Zia Hassan

The Dangers Of Turning Classic Books Into Classic Movies

I started reading the Harry Potter novels when I was about 14. The movies came out soon after and I vowed to wait until I’d finished the books before watching the movies.

Trouble is, those images of the actors from the movies were everywhere. And due to priorities, there were years that went by between the book and movie releases and when I actually read and watched them.

So when I picked up Book 4 at age 24, the movie in my mind was hugely influenced by the movie images that I’d seen on trailers and online. When Harry spoke, I imagined Daniel Radcliffe.

What a terrible disservice movies do for book lovers. They do the heavy lifting, giving readers a physical world and a definitive look for the characters. They rob the reader of the joy of imagination. What’s left for the reader brain to do? Just go through the story, I suppose. And even if we haven’t seen the movies, those images are everywhere.

I did manage to combat this a bit by listening to the audio books, which are read by the incredible Jim Dale, who somehow managed to transcend the movie images and create a side world for me. One where I could imagine the details from scratch using only Rowling’s words.

But Wrinkle in Time was different. I will alwyas read that book and imagine it the way I imagined it the first time I read it. Despite Zach galifinakis playing the happy medium, or Oprah playing Mrs Which, the movie didn’t shatter any of the imaginative elements I created when I first read the book. And that’s probably because Wrinkle in Time was a bad movie while the Harry Potter films were actually quite good.

It seems inevitable that classic books will always be turned into movies at some point. But I wonder how we can strike the imaginative balance.

There is, after all, a movie in our minds when we read. We play the director, producer, casting agent, and grip. And inviting another film crew into your mind’s production creates an alternate experience that could be less rich – especially if they know what they’re doing.