Can a movie be better than the book?

On the surface this would seem to be a straightforward question. Which is better the movie or the book? But what exactly do we mean by better? More entertaining? Easier to follow? More exciting? By what yardstick do we measure better? Which are better- apples or oranges? Yet, it would seem that in the minds of many there is some basis for comparison. Book lovers will almost universally defend their precious tomes, citing the impossibility of capturing the totality of the writer’s vision and message in 120 minutes of cinema. Film buffs will eloquently discourse on the merits of a medium that makes the impossible seem to happen before our eyes in a way that no mere reader of stories can imagine. But to my mind they are speaking of different things entirely.

At the heart of it, I suppose, is the telling of a story. Reading a book can be an intensely personal experience, the reader engages with a book in an intimate way, and often revisits favorite novels in an effort to return to that place between its covers that gave so much pleasure the first time. Movies do this too but in a different way. As passive viewers we enter into the world of a movie not through our own eyes but through the vision of another. We don’t construct a world inside our own heads as we absorb the image on the screen, we watch someone’s interpretation of that world. Often that interpretation disappoints fans of the book but does that really mean that the book was better?

One of my favorite movies of all time was Apocalypse Now. In its day it was an amazing film and so I thought that the book must be fantastic. I had read Joseph Conrad’s works and thought that Heart of Darkness, which I had not read, must be worth a look. But, much to my chagrin, the book didn’t resemble the film that I had admired very much at all. It was a good book but there were hardly any points of comparison between the two. On the other hand, A Clockwork Orange was an intense book, prophetic in its message and told with a style that set a benchmark for my taste in modern fiction. Yet when Kubrick made his movie he surpassed it. Neither version of the story was better than the other but Kubrick’s genius added something that made them both seem better than they had before. I re-read Anthony Burgess’s novel but now little Alex was Malcolm McDowell, the scenes played themselves in my head as I read the book but now they took on the comic book simplicity of Kubrick’s film and I felt that I had a new clarity of understanding about them both.

Perhaps that is the point. Literature and cinema both deal in the same stock in trade and whilst there will always be bad movies (and bad books too) they are forms of expression that complement each other, often symbiotically, but that remain as different as apples and oranges.

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About dgmattichakjr

D G Mattichak jr was born in 1963 in Syracuse New York and immigrated to Melbourne Australia with his family in 1972. He was educated in one of Melbourne’s exclusive private schools before studying art at Preston Technical College. D G Mattichak jr has been a student of the occult arts since the early 1980s and has become well known in Australian magickal circles and, in recent years, around the world due to a string of essays on a variety of occult subjects http://www.scribd.com/dmattichak/shelf . He discovered the “key to the order & value of the English alphabet” from Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law in 1983 and has since used this English Qabalah to unlock the secrets of Thelemite magick. Success in these methods admitted him to the highest levels of attainment in various Hermetic disciplines and until recently he has been passing on his knowledge to private students, many of whom have gone on to become notable occultists in their own right. After almost three decades of study and development D G Mattichak jr has finally been able to distil his knowledge of magick and Thelema into a book- A Comment on the Verses of the Book of the Law, the first in a planned series of books on Hermeticism and Thelemite magick, revealing, for the first time in over a century, the secrets of magick that have been hidden in Crowley’s magnum opus, the Book of the Law. D G Mattichak jr currently lives in Melbourne Australia with his artist wife Michelle and their two cats. He has had a long career as an al a carte chef in Melbourne’s vibrant hospitality scene and now spends his time writing blogs on cooking, writing and, in the guise of Master Ankh af na Khonsu, about magick. He is also one of the founding members of the Mt Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering and regularly contributes to its official website http://mountfranklinannualpagangathering.blogspot.com/ as both an administrator and as an author. D G Mattichak jr’s first book Loot was released in 2009. His books are available through amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias=stripbooks&field-keywords=D G Mattichak&x=13&y=20 .
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