Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Novel vs. The Movie

Seldom (probably never) have I found the movie adaptation of a novel to be the equal of the novel itself. Some movies do come closer than others to having the same emotional impact, but the written word just has too many built-in advantages for it to be a fair contest.

I watched the movie version of The Kite Runner early this morning before I took my father out for our regular Sunday lunch date and I found it to be one of the better movie adaptations that I've seen in quite a while. The written word can place a reader inside the heads of the main characters in a way that movies cannot equal, ensuring that one has a clear understanding of the motivations, emotions, and thought processes of those characters. Movies can come close but they do so by eliminating plot elements or action scenes because the amount of material that can be covered in two hours, or less, is limited.

Movies, however, have a distinct advantage when it comes to scenery and atmosphere, especially with readers like me who struggle with visualizing foreign locations and cultures. The Kite Runner movie excelled in doing just that because much of the film was shot in China and Afghanistan. In the case of the China sequences, the scenery was breathtaking; in the case of what was shot in Afghanistan, the look was so authentically bleak that it was impossible to escape the helplessness of a population so completely under the thumbs of 7th century barbarism.

As always, though, I am going to recommend that you read the book before you watch the movie. This movie is a perfect companion piece to Kahled Hosseini's powerful novel - but it is still only that, a companion piece, and I think that is as good as it ever gets.

My September 12, 2007 review of The Kite Runner

My September 22, 2007 post on the movie

My October 6, 2007 post on why the movie release had to be delayed for 6 weeks

I don't know that anyone still rents DVDs - if so, this one is worth the effort. It is also playing on Showtime right now for anyone who has access to those films.


  1. I'm glad to hear it. I read the book a couple of years ago now, and have wanted all this time to see the movie but did not yet for some reason or another.

  2. I agree with your assessment of this excellent movie....made from an equaly excellent book.

    Then the book was first published, the author had a website on which he posted photos of the area about which he had written --- lots of photos. But after a while, the photos disappeared, I think because there was a book published as a companion to the movie and they could make money on those previously free photos.

  3. Rhapsody, I've generally been disappointed with movies made from books I really like, so I put this one off for a long time. It was a pleasant surprise - I especially enjoyed hearing the characters speak in their native language and found the pace of the subtitles to be speedy enough, for a change.

  4. That's interesting, JoAnn. I thought the movie would make a bigger splash than it ultimately did but that's probably because it didn't appeal to the teen market - and that group is the bulk of the movie audience these days. I don't go to theaters anymore exactly for that reason - too many loud, rude young people to hear the movie, much less lose myself in it.

  5. This is something we discuss with friends occasionally.

    T think Godfather and Fight Club were the two examples where the film was better than the book. But in both cases I saw the film first, read the book later.

    Trainspotting came close.

  6. You know, sarapci, I think I agree with you on "The Godfather." I read the book first, but still prefer the movie. I haven't read or seen "Fight Club," so can't speak to that one. I have seen "Trainspotting" but have not read the book. . .