The Book or the Film? Which do you prefer?

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Which do you prefer - the book or the film? The eternal question for us culture vultures. This year's crop of Oscar nominations and eventual winners has thrown up several contenders for that debate; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Help, Hugo, War Horse, The Descendants.....so, if you are wondering whether to read the book or watch the film, read on... I found the decision to read or watch these stories was partly personal preference and partly an accident of circumstance. 

In the case of War Horse by Michael Morpurgo  Vs  War Horse by Steven Spielberg, I have read the book, but not seen the film. I started reading Michael Morpurgo's 'War Horse' before I even knew there was going to be a film (though the re-issue of this 1982 classic children's book should have alerted me). I loved it - it's a beautifully written anti-war story which, like Black Beauty, is written from the point of view of the horse. Morpurgo writes with such vividness that you can almost see the film taking shape before your eyes as you read - hence I don't feel the need to rush to see Spielberg's version, no matter how good. Score 1 to Books.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett  Vs  The Help by Tate Taylor. I was half-way through reading 'The Help' for my Book Club when friends invited me to see the film - great, I could save time and 'cheat' a little. I thought the film was a very faithful rendition of the book. Some friends have argued the book is better, but I think it's marginal, and it's certain that bestseller or not, more people will find the story through the film than the book - and it takes less time. Score 1 to Film.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick   Vs  Hugo by Martin Scorsese, here is another case in which I have read the book, but not seen the film - yet. I was pontificating about graphic novels and illustrated books at lunchtime one day, when a colleague pushed 'The Invention of Hugo Cabret' across the table, saying out of the corner of his mouth 'see what you make of this'... Well, where do I start with recommending this amazing book. The story is about about an orphaned boy making his way in the world, it is about the early days of cinema, it is about the Gare du Nord and about Paris itself. But the most amazing thing about the book is the highly original way the story is told in a perfect blend of words and pictures. This isn't a straightforward novel, and it isn't a graphic novel - it is something new - a form that is a blend of both and is dictated entirely by the needs of the story. When the story 'needs' words, the author gives us words, and when the story 'needs' pictures, the author gives us pictures. You really need to see this in action yourself - it works wonderfully. I'm in two minds how to score this one, as I actually really want to see what a director of Scorsese's talents does with this amazing book. But no, I'm going to insist that everyone read - make that experience, this book, even if you do see the film as well. Score 2 to Books.

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings  Vs  The Descendants by Alexander Payne. I went to see The Descendants, starring George Clooney, in the newly re-opened Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield. What a wonderful evening. Everything was perfect, and the film wasn't bad either. Actually, it was very, very good. Everone in the film, even gorgeous George, looked like a real person, rather than an actor, and reacted and interacted like real people, facing a life-changing situation. It may well be that the book by Kaui Hart Hemmings is a brilliant read - but to be honest I probably won't read it. I don't see any need to experience the story in any way other than this film, and this is a book I probably wouldn't have even heard of if not for the film. Score 2 to Film.

Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré  Vs  Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy by Tomas Alfredson is the final story on my list today. I read the book many, many years ago and of course I remember the famous TV series with Alec Guinness. I attended the new film version with trepidation, wondering how they could possibly fit the story into just two hours. I'm not sure they did - I think some prior knowledge is needed to follow the film, even to the extent I did (and I didn't follow it all!). Nevertheless, it was absorbing and entertaining and atmospheric and Gary Oldman is brilliant. Colin Firth was a bit of genius casting too. All in all, although I'm tempted to award this one to Books, I'm going to come down on the side of a Draw.

Leaving us with Books = 2, Film = 2 and one Draw equalling a Draw overall. A cop-out I know! 

Of course, the big winner, The Artist, wasn't based on a book at all, and only had two words...

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