Friday, December 30, 2011


Over the years I've argued that it's fruitless to compare iterations of a story, especially when crossing forms (book to movie, etc). Better to take each on its own terms, I say. My converts are few, even among my own family. There seems to be a natural tendency to select a version and deem it authoritative. It's not always the original.

This week, at a family gathering, I told my brother-in-law that the book I most enjoyed this year was True Grit. It's great, I told him, maybe even a masterpiece. Economy, voice, plotting, characters. All done superbly. And it's funny. In the best way, because the humor is so embedded in the characterization.

I don't know, my brother-in-law said. I picked it up in the book store, but there didn't seem to much there that wasn't in the movie. (I think he was referring to the recent Coen Brothers adaptation.)

Exactly, I said. All of the best lines and situations are there in the book. Plus, you get Mattie's voice.

Not enough value added, he said.

Later that day I went to see the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with my father. Or, as he calls it, The Girl with the Purple Parrot (see previous post).

At various times during the movie he leaned over to say, That's not how it happened, you know.

As if the Swedish movie (he hasn't read the book) is real life and the American movie is loosely fictionalized.

He was particularly disturbed by the ending, which conflated two characters and ended on the wrong continent. I agreed that it seemed muddled and tacked on, as if the filmmakers suddenly remembered they had a mystery to solve.

And it's just not true, my father huffed.

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