There was a point in my life when I tracked down the books upon which my favourite films were based – and many of them were by obscure writers or were substantially different from the final story that appeared onscreen. That was to be expected. When a producer buys the rights to a story, they can do what they want with that property.
What did surprise me was how bad several of those books were. Not just the language used but how the stories were flat and how unsatisfying were the endings. Once Upon a Time in America, for example, as a film contains a haunting set of flashbacks to reposition the meaning of the storyline and a killer ending. None of that was in the novel. In the movie, a Cool Hand Luke, we have a metaphor for Jesus buried just below the surface of all of Luke’s actions. Not so in the book, which I found one of the most tedious to read – and I so wanted it to be great.
Conclusion? Gotta be kidding, right? The great thing about a good book is that you, the reader can fill in the gaps left by the writer – the internal monologues, how the characters look or the way they behave. The great thing about a good film is that you connect emotionally almost from the get-go. I’ve cried at several movies (Silent Running, The Elephant Man, Godfather Part 3) but I have never shed a tear with a novel in my hand. Go figure.