Written by Stanley Greenberg Friday, 18 November 2011 00:00
I was attending a lecture by Leon Uris at the 92nd Street YMHA years ago when he startled me. Uris, the author, was complaining that Otto Preminger, the director of the highly praised film Exodus, had ruined his image of the book.
I was completely shocked because I truly enjoyed the renowned movie with Paul Newman, Sal Mineo and Eva Marie Saint. Uris said that it did not represent his concept of what he was thinking when he penned the momentous novel.
I realized that it was a case of book versus film. It also illustrated that different media have divergent needs. Neither one is right and neither one is wrong.
It is a simple case of the book versus the play versus the film. To me, the book is the purest form. As we read, we form our own mental pictures and our personal images differ from everyone else’s. The imagination has no boundaries for our individual interpretation. We cast the writing with our own heroes and our own visual pictures.
Was Gregory Peck the exact picture for Herman Melville in Moby Dick? Was Julie Andrews a better Eliza Doolittle than Audrey Hepburn? Did Rex Harrison communicate a perfect Henry Higgins?
Recently I saw Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean and Geoffrey Rush as Javert in Les Miserables. Were they better than Fredric March and Charles Laughton?
The musical version of Les Miserables was fantastic. I sang and hummed the tunes (to myself of course.) It carried the basics of the plot, but much was left out. The films tried, but they could not put on celluloid every twist and turn of Victor Hugo’s huge novel.
We are condemned to enjoying each medium on its own. Comparisons to other media are fun, but they are quite useless. Books have their audience and theater has its own fans, while film adaptations can be reviewed by a mass audience. Enjoy all three, and don’t struggle over which is better: savor them all!