Thursday, February 08, 2007
Hiatus, preceded by Meander
I probably won't be posting for the next couple of weeks. Don't send out search parties. I will probably be okay. Maybe my bro' will find something to post about in my absence. Also, I probably won't be commenting on your blogs. Please don't take it personally. It's me, not you.
Before I embark on this hiatus, I will leave you with a meander: In case you haven't heard already, the movie version of Bridge to Terabithia is due out on February 16th. (The link is to the book -- this is the link to the movie's Flash-bloated site.) Bridge to Terabithia is one of my all-time favorite books. People discount it because it's a "children's story," but I don't care who thinks I'm an uncouth idiot, I rank it up there with Conrad's Heart of Darkness. It's that powerful. And now it's been made into a movie.
On the whole, I take a dim view of movies based on books. It seems a little vampiristic. But I admire it when a movie is based on book that's fundamentally uncinematic, and yet manages to be a great movie anyway. The French Lieutenant's Woman and The Joy Luck Club come to mind. I read both books, and in each case when I learned they were being made into movies, I shook my head (well, okay, not really, but I thought about shaking my head). There was no way these books could be turned into good movies. The French Lieutenant's Woman simply used too many literary techniques that had no visual counterparts, and The Joy Luck Club was way too intricate and complicated for the big screen. But both movies are in fact great. The makers of The French Lieutenant's Woman actually departed from the story in the book, but by doing so adhered closely to the book's spirit and intent. It's startling and refreshing. And The Joy Luck Club turned out to be a superbly crafted miniature of the book, like a perfectly detailed dollhouse. If you haven't read these books and seen these movies, and literature and film are both something that interest you, you might want to take a look. Read the books first, if you get a chance, because then you'll admire the ingenuity of the movies even more.
So what's my point? This: Bridge to Terabithia is another book that is uncinematic. Most of the important events take place in the head of the main character, Jess Aarons. He doesn't express them, except in a limited way through his drawings. The fact that he is by nature withdrawn and suppressed is central to the story and its outcome. I'm curious to see how the filmmakers have transfered the inner workings of Jess's mind to the screen. And I'm afraid, given that Disney made the film, that they haven't even have tried -- that they've gutted the introspective part of the story and focused only on the visual events, which, if they've done that, has probably turned a story worthy of comparison (in my opinion) with Heart of Darkness into, well, a children's story.
I'll see you in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, if you want to be entertained and moved, you can give Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia a read. Oh... but in case you're concerned, the ending is almost exactly the opposite of Heart of Darkness, so you don't have to, like, look forward to being depressed.