TDB&TB Question #22 ~ Comparing the Book & the Film

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TDB&TB Question #22 ~ Comparing the Book & the Film

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon May 26, 2008 10:03 am

Compare the movie and the book. Were there things you liked better in one or the other?
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Unread postby nebraska » Mon May 26, 2008 11:38 am

Overall, I thought the movie was true to the spirit of the book. I liked that in many cases the voice-over was word-for-word what Jean-Do himself had written.

I was not as upset about the change in the women from his most recent lover to a "wife," even though in the movie he says "she is not my wife!" and the mother of his children really was not his wife. I can understand why the people in his life might be upset at the way the relationship was portrayed in the movie, but I think it would have muddied up the story and detracted from the focus on Jean-Do if the movie had got into his more complicated prior romantic life. Like many books made into movies, facts become guidelines more than actual rules. I thought the wife played a rather small role in the movie anyway. If I had seen the movie first before reading the book or knowing about the controversy, I might have different feelings.

The book was much more internal for me, so much about his thoughts and feelings. The movie was wonderfully visual. My first look at his paralyzed face was.........overwhelming, gut-wrenching. Nothing in the book prepared me for the visual presentation of his condition in the movie. The way his therapist recited the alphabet also became clearer to me after watching the movie.

For me, the movie enhanced the book.

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Unread postby Liz » Mon May 26, 2008 12:38 pm

I felt the movie enhanced the book. But I always have a hard time with playing with the facts. And in the commentary, Schnabel sets the record straight on a couple of things....like the fact that his wife rarely came to see him, but that his GF was there a lot. He never really comes out and says why that was changed. The average moviegoer is not going to watch it with the commentary, though, so will probably never know the real story.

Jean-Do's appearance was not a shock to me, actually, because I expected worse. I think Schnabel did an excellent job in translating the book to the screen--Jean-Do's vantage point was the most incredible. And the chapter on Paris came to life for me more in the movie than it did in the book.

I was disappointed with "A Day in the Life" because I really wanted him to use the Beatles song as opposed to the one he had chosen. But visually, I think he did a great job with it.
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Unread postby es » Mon May 26, 2008 2:12 pm

Just jumping in here as I read the book a few month ago and yesterday evening I (finally) watched the movie.

Althou I cant really remember everything from the book I must say I thought the movie was far more moving than the book I think because the book is far more outside the head of Jean Do.
Jean Do tries not to have selfpity and althou he shows pain somehow watching it from the "outside" was harder.

The most impressief scene I thought was the sewing of the eye,my how painful for the mind.

Thanks again for a great discussion,althou I dont join in much,I love to read your comments.
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es
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon May 26, 2008 2:51 pm

Hi, es! Good to see you at ONBC! :welcome: Glad you are following along.

I found the movie to be more depressing than the book. Maybe it was seeing the actual physicality of Jean-Do, hearing the frustration in his voice, I'm not sure. Although I thought the movie was very well done for me his sense of humor did not come through as clearly as in the book. It was there, just not as plentiful maybe? I can't quite put my finger on it. So in that sense I liked the book better but I liked the fact that the movie made it more real. So I think they each enhanced the other.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Liz » Mon May 26, 2008 3:05 pm

Hi es. :wave: Glad you popped in. :bounce:

I agree, DITHOT. The book was much more uplifting than the movie. I think maybe it was because of the way it was written. I think visually seeing Jean-Do’s situation in the movie emphasized his tragic circumstance more so than the book. And you are right. His sense of humor seemed to get lost in the movie.
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Unread postby Parlez » Mon May 26, 2008 5:04 pm

When I first heard about the book, written by a guy who was paralyzed and could only use his one good eye to dictate, letter by letter, I thought: no way am I going to subject myself to that exhausting downer! Then, when the movie came out and started winning awards, combined with my interest in all things Johnny-related, I thought: okay - I'll see the movie. As I said before, I was completely taken in by the movie, which was so beautifully done. So naturally I wanted to read the book.

I found the book to be great, but, for me, the movie was better. I'm a visual person, and I like imagery and symbolism, which you don't often get from the printed page. Plus the movie locations shot in Berck and Paris and Lourdes were helpful. In both the book and the movie I thought Jean-Do's musings were a tragic delight (if that's not an oxymoron!) and I was struck by his amazing spirit in both.

The 'artistic license' taken by Schnabel in telling Jean-Do's story is another matter. I wasn't happy to learn about how the rather major facts of the story and the important players had been altered. It seemed to cheapen the movie somewhat, or to cheapen my emotional involvement with the movie. I felt great sympathy for the mother in the movie, for example, and great pathos for Jean-Do waiting to hear from his lover. So I felt a bit manipulated when those things turned out not to be true. But then it hit me: that's what Schnabel does! He's a master manipulator; his creativity and his vision will trump reality every time! Once I accepted that, I could go back and love him and his movie all over again.

