It is the eternal discussion: was the book better than the movie or the other way around? There are advantages to both art forms. Books give you the freedom to create your own images, while movie adaptations grab your attention with visual effects and skillful photography. Reading implies a certain solitude and has an intimate quality, while going to a motion picture theater is an intrinsically social activity. All these factors influence our impressions of novels and movies. Here are five literary works that are definitely better than the movies that were based on them.
Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen (1811)
This work of romantic fiction inspired Andy Garcia’s 2011 movie From Prada to Nada, which triggered a small firestorm of negative commentary and bad reviews. It is predictable, shallow, and not really a movie that sticks with you – not in a good way, anyhow. The book’s storyline follows the Dashwood sisters as they move from London to the countryside and experience all the usual teenaged stuff. It is basically a novel about youthful adventures and coming of age, learning how the world works and getting better with every fall. The movie offered a Latino version of the story to create a contemporary take on the original plot. There’s no excuse to skip the book in this case, because the connection between the book and the movie is at best loose as the movie’s creators arbitrarily extracted segments from the book to turn into movie scenes. It would have been better if they had acknowledged no inspiration from Jane Austen’s novel at all. The book is nice, a bit girly, and legitimately considered a classic. Read it, even if you just want to use it as a literary reference.
Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience- or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.
You can read it online here.
The Iliad, by Homer (around eighth century BC)
The Iliad, one of the greatest literary works of all time, was turned into the movie Troy in 2004. Director Wolfgang Petersen delivered a modern version that was designed to give the audience what it wanted. Pumped up actors (with Brad Pitt in sharp focus), nudity, and sexuality rose out of extracted parts of Homer’s epic while the movie’s creators ignored important elements of the original work. If you are truly eager to find out more about ancient values, the notions of agon and honor, the relationships between the characters, the human qualities of gods and the divine qualities of men – dive into the Iliad to see what it’s all about. Yes, there is sex; there are adulteries and intrigues, Greek mythology is full of these elements. But the magnificent story of the Trojan war is worth more than any of these.
Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.
You can read it online here.
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner (1930)
You know what they say: some books should just stay books. Director James Franco turned Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying into a movie in 2013. Faulkner was one of the pioneers of the literature of stream of consciousness, and that isn’t something that provides good material for a movie. Visual images don’t serve Faulkner’s ideas well given that the action is mostly invisible and is all about the small inner movements of the soul. The movie got awful reviews. The novel is unlike anything you’ve read before and is most certainly worth your time. Addie, the main character, lies near death. Faulkner uses an original narrative technique, creating a total of fifteen narrators who speak about what’s happening (but also with many confusing retrospective elements and future fantasy ones, too).
It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end.
You can read it online here.
Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift (1726)
In 2010, director Rob Letterman turned one of the best satirical works in literature into a movie. And it’s just plain bad. The book contains many allegories and tells a great tale about human nature and it’s conflicts with everything that is different. The novel is a satire that takes a critical view of the class system (both social and economic), but it is witty and sarcastic. The movie focused on the most popular episode (the one in Lilliput) and misinterpreted its meaning in a degrading way. The humor was bad, and critics rated the whole movie sub-mediocre. Grab the book, and you will laugh more than by pressing “play.”
The tiny Lilliputians surmise that Gulliver’s watch may be his god, because it is that which, he admits, he seldom does anything without consulting.
You can read Swift’s novel online here.
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (2003)
The novel is about a boy from Kabul named Amir, and his friend Hassan, who was a servant of Amir’s father. It is a great story about honor and friendship, morals and ethics, and doing the right thing in a very wrong time. It is a story about the rise of the Taliban regime and the many problems behind the known historical backdrop. It was made into a movie in 2007, directed by Marc Foster. The movie isn’t half bad, it received solid reviews, but the book is far better. The movie skipped some of the important parts of the novel and focused on what happens afterwards rather than developing the story itself. Besides that, the topic is more for reading than for watching, and is suitable for reading with interruptions. There are disturbing scenes that require further contemplation and maybe even further research to get familiar with the historical context.
There is a way to be good again.
You can read the novel online here.
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