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The Idiot: Novel Required?

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    Vili Maunula

    I have moved Ryan‘s question from this thread into its own thread here, since it kind of starts a new topic with its question:

    Ryan: It’s always nice reading the posts here, even if I’ve yet to see The Idiot. I saw The Quiet Duel the other day and while I wasn’t impressed, I don’t think it’s as bad as critics seem to claim. It’s passable, though relatively forgettable. Anyway back on topic…

    I’ve been putting off watching The Idiot for a good month or two now, despite having it in my possession (it’s the only film from the postwar Kurosawa set that I haven’t seen).

    The reason I’ve delayed the film so is not merely because of its long run time and all the bad things I’ve heard about it but also because I don’t know whether I should read the novel before seeing the film. I’ve never had this dilemma before when watching a film, but to truly appreciate Kurosawa’s The Idiot, I don’t know whether to read the original novel or not beforehand.

    Anyone read the novel / not the read the novel before seeing the film? What do you think I should do?

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    Vili Maunula

    That’s a really good question, Ryan. I first saw The Idiot without having read the novel, and it was confusing. Now I watched it with the novel somewhat fresh in my mind, and it was less confusing, but I don’t think I really enjoyed it any more than before.

    Maybe you could think of it this way: if you read the book first, you can never see the film without having read the book. However, if you watch the film first, then read the book, you can later watch the film again, now with the added benefit of having read the book. (I hope that makes sense.)

    So, if you want to experience the film without the novel’s baggage (as I suppose most of the audiences would), you should watch the film before reading the book.

    Also, at least in my case knowing the film didn’t have much influence on reading of the novel. The film is different enough, so I never really thought of for instance Kurosawa’s cast or settings when reading Dostoevsky’s original.

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