This article is authored by Lakshmi Mukundan, Third year, BA English.

A film is a work of visual art that parallels experience that convey stories, emotions, ideas, perceptions or atmosphere using moving images. Films are cultural artifacts created by specific cultures. Literature is the art-form of language, and words are it’s tools. Literature broadly is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry.

Therefore, both Film and Literature are two distinct but equally remarkable works of art. Where literature was a popular form of expression during the 18th and 19th century, film has taken its place by the 20th century onwards. They are similar in the sense that they take their readers/audience to a different world, an alternative space. But they have their differences too. Literature has been a way of artistic expression for centuries now. Writers have told tales about good and evil, gods and goddesses, heroes and their valiant victories, historical epics, romantic tragedies, comic incidents, and much more. Cinema is by far doing the same for quite a few years now. The ability to use visual media is definitely an advantage cinema has over literature. Visual representation of the whole picture on the screen helps the audience connect with the moment more closely. But it is important to take into consideration that e books provide an amazing opportunity to overcome this challenge by integrating visual aspects alongside the text.

Literature takes its readers on a journey of imagination that is miles 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. Moreover, literature has always been a great inspiration for cinema all over the world. The Color Purple (1985), Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy etc., are some great examples. In India, epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana have been created and recreated on the silver screen several times.

One of the restrictions filmmakers often face when adapting novels are satisfying the original book readers while knowing that they can never fit in all of the details into the film. The storyline often have to be condensed to accommodate for a film’s run-time as well as things such as special effects budgets. This ultimately results cutting off of major plot twists and events which ultimately shaped the story in the book. Ultimately, literature is an art which is developed through writing, while cinema brings 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.


Thus, 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. 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. 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. That is, it must have elements on its own that enhance the experience of the audience.

Language is another component that differentiates the experience both provide. 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 film. 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. 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.