In yesterday’s post, I recommended watching the movie of Mozart and the Whale before reading the book. And then I got to thinking about whether this was the natural order: after all, in most cases a movie is written after the book on which it is baed, so why shouldn’t it also be watched afterwards?
In standard mathematical fashion, let’s see whether we can abstract from the concrete example of one movie/book pairing to the more general case. What happens with other such pairs? Sometimes the order doesn’t matter. And often I read a book as soon as it comes out and then have to wait for the movie, so the order is imposed artificially. What are the consequences of reading the book first? On the plus side, you have the freedom to visualize characters and scenes as you wish, and you can learn the necessary background that might be omitted from the movie. On the minus side, the movie is usually a disappointment, precisely because it can’t possibly capture everything in the book. Furthermore, my own view is that surprises and plot twists in a movie are more effective when one hasn’t read the book first. There are surely exceptions, but on the whole I come down on the side of always reading a book after seeing the movie wherever possible.