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In the Mind of the Reader

If there’s one thing I really just don’t get in modern society it is the enthusiasm many people have for movies. The latest movies, movie stars, etc seem to get an inordinate amount of attention. And for what? OK, there are a few movies which I have been quite impressed by, but in general I wonder why I just wasted 2 hours of my life!

On every occasion I can remember when I ask someone who has read a book then watched the movie version what they thought of the movie they say something like “it was OK but not as good as the book”. But if nothing is ever as good as the book why not just read the book and forget about the movie?

Maybe it’s because books take a lot longer to read and need a lot more effort than a movie and people are lazy. Or maybe watching movies is cool and socially acceptable but reading books is seen as too, well, bookish!

I haven’t even watched the latest Star Wars movie and have no real inclination to see it. Recently I joined my son watching “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” and what a load of inane, childish, stereotyped drivel it is. Why any intelligent person would bother to watch anything like that I can’t possibly imagine. It was embarrassingly bad! OK, I admit that is probably the worst Star Wars movie of all (especially due to the tedious Jar Jar Binks) but the rest aren’t much better.

In the past I used to read a lot (one or two books a week) but I now don’t have the time, maybe because I spend too much time with my computer writing blog posts, etc! But for the last year or two I have got into audiobooks. The advantage of these is that I can listen to them at times when I can’t read a book, such as when walking or driving.

I listen to a combination of fiction and non-fiction, and old and new. The latest book I listened too was one I first read many years ago (in fact when I was still at school) and it must have made an impression because this is the third time I have mentioned it in this blog.

It was Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”, a rather poetic collection of short stories all on the theme of the colonisation of Mars and which is as much science fantasy as science fiction. As I listened I thought about how it would be presented as a movie (the movie rights were bought in 1960 but mo movie was made) and concluded that all the real depth of the story would be gone because apart from having a narrator quoting the book the movie just couldn’t present the material with any integrity.

Here’s an example of a (basically random) paragraph from the book…

In the stone galleries the people were gathered in clusters and groups filtering up into shadows among the blue hills. A soft evening light shone over them from the stars and the luminous double moons of Mars. Beyond the marble amphitheater, in darkness and distances, lay little towns and villas; pools of silver water stood motionless and canals glittered from horizon to horizon. It was an evening in summer upon the placid and temperate planet Mars. Up and down green wine canals, boats as delicate as bronze flowers drifted. In the long and endless dwellings that curved like tranquil snakes across the hills, lovers lay idly whispering in cool night beds. The last children ran in torchlit alleys, gold spiders in their hands throwing out films of web. Here or there a late supper was prepared in tables where lava bubbled silvery and hushed. In the amphitheaters of a hundred towns on the night side of Mars the brown Martian people with gold coin eyes were leisurely met to fix their attention upon stages where musicians made a serene music flow up like blossom scent on the still air.

This paragraph describes a scene of life on Mars (of course, in the book, Mars has Martians, canals, etc) before the colonisation from Earth which could be represented in a scene in a movie too. In fact I chose a scene which could be fairly represented in a visual medium like a movie. But would it be the same? Could any movie better show visually the image that paragraph creates in the mind of the reader (or listener)? I don’t think so.

And that’s why I rarely bother with movies any more. They just don’t have the richness, or the depth, of a book. And this doesn’t just apply to more “serious” material. I am assured by those who have both read the book and seen the movie that “Fifty Shades of Grey” is far better as a book than a movie too!

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