Read before You Watch

     When watching a film adaptation of a literary work, I find it is a good idea to read the literature before watching the film. Reading literature allows the readers to vision how the play or film should look before viewing it. This also can help the viewers to determine the quality of the film based on their own agreement or interpretations.

     After reading the novel Wuthering Heights, written by Emily Brontė in 1847, I found it was difficult for me to watch William Wyler’s 1939 film adaptation Wuthering Heights. In this case, I feel as though Wuthering Heights was meant to be read, not acted out. This novel covers three generations of a family, and it would be difficult or impossible to make a film to incorporate the entire novel. This is one reason why Wyler’s film does Brontė’s novel no justice. Also, Wyler was unable to capture the extreme amount of detail that Brontė used in every paragraph. The film takes away many things in this novel that I found very important, and I probably would not have been interested in reading the novel if I had viewed the film first.

     Saying that the literature is always better than the film is different than saying the literature should be read first. In some cases, especially plays, I feel that the work is meant to be seen and heard to obtain the full effect.

     After reading the play Pygmalion, written by Bernard Shaw in 1913, I would have felt cheated if I were not allowed to watch the 1938 cinematic version. When listening to Eliza’s different accents, I find everything comes together. I am able to better understand what effect the stage directions have and watch the way everything comes together as the playwright intended, or in the case of Pygmalion, as the playwright did not intend.

     After reading several novels or plays and watching several film adaptations to the literary works, I found that it is my opinion that one should always read the literature first. One never knows the quality of the film adaptation until it is watched. If the film is of poor quality, it has the ability to cause the viewer to be misguided about the quality of the book, play, or novel. Also many films and especially plays are better understood in quality and meaning if the literature is read first.

Kimberly A. Hunt

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