Seymour Chatman ends his essay, “What Novels Can Do That Film Can’t (And Vice Versa),” with a rather vague overview defending both film and literature from critique:
“So writer, filmmaker, comic strip artist, choreographer – each finds his or her own ways to evoke the sense of what the objects of the narrative look like. Each medium has its own properties, for better and worse usage, and intelligent film viewing and criticism, like intelligent readings, needs to understand and respect both the limitations these create and also the triumphs they invite.”
I am unsure as to why Chatman presents this level of reasoning in his conclusion, because earlier on in his essay, it seems that he is indirectly guiding the reader to see how literature is an overall “better” vehicle for conveying a narrative. I can only imagine how Chatman would answer the question, “Why does literature convey narrative more effectively than film does?”
One response to the proposed question comes on page 125 when Chatman explores the difference between readers being exposed to a descriptive passage of a cart compared with movie goers viewing the same cart being represented on screen. Chatman explains that readers are able to absorb every little detail because they are exposed to each detail one line at a time when the cart is being described. However, movie goers only see the cart briefly on screen for a few seconds, and viewers must decide which details to retain in their memory. Unless they have the privilege of viewing the film again, they have no way of recalling all of the description available to them. Doesn’t this prove that literature conveys narrative more effectively? Readers have time to truly embrace the narrative, but movie goers are often left in the dark as their minds cannot fully process everything they see in a brief scene…
Another response that explains why literature conveys narrative more effectively than film does can be found on page 131 when Chatman discusses the director’s hope that “some degree of consensus with the spectator’s ideal of prettiness” can be met when casting actresses (or actors). This specifically refers to the issue directors face when trying to translate a narrative into film. When readers read through a narrative, they create pictures in their mind (if necessary) of what they believe the characters look like based on description. But who is to say a film director can capture a “pretty lady” since everyone has different ideas of what it means to be a pretty lady. The often disappointing casting decisions redirect people to return to favor the narrative found in literature instead of the narrative portraying in film… Therefore, the audience will never be disappointed because they are in charge of how a written narrative comes across in their own minds.