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Why books are preferable to movies in light of new book-to-movie adaptation “A Man Called Otto”


The line between books and movies has become blurred as many popular books earn their own movie adaptations. The most successful recent examples are the Harry Potter series, Hunger Games and Jurassic Park

Recently, the movie “A Man Called Otto” starring Tom Hanks premiered in theaters. The movie began as a Swedish book titled A Man Called Ove written by Fredrik Backman and later became a 2015 film with the same name. 

A Man Called Ove has undergone many transitions and exists in many different mediums, which sparks the ever-debated question: Are movies or books better? 

I contend books are superior to movies because they allow the reader creative liberties that movies simply do not. When reading a book, people can visualize the characters and settings however they want. The author includes descriptions of the characters and places, but the reader can interpret these descriptions however they choose. 

While watching a movie, viewers are presented with a director’s interpretation about how the characters look, dress and speak instead of making those decisions for themselves. Because of this, viewers all have a uniform image of the area and characters while readers each have their unique opinion on the appearances and details.

For example, on the first page of his book, Backman writes, “(Ove’s) the kind of man who points at people he doesn’t like the look of…” Somebody watching the movie would see Tom Hanks on the screen and equate his features to Ove’s. But somebody reading the book could visualize Ove a number of different ways and all of them would be correct.

This visualization means the reader can personalize the book to themselves as they can view a character in a completely different way than the author intended. 

Another reason why books are better than movies is because the adaptation process naturally changes the content. Movies are a different medium than books, so changes to the storyline or characters have to be made for the book to make sense as a movie. For example, names of the protagonist and supporting characters all changed in “A Man Called Otto.” And what used to be two separate characters in the book merged into one person for the movie. Changes to the storyline and the passage of time are also important so the movie isn’t abnormally long or short.

All in all, the movie adjustments for “A Man Called Otto” and others like it might seem mild. However, every book-to-movie adaptation comes at the cost of the imagination of the viewer as all the details have been decided for them.

Ethan Blastick
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