Would you read a book if you’ve already seen the film that was based on it, and vice versa?

I read more books than I watch movies. Once in a while I’ve watched a movie that is adapted from a book that I’ve yet to read. Examples include We Need to Talk about Kevin, Forrest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption, as well as several others on this list.

When this happens, I usually wouldn’t read the book regardless of how much I enjoyed the film or how widely acclaimed the book is. This is because I am likely to skim the pages as I would already know how the story unfolds. Plus, my imagination will have been ‘tainted’ by the actors, soundtrack and film set.

On the other hand, if I were impressed by a book that I’ve read and learn that it has been made into a film, I would be inclined to watch the movie to see how it has been brought to life and how closely the film follows the original story.

For instance, The Third Man and The Fallen Idol by Graham Greene were brilliantly adapted for the big screen by Carol Reed and Orson Wells respectively. I had reviewed the books and films previously. Likewise for Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita which was morphed onto the big screen under the directions of Stanley Kubrick (my review is here).

This reflection was sparked by my recent reading of Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy, which entrapped me for four consecutive days with its entertaining, albeit incredulous, mind-boggling plot.

I had watched the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on a flight a few years ago. The film was entertaining and I was blown away by Rooney Mara’s intense portrayal of Lisbeth Salander.

Stieg Larsson - Millenium series

I learned later that it was based on the eponymous Swedish bestseller by Larsson. I promptly bought the Millennium trilogy when I saw it at a secondhand bookstore. But I could not bring myself to read them as I knew how the first part was going to turn out!

Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me – I wanted to know what happens in books II and III. I felt obliged to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to refresh my memory and I was prepared to go through the motions.

The book turned out to be more engaging than I expected. I also picked up more nuances and details as I was reading it. Overall, I am more impressed by the book than the film directed by David Fincher.

I would recommend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to anyone who is looking for an exhilarating crime novel. The storyline in The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest is too convoluted for my liking. I doubt I would be interested enough to watch the film adaptations of these books if these were to materialise.

Now that I’m done with the Millennium trilogy, I’m going to sell the books to a secondhand bookshop. I cannot stand the ugly covers.

Have you watched and read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? What did you think of the book versus the film (be it the Hollywood version or the original Swedish adaptation)?

5 replies on “From print to screen

  1. I watched the film after reading the books and was disappointed. Although there felt something trashy about the books, I couldn’t put them down…

    I’ve had the book of Once Upon a Time In America, a film that I love, sitting next to my bed for over a year. I’m always terrified that whatever comes second (whether it book or film) could overwrite or destroy images from the first…

    1. To your first point, I agree with you completely. I was so engrossed in book 2 that I stayed up all night until the next morning past 8am in order to finish it!

      I didn’t know that Once Upon a Time in America was based on a book. I watched the version that was restored by Martin Scorsese last year and it was excellent. I just finished reading John Le Carre’s The Constant Gardener and I might watch the movie when enough time has passed (when my memory of the plot is less fresh).

      1. Well it might be even worse then I originally admitted, the OuaTiA book might actually have been written after the film! Possibly!

        I enjoyed the film of The Constant Gardner despite some so-so reviews, I haven’t read any John Le Carre as much as I love almost all the film and TV adaptations, not sure why…

        PS Congratulations on your move news!

        1. I think Once Upon A Time in America is loosely based on “The Hoods”, an autobiography of a former gangster. Recently I re-watched some 1990s Hong Kong films on the triads in the city – lots of blood and guns!

          Thanks for the well wishes 🙂 This weekend is our last one in Brussels and the apartment’s a complete mess as we’re finally starting to pack. haha

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