Sunday, 26 October 2014

Gone Girl: Book vs Movie. The winner is…

When it comes to comparing a book and a movie based on a book, the book nearly always prevails. When talking about emotional experiences, I can’t think of many instances where a movie is superior to a book. You have blatant examples which showcase the fact that books can be infinitely better than their on-screen adaptations ('Da Vinci Code' comes to mind). Now one may argue that books and movies are inherently different mediums and shouldn’t be intended to convey the same experience, but let me expose a few ideas anyway.

The simple reason why books prevail over movies is because if you read the book first, you’ve already created the picture in your mind. After all, you’ve spent time reading the book (days, perhaps weeks even) and it was more than a mere 90-minute popcorn-eating commitment. You are convinced that your picture is the right picture. And no matter how talented a movie director can be, his vision of what the picture looks like, is nothing like yours. In your mind he gets it all wrong. That’s what makes reading a truly unique and personal experience. Not one reader shares the same vision.

This is also the feedback I’m picking up for ‘Out of Bounds’. People who have read my book are marked by different scenes and read different meanings. A friend once said if my book should be made into a movie, he’d see Colin Farrell as Kyle. Others would certainly disagree and would cast a less ‘manly’ actor for the part.

The multiple reading experiences make books exciting. And this applies to you too. You may read a book today, love it, and then return to it ten years later. You might continue to love it but for different reasons or simply due to a change of context in your own life; or not like it as much because you have read other books in the meantime which you’d qualify as superior.

There is also the issue of character depth and plot complexity. Naturally you cannot convey all the book’s twist and turns, huge cast, and characters’ thoughts and actions into a 90-120 minute motion picture. Cuts have to be made, screenplays have to be tweaked, and plots simplified to a certain extent. That’s part of the game, and you can’t really dislike movie adaptations for that reason alone.

After having read and really enjoyed the book by Gillian Flynn about a year or so ago, yesterday I saw ‘Gone Girl’ at the local cinema. And this is what inspired me to pen down the above.

Here, I will not discuss the differences between the book and the movie, as this has been done by other reviewers and bloggers already. However, I noted one serious flaw: Nick's first-person narrative in the movie is gone, and so we lose much of his complexity and equally twisted nature. I saw Amy as the most evil of the two and her transformation into a monster peaked when she “disposed of” former boyfriend, the obsessive Desi.

I wouldn’t say ‘Gone Girl’ is a woman-hating movie (that would be taking things too far) but the result is that the movie seems to be on Nick's side from the start, thus sort of making the case for him. Thanks to Nick's first-person narrative in the book, a status-quo dynamic is maintained and the reader doesn’t really know whom to root for.

‘Gone Girl’ is not a bad movie by any means. Had I not read the novel, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. What is there not to like? Fincher is a brilliant director (remember Alien 3, Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, The Social Network?…). The cinematography is slick and a feast for the eye. The score by the always great Trent Reznor was weaved in pretty neatly. Ben Affleck as Nick was a good choice and he played the part convincingly well. Rosamund Pike's turn as the sadistic, calculating and often-whispering Amy was spot on too.

The overall result was good and I’d recommend it. Furthermore, I liked it despite previously knowing about the twists and turns. So if you too have read the book, you might be of the same opinion. If you haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s novel, then your experience should be even more rewarding. But bear this in mind: Fincher's film is like a well-polished and stylish synopsis: informative and engaging. But Flynn's novel is the whole psychologist's case study, the full picture in some way.