Literature vs. film

I was just thinking about our class discussion today and one big question popped into my mind. We discussed some of the differences between reading a book and viewing a film (perception of reality vs. creation of a new world, the way in which facts and details are hidden or revealed throughout the course of a book/film, etc.). But in addition to all of those, how do you guys feel the two genres differ in terms of the amount of crap (for lack of a better word) that exists in each. For every excellent, artistically created, thoughtful film that gets created (and distributed to the masses, also, now that we’re in the age of mechanical reproduction), many crappy, Hollywood-ified, brainless movies also get made. I think literature is different – although that certainly depends on one’s definition of literature, what qualifies and what doesn’t qualify. It seems like there’s an audience of people who are interested in spending two hours viewing a mindless movie that won’t make you think about anything important — people probably see it as a relief, a break from the constant need to think and find significance in every day life. But (it seems to me) that there would be less of an audience for that kind of book. Maybe it’s because watching a movie requires much less work and time than reading a book. Maybe mindless books wouldn’t get published. But I also think that some books that deserve to be read get turned into movies that do not merit watching, so barring the theory that it’s impossible to accurately turn a book into a film, maybe there is some intrinsic difference between the two genres. I can’t really put a finger on exactly why this difference exists, nor can I aptly describe the way it plays out, but it seemed significant to me. Any thoughts?

One response to “Literature vs. film

  1. mercurylanes

    Not having been there for Wednesday’s discussion (sorry!) this might be a little redundant, but frankly, I think significance is where you find it–it’s true, reading text does require a slightly more involved skill set than the basic “looking and listening” of film

    The fact that you mention “Hollywoodified” is also important–because of their high production values, most films are even more shackled by commercial demands than books are (though both mediums are, to some extent). If you think it’s a question of art versus marketability, which it often is. I don’t think there’s anything inherently “dumb” about movies or “smart” about books–the issue is more that in any art form, good, challenging work is often ignored by people who don’t want to be challenged. Literature/literary fiction has the benefit of having been canonized and sheltered by a crew of academics for significantly longer than film has.