There is a witticism that the book is always better then the movie but in my opinion this generally represents elitism on the part of the speaker. The truth of the matter is that novels and films are two very different art forms and direct comparisons are generally unfair to both. It is like comparing sculptures to paintings and fault paintings for their lack of three dimensions and sculptures for the lack of brush strokes.
Now having said that direct comparisons are unfair I want to expand my position by asserting that you can still judge if a film fairly adapts the source material. This is different from proclaiming one superior to the other. You can read ‘The Maltese Falcon‘ or you can watch the 1941 adaptation of the same name. Neither is better than the other, both are classics and the 1941 film is faithful to the characters, themes, and mood of the novel the elements required for a successful adaptation.
There are films that I enjoy more than their prose predecessors. Jaws strips the story down to the core elements and by doing so heightens them, the loss of an affair or a mafia sub-plot strengthens the thriller aspects of man vs shark. The Hunt for Red October loses a tone of Americans always bests their enemy, to present amore balanced story of men in conflict and the terrible costs of that struggle.
I am current reading the novel The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and it was adapted into a movie of the same name in 1993 starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.
It concerns an English Butler, Mr. Stevens, his relationships to his employers Lord Darlington, his father, and the housekeep Miss. Kenton. Stevens is so utterly repressed and committed to his sense of duty that his is unable to expression his feelings for others, even as his world tumbles apart.
This is a drawing room drama, with tension expressed in quite conversations and constrained by station and class. It is not a movie for those enamored of Bayhem. (Can you tell I really do not like the movies of Michael Bay?)
This novel, which won the Booker Prize, is an example of fantastic writing. Presented in the first person point of view the author pulls off the amazing feat of letting the reader see what the first person narrator is incapable of, his own motivations.
The film adaptation is so faithful, in character, tone, and theme, that as I read the novel it is Anthony Hopkin’s voice I hear in my head and it hasn’t clashed with the movie once. The producers, Director, and screenplay authors performed a masterful feat of capturing the heart and soul of this novel.
The film is not better, the novel is not better, but both are fantastic.