to anyone who hasn't already read it years ago. But as to whether you read it before or after you see the film, well as this lot would have said, "I'm sorry. I haven't a clue."


John said...

Hi J.J.--

I have it on my shelf too. Now you've told me how good it is (and how sexy!) I'll give it a read. My usual approach, however, is to go see the film first, and if it's crap, I don't bother with the book, which, after all, will take up more of my time. It isn't that I don't appreciate that there are differences between reading a book and watching a movie, but there are just so many books out there that it might be more worth taking the time to read. I'm already 45.

Messalina said...

I think we should compile a list of great books that we would never have read if we had first seen the film and followed John's protocol ... Slaughterhouse 5 ... Pride & Prejudice ... actually, any Jane Austen novel ...

Gill said...

not sure if a film could ever do justice to the book

Moo said...

I always read the books and then see the film. I am always disappointed with the film because it is unveitable that they will miss things out and it just never is the same as the book! I think I should approach watching the film first and then reading the book!

John said...


I could do without reading any Jane Austen novel. Preferred the films every time. Would have saved myself hours and hours of pointless reading.

And Slaughterhouse Five is quicker to read than the movie is to watch.

Messalina said...

Okay, John, have it your own way (I know someone else who believes that the longer a book is the better it must be) but let me tell you that JJ is going to be really really cross with you about what you said about Jane Austen!

J.J said...

John, now I am really worried you will hate the book and think I am even more of an idiot than I actually am. It is very sexy though - although I should warn you there is no nudity.

Messalina - I am trying to think but my mind has gone blank and all I can say for certain that I watched before I read the book is Oliver! (Never before did a boy ask for more.)

Gill, apart from the Harry Potter films obviously ;-)

Moo, it's worse when it is a book you know really well - umm, like Harry Potter films in my case. Sorry Gill!!!

John, I didn't know there was a film of Slaughterhouse 5. But I do have trouble watching Jane Austen films because.....

Yes Messalina - I love that woman's books SO much. Tragically I can and do still quote her at every opportunity, and clearly need to do so more in this place to spread the gospel according to Jane. But as she herself said "One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other." (I could never be cross with John. He loves the Mekons!)