It is often said that if one wishes to increase their intelligence, creativity, imagination and sense of the world around them, that one of the best things they can do is read a book. It doesn’t really matter what kind of book or how long it takes you to read it, so long as you give it your undivided attention and think about what you are reading.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about this more and more. Until I realized something: Does it really have to be a book?
Let me take a moment to say that I do enjoy reading. It is a great way to work your imagination and see how you can work yourself up, all with just your mind. It is just as powerful as any other art form out there.
But why do people read books? Some read to gain information on a certain period in history, while others do it to gain knowledge about themselves and become better people. But the main reason people read books is to hear about a story. A story that unfolds before their very eyes and the characters take on a life of their own, so much so that the reader feels like they could reach out and touch them. To imagine an entirely different world from ours and how it must function, where its boundaries are, what kind of currencies it runs on and how people acquire money, food and basic necessities.
People read books because it envelopes them and makes the reader feel like they are apart of this world. Whether they are sword fighting with pirates, going into outer space to explore unknown worlds or taking part in the biggest wedding of the century. There is no limitation to books and novels. Anywhere you wish to go is possible and you can be whoever you want to be.
Once I thought of that, another one came to mind: How is this any different from what movies do?
If people read books because they wish to take part in a story and get enveloped in a brave new world, then what does that make cinema? To be honest, people watch movies for the same reason: Film presents audiences with a gateway into a world that is vast, sprawling and somewhat endless. We watch as characters set up, announce themselves and their idiosyncrasies (or as Robin Williams put it in “Good Will Hunting,” their perfections) and see them rip, claw and fight their way through their obstacles and gain the lives that they want more than anything else.
Because of this, I feel a movie can be just as good as book.
However, I will admit that there are drastic differences between the two. For one, books need only one of your senses, your sight. You see and read the words and, for many, the words take on a life of their own. It can also be an audiobook or be in braille, but a book would never take up more than one sense at a time. A movie, however, takes both your sight and hearing. It requires you to both look and hear the picture to fully comprehend what is happening.
Second, a book is traditionally a solo experience. Typically, you are the only one reading the book and it is your time to experience whatever you wish. Film, is done mostly in the presence of an audience. Like the theater, being in a group is what gives a movie its own unique flair, separate from other forms of art.
So which is truly better? A novel that narrows in on one sense and can be done anywhere? Or a film that takes devotion and is normally done in the presence of many other people?
I say, does it really matter which is better?
Each has their own upsides and downs, but that is what gives them their uniqueness. They both offer something that the other doesn’t, whether that is sharing a moment with many other people or letting your other senses run wild (as well as your imagination).
Both novels and cinema are forms of art. Much like paintings, sculptures, the theater and music, art has many forms and interpretations. The term “art” can mean many things and be different from person to person. But, one that most people can agree on is that art leaves some sort of impact on the viewer. Whether that is emotional impact, historical impact, personal impact or impact on the mind, art changes people.
When both are at their best, films and books do the same thing. They make people stronger, kinder, more aware and more intelligent. A movie like “Sunset Boulevard” can have just as much of an impact on someone as a book like “The Catcher In The Rye” and leave the viewer wanting more of both. Both cinema and novels can be equally fun and exciting, with “Star Wars” and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord Of The Rings” books.
Yet both have their obvious downsides. There are certainly bad movies out there that merely serve as a distraction and junk food for your brain, like the Michael Bay “Transformers” films. The same can be said for books, like “50 Shades Of Grey.” Both can be painful to view at times, but only because they are told by incompetent storytellers.
It is up to us, as the viewers, to decide which books and movies are worth keeping around. The ones that challenge us and make us better people. Whether accomplished through moving pictures as a man with cancer tries to do one last meaningful thing with his life or through words as we envision the mighty Asland fight the White Witch for control of Narnia. They can both be powerful, haunting, mesmerizing, hysterical, thrilling, epic and everything in between.
Because in the end, a film can be just as good (or as bad) as any book.