Perhaps because I know nothing about acting, I am fascinated and bewildered by the way a great actor can portray and evoke emotions with such subtlety that I am not sure why I sympathize with them so completely.
Recently, when I have watched fantastic movies, I have been surprised by how fully absorbed in them I was. I’ve always thought books did a better job of conveying messages than movies, but a glance between actors can capture as much sentiment as paragraphs of writing.
But even if a picture is worth a thousand words in terms of the time it takes to express an idea, I will always be more attached to books.
For one thing, books can describe in depth what a character is thinking without resorting to cheesy voiceovers. If an author has interesting insights, a book’s descriptions can be as compelling as its plot.
In one of my favorite books, “Anna Karenina,” pages go by without anything actually happening. I can understand why some people would find the 800-page book boring or overly wordy. It was often hard to get through, but I still thought its lengthy philosophical tangents and psychological dissections of the characters were engrossing. It was a book worth the mental exhaustion that came with reading it.
Another book I like, “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro, impressed me with its astute descriptions of small gestures I would never notice in a movie. The narrator devotes several paragraphs to a habit of her friend’s that irritates her: the friend taps her boyfriend lightly on the elbow to indicate that she’s about to get up and leave. The narrator is so bothered by this quirk because it is copied from the older couples they know, who most likely started doing it because they had seen it on TV. This seemingly insignificant detail summed up various characters’ personalities (and relationships) perfectly. It was a tiny indicator of their typical conformity, and I thought the author was amazingly perceptive to include it.
And perhaps the most important reason I prefer books is the intimacy of reading. A well-made movie can be an incredible experience, but it will never, for me, feel as immediate as a good book. Movies can be a sensory overload with their elaborate audio and images. That can be good and interesting, but in the end I like the plainer feeling of interacting with a book.
An author has one simple way and challenging way to communicate. I am constantly amazed by what talented people can do with words.