It’s not the same as the book!


Have you ever waited longingly for the release of your favourite book on film? Were you disappointed? Or did it affirm the way you first saw/read the book?

What if you were the writer, anxiously waiting to see how your story translates to the big screen? Would you demand to also be the scriptwriter? Would you expect to be heavily involved in the whole production to check that ‘they’ got it ‘right’?

In other words: should we really expect the film to be the same as the book?

Until recently, I thought so. After all, wasn’t J.K.Rowling heavily involved in the production of the Harry Potter movies?

Aren’t all authors? Apparently NOT.

In a recent article about the much anticipated film release of the Book Thief, Marcus Zusak revealed that, for various reasons, he had no intentions of writing the script, or even contributing advisory comments during production:

I can only respect what a screenwriter has to do when trimming a sizeable novel to a 120-page script.

I feel like when you give someone a creative job, you can’t say, “Right, be creative, but do it how I want you to do it.”

Source: Marcus Zusak – How I Let Go of the Book Thief,

As you can see from his comments, he appreciates the extra work that happens to bring book to film, and he understands that indeed it will not be the same.

Another author who has watched his book, Mr Pip, become a film, echoes these sentiments. Lloyd Jones even said he felt that he was an interloper in his own story, as he watched some of the filming on location for Mr Pip.

When introduced to the cast on Bougainville (where his tale came to life on film), he said he felt embarrassed that he had few words of wisdom to offer as the faces of the young actors gazed up at him expectantly. But then, as he explains in the article quoted below, he was the author of the story not the film director who was responsible for making the film. This is concept is also evident in this video clip:


Clearly, Jones has great respect for the creators of the film. He says he appreciates how closely the director had read his book, and stayed true to its story. However, he recognises the differences in the two media, as he states:

A film is a film is a film.

[On the other hand] Readers [bring a] box of effects and nuances to colour in the spaces left by the writer [of a book].

In film, the magic tends to be woven on the surface. The viewer is treated to another’s dream. In literature, the reader does the dreaming. And that, for me, remains the greatest magic of all.

Source: The Weight of Expectations for Lloyd Jones,

How often have you felt dissatisfied as a reader viewing a favourite book on-screen? But realistically, why should we feel this way? Do we just want to be able to brag that clearly we have read the book? Or does it just give us some way on which to review the film?

It’s amazing how creative we can be in our own imaginations, building on the original author’s ideas when we read. In this way, books can be so much more. Perhaps Zusak captures some of these ideas rather well – what do you think?

As a reader, I’ve never felt let down or outraged, because the film changes things for its own sake – but it can never change the book itself. The book will always remain.

As I said: I still love books. I still love movies. But I’m not ashamed to say that, as a general law of my own nature, I can’t help but love one of them just that little bit more.
Marcus Zusak.

Read more:

[You can enjoy the trailer for ‘the Book Thief’ below, to see if it’s a story that would appeal to you. Of course, my advice is that if you haven’t already, you should also read this fabulous book!]



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