Friday, July 17, 2009

Harry Potter: Books or Movies?

Books, like pets, are excellent companions. They help you de-stress & relax. Lounging with a book is my favourite afternoon past time! I have grown up on a lovely dose of Enid Blyton’s delightful stories, such as the Naughtiest Girl and Famous Five Series. In fact, I have not quite out-grown them as I read them even today! Thus it was with happiness that I bought my first Harry Potter book, expecting it to be as delightful as an Enid Blyton story.

I was not disappointed. The fairly-tale like wonder of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree stories was, to a certain extent, present in the story of a wizard boy and his magic wand. It was fascinating to read about the boy living beneath a staircase getting an identity of his own in the world of wizards. Charms and potions, wands and broomsticks, friends and evil-doers – all were thrown together in a cauldron that brings up a heady mix of magic potion. Wow! As I read chapter after chapter, I was hooked to the story. Turning the pages, in my mind I ran a reel of images of what Harry and the other characters looked like, the castle and its settings, the village and the sport they played…

That reel of images was transformed into a real-life reel when the first Harry Potter film made its debut on the silver screen. I was not exactly eager to see it as I felt that somehow the book’s charm and entertainment value just could not be translated into a movie. I did eventually watch a Harry Potter film and it validated my apprehensions. The film’s characters just did not bring out the same bonds that I felt for the characters in the book. Whereas I empathized with the wizard boy in the book, the same was not felt for the boy on screen. Also, there are some very thought-provoking lines in the books that do not come across in the films. For example, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone here are some beautiful words:
Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin…it was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.

Moreover, the film had a general gloomy, dark & foreboding atmosphere; this did not come across in the book at all, despite detailed descriptions of the castle in general and other scenes in particular. Besides, I have a great dislike for ghastly gore. So in the book whenever I felt such a scene would begin, I could simply skip the paragraph! On the big screen, this is impossible – if I shut my eyes or look away, the sounds still convey the gory scene; besides, I could just miss out on the next scene if I kept my eyes off too long. So I had to squirm through the unnecessarily highly graphic scenes of what I call “yuckiness”. Ugh!

Another important feature that favours a book over a film: the bookmark. This very handy device keeps your place in the book when a phone call or doorbell interrupts your reading. In the theatre I can hardly raise my hand and tell the projector guy to pause the film because I wanted to grab a snack or go to the loo! As it is, now-a-days the charm of watching a film in the theatre is totally lost with inconsiderate people constantly answering their mobile, talking loudly to each other or suddenly getting up and walking out.

So it is a no-contest to decide the winner of Harry Potter books vs. Harry Potter movies. As far as I am concerned, the books are hands-down winners!

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