My Blog List

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Books, Movies, Families

A few years ago I read an interesting piece that argued that seeing a movie based on a book that you love is a mistake. The visual experience of cinema is so strong that it will forever replace the images lodged in your head from the book. While I basically agree, putting this into practice is difficult for me because I love both books and movies and generally succumb to the temptation to see a beloved novel on screen.

The novel A River Runs Through It is a good example. It's one of my favorite books not just because of the fly fishing but because at its core it's about family and the pain of an older brother to a troubled sibling and the impotent feeling of being unable to help. I too have known that pain. Author Norman MacLean wrote, "... I knew there were others like me who had brothers they did not understand but wanted to help. We are probably those referred to as our brothers' keepers, possessed of one of the oldest and possibly one of the most futile and certainly one of the most haunting of instincts. It will not let us go." Reading those words gave me some comfort and understanding of one of the major events of my life- the early death of my younger brother Tom.

I enjoyed watching the movie made from A River Runs Through It when it first appeared nearly 20 years ago and watch it repeatedly when it shows up on TV, but a price I have paid is that the actors and scenes from the movie force their way into my thoughts when I try to recollect the pleasures of the original written words.

The subject of books and the power of movies came to mind because I recently read the sequel to Scott Turow's bestseller from 1987, Presumed Innocent. I found both novels entertaining but neither will be significant books in my life. When reading Innocent, the more recent, I came to the reintroduction of the character Sandy Stern from the first book, and my first reaction was, "How can this be? Sandy Stern died." Then I realized: No, the fictional Sandy Stern didn't die. The actor, Raul Julia who played the character in the movie based on the first book died.

Those powerful movie images can be overwhelming. They get into your soul. Maybe that's why the Amish don't like their pictures to be taken.

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