What Cameras Can’t Capture

Madhavankutty Pillai argues that it is “easy to make a good movie of an ordinary or even bad novel” but that translating great novels onto the big screen remains elusive:

A novel’s quality often does not matter to its movie adaptation because cinema works at the surface level—there is no sophisticated way to depict thought as thought. … A good movie can be made of an ordinary book as long as there are strong plot points or a grand theme or potential for spectacle. In Life of Pi, Ang Lee’s visual grandeur compensates for the book’s clumsiness. Ironically, the reverse is also true—great novels are often not fodder for great cinema. There have been many movie versions of Crime and Punishment, but who remembers any of them? It is a work that hinges on inner monologue, which cinema cannot depict. Remove that and you have just the skin without the soul.