Gill Chedgey on the Relationship between Book and Film

Article published on January 10, 2018.

This is a subject I ponder frequently because for me there is a close link. I love books and I love films. But is that something peculiar to me or is it more universal? I’m a little old fashioned, I prefer real books to e-readers, I prefer to see films in a cinema.

I took a cursory glance through my DVD collection the other day and I was not really very surprised to find that the majority of them are related to books – the book of the film or the film of the book. It’s not an extensive collection by comparison with others I’ve seen and certainly bears no comparison to my book collection, but remove those films that have a book link and there’s very few left! We live in an age of Blu-rays, DVDs and streaming. With kit that can turn your living room into a cinema almost. My sister has a projector that can link to TV, laptop, set-top boxes, anything it seems, and project cinema type images onto her wall. But for me it’s not quite the same. I do wonder whether the ease with which we can view films influences the adaptations we see on our screens today.

What is that link between one art and another? If we whittle it down to the most basic equation it’s words and pictures. The common denominator must surely be the writing. Without the words there are no pictures, even the most visual of cinema must have started with a word or two on the page as an idea. What motivates a writer to write a book or a screenplay? The abundance of films based on books always strikes me as a little disappointing that there are a fewer original screenplays being written, but that’s maybe a financial consideration. It takes more money to produce a film than it does to write a book. I also wonder how many people go on to seek out the screenplay of a film they have particularly enjoyed. (I have!! ;-))

I have been in conversations where people will admit to having seen the film but not read the book and vice versa. I love the idea that people who are not essentially readers can ‘enjoy’ a book by watching the film. I’m not sure it works the other way round. Do people who aren’t essentially cinema goers enjoy a film because they read the book? If they do, they often level criticism at the film for not being ‘as good as the book’.

A bestselling book invariably turns up on the big screen nowadays. I think it’s fair to say that to earn a viable living from writing an author has to sell a phenomenal number of books. Selling the film rights must be a temptation. Cynically, I am convinced that there are adaptations that are more motivated by money than art.

Sometimes I think it’s about sharing. If you feel passionately about something, you want the whole world to love it as you do. You can’t lend one book to the world? So you make a film! I like that idea and I know that I have seen films that have led me to writers that I now cherish. And I’m very grateful for that.

Gill Chedgey
January 2018

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