Cinema and Literature are two distinct but equally extraordinary works of art. Where literature was a popular form of expression during the 18th and 19th century, cinema has taken its place by the 20th century onwards. Though both these arts have certain connections and differences, both have a similarity of taking its readers/audience to a different world.
Literature has been a way of artistic expression for centuries now. Writers have told tales about gods and goddesses, heroes and their valiant victories, historical epics, romantic tragedies, comic incidents, legendary episodes, and much more. Cinema is by far doing the same thing for quite a few years now. One major strong point in cinema, which is absent in literature, is the advantage of visually showing the whole picture on the screen that helps the audience connect with the moment more closely.
Literature takes its readers on a journey of imagination that is away from the real world while cinema shows such an imaginative world before the audience and they do not have to put much pressure on their minds to delve into their imaginations. They basically view the film through the imagination of the filmmakers.
To put it, in other words, we can say that literature is an art which is developed through writing while cinema brings to life those writings to life through sound, music, visuals, and actors. Literature has all the meanings hidden in itself that are used to develop a film. Though both are somehow interdependent, both need to be studied in order to completely understand a movie based on a piece of literature.
Moreover, literature has always been a great inspiration for cinema all over the world. In India, especially, epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana have been created and recreated on the silver screen several times. Novels of renowned Bengali writers, Gujarati writers, Urdu writers, and English writers are made into films every now and then.
Although it can easily be said that the first step of cinema is literature. Because once a film is in the process of making, it is the script, dialogues, and screenplay that are produced in order to develop it. The production and technical aspects are secondary in the process of filmmaking. Hence, it will not be wrong to say that literature initiated people to move on to cinema.
There is an extraordinary contribution of one art to the other. As history points out that it was all a world of tales and stories from where Aladdin, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Hatim Tai, Cinderella, Snow White, and The Prince and the Pauper originated. And from here cinema took its inspiration and developed films based on these stories or parts of these stories.
There have been several filmmakers who have adapted novels, plays, even poetry into films like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s Devdas, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (On which films like Troy and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? are based).
A Bengali filmmaker, Chidananda Dasgupta, explains about the adaptations of films from literature that certain characters and incidents from the literature may undergo changes, “but the very composition of the elements, the molecular structure if you like, would undergo a transmutation.”
The purpose of the film should not be a mere copy of the literature, rather it must have its own characteristics and techniques that are motivational enough for the audience to enjoy. Though in its literary form many can say that it is in the form of a screenplay of the film but it may not be right to look at a literary piece in such a way. It has an impression of reality even in the written form and once it comes on the silver screen it enhances its qualities to a greater extent than it does in the written form.
Language is another component that differs from a book and a film. Though there may be a similarity in the use of language in both the platforms, there are certain distinct disparities between the usage of language in literature and that in cinema. The relationship between time and space is also quite different from literature to cinema. While in literature an event is described as it has happened, films show as it is happening.
A film must not play the role of the literal visual representation of the book on which it is based. It must be a proper production that has been transformed from the words on paper to the dialogues on the celluloid.
The way both the medium expresses their meaning is where the similarity and the difference lie. Words are the only way to express but while a book has written words on it a film has audio speech which is somehow more powerful and life-like. In a film, a single scene is like a complete sentence or a series of sentences in a book. The power of audio and visual experience has a long lasting effort on the audience over the power of written words.