Visual storytelling – 2 examples

I really like the fact that we have so many wonderful visually rich stories, in the form of the picture books and graphic novels/comics, available to us nowadays. Our students have always liked reading them (eg. the Asterix and Tintin stories in the past were some of the most read items in our library) but now they cover some many genres and types of stories.

Today there are also more links between cinema and literature and the power of using the “right”visuals to tell stories has become very important. The visuals can be so powerful and their information does not depend on understanding any written language but a much more universal world of visual clues.

For instance, recently Coraline, which originally began as a book then became a graphic novel and finally has a life as an animated film. With the author being Neil Gaiman, it is not surprising that this is a rather creepy tale. The story is about a young girl who is trying to get her work obsessed parents attention, has struck a chord with our students and adults. The film has been doing well and has led a number of our students back to the library to find the books. It is yet another example of the links that have been forged between books and films. There was a post on our WFC library blog going into more detail.

Our students love discussing the merits of the film vs the book. The latest Harry Potter film has been quite controversial, with many having strong opinions on the merits of both. There has been a lot of discussion about the ability of a film to adequately tell a complex/involved story from a book.

Listening to our students, I don’t think anything will replace the experience of reading the “good” or compelling novel, but movies can enhance experiences. Comparisons between graphic novels and films are tailor-made to start discussions about books and films. Both are visual mediums but are also very different.

Over the weekend I found out about yet another story that has been told visually. This time it is a true story, from the point of view of a young Israeli soldier. The story illustrating the horrors of the Israeli-Lebanon war, became an animated film that won awards in 2008 and was extremely well received in many countries. I had not heard of the film and searched for something about it on YouTube. The official site tries to explain how the  animators used illustrations to create the unique atmosphere, created with a rather dream-like (nightmare) quality at times.  It took 4 years to complete.

Waltz with Bashir - coverI watched a trailer of it after I found and read the graphic novel that was published after the film. Ari Folman, a screen writer and director, wrote his own story in Waltz with Bashir. He also directed the film and he, along with David Polonsky, created the graphic novel entitled Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon war story.

The story in the book is complex and compelling. The images and the text combine to help the reader to glimpse the horror that is war, the banalities, the strangeness of the situations the soldiers experience and the way that they deal with it after they have left the battlefields. I feel I must now go out and find the film. We have been studying All quiet on the Western Front this year and Waltz with Bashir  could certainly be used as an extension piece.

Whilst I was searching for more information about the movie and it’s director, I came across the following YouTube Video. It is a great panel discussion about the power of visual storytelling and one of the 3 panelists was our own Shaun Tan. This is a long video but there is so much interesting discussion about their approaches to creating their stories. It is also very interesting to hear about their inspiration especially the illustrators and artists that inspire them.


One Response

  1. […] August 13 by tsheko Ms Powling has been discussing the relationship between books and films in her blog. Listening to our students, I don’t think anything will replace the experience of reading the […]

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