Should I Watch the Movie?

Book or Movie

Sometimes I see a movie is being released and make sure I read the book first, so I can enter more fully into the experience of the movie. I remember seeing the first promotional shorts of The Lord of the Rings about nine months before the first movie was released, and determined then and there to read the books. My enjoyment of the books was enhanced by the movies. I did learn early, however, that movies and books do not always agree, and sometimes, the movie does no justice to the book at all. And sometimes, the movie is better than the book. I remember seeing and enjoying The Time-Traveler’s Wife a few years ago and enjoyed it so much I soon read the book. What a disappointment! The idea was original and creative, and it was well-developed in the movie, but the prose of the book just did not do it for me. I felt let down by poor execution. Maybe if I had not seen the movie first I would not have felt this way about the book.

My dilemma: I have just finished The Book Thief my Marcus Zusak. The book was passed onto me with a high recommendation by Mike Parsons when he returned to the UK in 2009. I have only just got to it, and loved it. At the same time I have been reading around Barth and Barmen, Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church, and so history and story have been swirling around in my mind.

The book is simply and beautifully written. When I began reading I was pleasantly Book Thief Movie Postersurprised by how simple it was, not at all like some literature (and some theology) which sometimes aims at incomprehensibility. Yet as I read I often found myself caught, not only by the power and pathos of the story, by the characters and creativity of the tale, but by fresh and startling metaphors and wonderful turns of phrase. The book, or more accurately, the story, has touched me. I want to sit with it for a little while; I know I will read it again sometime, if life persists.

But should I watch the movie? Will it enrich or diminish my experience of the book? Or maybe watch it, but not yet?

What do you suggest?

6 thoughts on “Should I Watch the Movie?

  1. As an English teacher, I appreciated The Book Thief for all the same reasons you mentioned and I loved ‘unpacking’ it with students. I didn’t see the film when it came out because I was sad that it had been turned into one. However on a return flight from Sydney earlier in the year I decided to give the movie a chance and I’m glad I did because I loved it.

  2. Oh, and to answer your question more directly, I think you should watch it but not yet. Wait until your memory of the story fades.

    1. Thanks Yvette,
      That’s helpful. Yes, while it is still fresh there is a kind of emotional attachment to the story, a way of seeing it in my own head which will no doubt be changed once I see the movie.

  3. Michael, one of my favourite books! I read it when it first came out and loved it. Was initially reluctant to watch the movie and only watched it last month on a flight. I really enjoyed the movie, it prompted me to take up the book again and I loved it even better. So I agree with Yvette – save the film for a later date. It can’t quite capture the nuance of the book but it is still quite beautiful.

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