Saturday, 9 March 2013

Larger Than Imagination - Film Versions of Children's Books

"My son's read the book, so he's fine to see the movie...."

This is a surprisingly common belief, and children often diligently finish a book or series as "proof" that they're ready to see the movie, regardless of its rating. Don't be misguided by this line of thinking; the experience of watching a film can be - and often is - a far cry from reading the book!

some aspects of film presentation you may not have considered...


The beautiful paradox of books is this: in utilizing children's imaginations - both the boundlessness of their creativity and the limitations of their knowledge and experience - there is, within appropriate reading material, a general safety net. Despite the potency of an author's story-telling abilities, children can typically only "picture" the worst thing they can imagine. Their image of a hideous troll, for example, will generally only be as hideous as their minds can create. The story might be gripping with an exciting tingle of fear, but their image of the creature in actuality, might be quite vague and blurry around the edges...and if it's all too much, they can always put the book down.

Now, cut to the film version of that book your child enjoyed so much. The images are no longer the product of one child's imagination, but rather the combined product of dozens of adult imaginations. The hideous troll is suddenly on screen, gruesome and overwhelming; the combined efforts of the writer, the director, the special effects crew, the make-up artist, the light guy, the sound guy...did I mention all these people were adults? And this alarming visual is all accompanied by dramatically loud and overwhelming music! When they need respite from the continuing action, confronted children can't put the film down and progress through the story at their own pace. Even leaving the cinema or stopping the DVD at that point, doesn't erase the image imprinted on the memory, larger than life; larger than a child's imagination.

Film versions of books are typically packaged into two-hour films, regardless of the length of the book; regardless of how many days or weeks your child took to read the book itself (at a pace befitting a child's imagination and reading ability); and, regardless of the label of "children's film", producers almost always target teens and adults as well. If you haven't already discovered the 'Parental Guide' on the Independent Movie Database, it's well worth referring to next time you're considering a movie. It provides very specific information (such as detailed scene descriptions, specific language, etc.) for any material that might be a consideration, and helps you make an informed decision in light of your child's age and sensitivities. The nature of the visual medium means it's worth taking extra care with the film versions of books and, if necessary, resisting those emotional pleas and beguiling eyes!

Marielle [August 18, 2012]

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