Ever since I watched the movie Inkheart, I became obsessed with it and saved all my money just to buy the first two installments of the Cornelia Funke's trilogy. I just finished reading it and re-watched the film. By doing so, I managed to observe numerous differences between the two.
Honestly, I always feel sleepy every time I read the novel. I don't know why but maybe because of the style of writing and the theme of the novel. Inkheart is like a typical classic children book with all the fantasies the writer could imagine included. The fairies, the henchmen, the fireraisers, the magical creatures and the cruel villains. The style of writing is somewhat like in the Narnia chronicles and Lord of the Rings saga, however Funke's was toned down and quite modern already.
Between the two, I must say that despite the wonderful changes for cinematic purposes, I would prefer the novel. It was more complete, full, the characters' personality were more defined and developed, also it gives you more freedom to visualize or imagine Inkworld and Capricorn's village. In the novel, it was not clear where they are (just possibly somewhere in Europe) but the houses, the villages, the plazas were vividly described. Capricorn's village was like no other with its brick roads and houses, dungeons and stables and the magnanimous church turned castle. On the contrary, the movie clearly puts the story in Italy. Though they captured the places quite enough, there are still differences that I think they should not have done.
First, Capricorn's church was literally a Church. It's just that the cathedral's pews were removed and replaced with tables, and the dais was made with a throne instead of an altar. The movie on the contrary created a palace for him. Though the details and designs was quite similar, the redness of the Church that defines Capricorn was not included. I believe that it was essential because the theme of colors was essential in the book. For example, red signifies Capricorn's anger and cruelty. His "heart that was black as an ink" was shown in his attires and his men's attires. Meggie's white dress in the end of the story signifies her innocence and sacrifice. It also makes a contrast between white and black. light and dark. good and evil. The magnanimity of the Church was definitely disregarded also which I believe signifies his greed and lust for power.
Second, Elinor's mansion does not only have a library full of rare books. The mansion itself was rather filled with books---the walls, the living rooms, bedrooms, libraries. This hunger of Elinor for learning, knowledge and wisdom, her wide collection of rare, leatherbound, first edition books of the past centuries, were quite toned down in the movie. This does not only fall to Elinor but to all other characters. In the movie, the actors do not seem to be booklovers as that of the novel. They were simply labeled as the "book doctor", "bookworms", "silvertongues". In the novel, it is their life. They would rather die than their books. It is hard to explain but in the novel,everywhere thy go, they manage to bring a book or two and read. They know all the stories and the characters. However, only the Wonderful Wizard Of Oz was the only dominant novel in the film. But actually, also the Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Rings, Arabian Nights and many other novels had their parts in the story. The movie emphasized more on the main plot, disregarding another point of the novel, that it was a novel that gives tribute to other great novels by using characters that symbolize different types of book enthusiasts.
In reading also the book, I admit that the voices of those who portrayed Mortimer Folchart, Elinor Loredan and Meggie ring in my ear. However, I visualize the character (even the whole novel) to be animated. I think their voices truly give justice to the characters, especially Brendan Fraiser's.
The ending of the two were very different. Completely different. And because they made the film's ending "somehow like" the sequel's opening scene, I think Inkheart would be a stand-alone. Guess that's all. You must read the novel so you would know what I'm talking about. :)