Reading and Watching

When I read, I always see the characters in my mind as if on a screen. They become so vivid (if the work of literature is any good, of course) that I often decide that I must have seen a film version of the novel. I then keep looking for this film version, only to realize that it doesn’t exist and that all of the images of the characters and their surroundings come from my own imagination.

This is why I don’t like movies. They strive to tell me everything: how the characters looked, what they wore, what their every facial expression was like, etc. They even choose the angle of vision for me. Not only do they render me motionless and speechless, they also rob me of the need to imagine anything. It’s all right there, all spelled out for me in painstaking detail.

Spending just two hours at the movies terrifies me. What if the lights never go on and I will be stuck there, consuming one story after another in my role of a perennially passive observer? What if the surround sound noise never allows me to formulate a single thought of my own?

Lenin really knew what he was talking about when he denounced people who read books and declared that the main form of art for his regime would be cinema. And the circus.

12 thoughts on “Reading and Watching”

  1. I’m exactly the same way – when I read, it’s not just the words, it’s like I’m literally transported into the 3D world of the book. I have no control of where I go, the book decides that, but there’s so much there. Getting lost in a good book is one of the best things ever.

    p.s. Circuses are awesome!

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  2. It’s weird; when I read, I see the characters, scenery etc. as vividly as you do, but I also like seeing movie or TV adaptations of my favorite books.

    I also really like comic books, which seem to me like they’d fall into a kind of no-man’s-land between the written word, where everything visual is in your imagination, and the moving picture, where it’s all in front of you. With comic books, the images are still, and cropped, so your mind can add movement and fill out the limited scenery you see in the little panels.

    You can also give characters in books (real books as well as funnybooks) whatever voices you want! I know that in my mind, the sound of a character’s voice is just as important to my representation of that character as their physiognomy.

    Sometimes I do get confused when I see a movie version of some book I’ve already read, and the characters look (or sound) radically different from how I imagined them. But for the most part I like seeing how other people imagine the same character. It can add new layers to my own conception of the character.

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  3. Not only do they render me motionless and speechless, they also rob me of the need to imagine anything. It’s all right there, all spelled out for me in painstaking detail.

    If you are referring to Hollywood movies I’ll grant you that, but not for art films.

    In a good movie you still need to imagine quite a few things, it is just a different set of things. When you read a book you have to wonder what the person looked like, but on the other hand you’ll often get the inner dialogue of the characters spelled out. In a movie, the character raises an eyebrow and you have to imagine what s/he’s thinking..

    Why exactly does Rhett Buttler tell O’Hara “frankly my dear I don’t give a damn?”. In the book there’s so much more context that the meaning is very clear. In the movie it’s a bit more ambiguous because no one expects him or a narrator to jump in and explain the actions further, as a book would.

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  4. I’m like that too…
    And you’ve made me remember of a conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about Harry Potter and she had just read the first book and i asked her why didn’t she read the next ones if she liked it that much. The answer was like a punch: “the films are not released yet and i need to see them first so that I can imagine what’s happening while I read.”.
    I still can not get that nosense… but it seems like there’s people like that out there…

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    1. That’s incredibly sad. There’s only two books adapted into films I can think of where I responded positively to watching the film before reading the book, and that’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Persepolis.

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  5. It seems most readers tend to say that the book is always better than the movie. I tend to agree, but I enjoy movies too. I have to look at them as being completely separate though–almost not related. There are a few adaptions of books I thought were done well, but they are never like books–they just cannot provide the same experience and depth and readers tend to bring so much of their own experience to a book as well.

    I don’t like circuses. They stress me out. I never found them enchanting as a kid either. Clowns really upset me too. Perhaps I’m a strange person, but they totally freak me out.

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    1. ” I enjoy movies too. I have to look at them as being completely separate though–almost not related.”

      – I think this is the best way to go.

      “I don’t like circuses. They stress me out. I never found them enchanting as a kid either. Clowns really upset me too. Perhaps I’m a strange person, but they totally freak me out.”

      – I’m also a strange person who feels uncomfortable with the idea of a circus. I always felt sorry for the animals and suffered vicariously when the clowns didn’t get many laughs. It was just too stressful for me when I was a kid.

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  6. Movies and books are entirely different art forms. I enjoy watching great cinematography, great acting, great screenplays, bad movies with great dance sequences or with fabulous scenery. I enjoy high-level animation. I enjoy movies with ambiguous characters or plot lines. I really enjoy good documentaries.

    The pleasures of reading are different. I don’t consider movies to be replacements for books, or vice versa.

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