But I'm awfully glad to have the book. There's nothing quite like reading Jean-Do's own words regarding his experience...no movie can compare. :notworthy:
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Unread postby Liz » Mon May 26, 2008 5:30 pm

Very well said, Parlez. I think that we tend to like whichever we see (or read) first. If I see a movie before reading the book, I tend to prefer the movie. But most times I do not see the movie prior to reading a book. I usually skip the book (unless it’s Johnny related).

Parlez wrote:The 'artistic license' taken by Schnabel in telling Jean-Do's story is another matter. I wasn't happy to learn about how the rather major facts of the story and the important players had been altered. It seemed to cheapen the movie somewhat, or to cheapen my emotional involvement with the movie. I felt great sympathy for the mother in the movie, for example, and great pathos for Jean-Do waiting to hear from his lover. So I felt a bit manipulated when those things turned out not to be true. But then it hit me: that's what Schnabel does! He's a master manipulator; his creativity and his vision will trump reality every time! Once I accepted that, I could go back and love him and his movie all over again.

And I felt the way you did here about FN. After accepting that it was “inspired” by the life of James Barrie I was able to accept that the facts were manipulated and began to appreciate the movie for the sweet story that it was.

Oh and you just reminded me that I forgot to comment on something es said about watching his eye being sown shut. That was incredible! Although painful to watch, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen. :-O :grin:
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Unread postby suec » Tue May 27, 2008 4:31 am

No Twenty to One, The Sausage, Mythmaker. No The Message, The Dream, Wax Museum, Cinecitta.The flight of fancy montage, ending with the skiing clip (accompanied by a fantastic track reminiscent of The Godfather music) bears some similarity to Jean-Do's. Some of the writing is there from some of them, as with Twenty to One and and the lighthouse. But no memory of the race, or depiction of the film studio. I don't think the film suffers from that at all.
Added: Maria taking him to church; Claude taking him on the boat; the flight of fancy with her in the restaurant.
The changes add up to a shift in emphasis. There is more of a focus on the relationship with Claude, and other women. The same effect is achieved when the Beirut hostage man visits him to inform him of how he coped - something that is remembered in the book. Then there is the first third of the film where Jean-Do comes round, learns of his condition, and we reach the point where he is ready to write the book. We do spend a long time in his head in that part of the film (37 minutes before we leave it and see him for the first time lying in his bed). I think the effect overall is less emphasis placed on his memory and imagination and more placing him in there here and now, the restaurant scene notwithstanding. More emphasis on the physicality of his condition. I think the book and film complement each other that way and enough of Jean-Do's thoughts are there.
I also thought he made a little more of Jean-Do's regrets. He describes the glaciers sequence with the voice-over as the core of the film, and I guess that is why he shows the glaciers and credits in reverse at the end. He puts words in Jean-Do's mouth about treating the mother and his kids badly and not being able to make amends now. At least, I don't remember Jean-Do saying that in the book. I do think his regrets come over loud and clear in the book, in the horse race chapter for instance, but I don't remember that acknowledgment about his family.
Then there are the scenes with the mother and the deliberate flagging up of the fact that the girlfriend hasn't visited, that has already been commented on. But I'm having a problem accepting it. He chose well in filming it at Buerck, and faffed around casting real staff and patients but for me, he departed from a truth in the relationships of the trio. Of course, there's truth and then there's truth. I don't know how the gf reacted, or what cruel things he may have said to the mother - I imagine he was capable of some - and abandonment and rejection are nothing if not painful. But there are the facts as stated by Schabel in his commentary, and what he chose to portray on film. It leaves a nasty cynical taste in my mouth. Relationships ending can be incredibly painful things. Murky things too. Schnabel should have stayed clear altogether or at least stuck to the facts, IMO. I think he has taken liberties with real lives. But then I am one of those who never quite got over some of the tampering of the facts in FN either. :-/
On the other hand, I think that the visualisation of Jean-Do's situation, with his POV camera work, was brilliant, as was the use of images to symbolise his thoughts and feelings. I'm rather glad he didn't clutter up the terrace scenes with Cinecitta; they would have detracted from the beauty. The Buerck setting was a brilliant choice.
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Unread postby nebraska » Tue May 27, 2008 8:23 pm

Sue C, I could have sworn I read that about not being able to make amends, etc in the book. I have gone through my copy several times today and I cannot find the passage I thought I had read, so perhaps you are right, it wasn't stated outright but inferred along the way.

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Unread postby suec » Wed May 28, 2008 5:23 pm

nebraska, I too looked for the statement. I expected to find it right where he talks about Celine weeping for their shattered lives but, no. I do think Schnabel was right to focus on the regrets because really, the Twenty to One Chapter is full of them - and regrets about letting people down as well as missed opportunities, which could be inferred to be about his family also. But what strikes me now is how circumspect some of his comments are. How little there is really about, oh, personal stuff, I suppose. For example, we discussed the role of memory, but looking at his selection of memories, that he talks about drawing on. He doesn't talk about memories like seeing his children born, stuff like that. He uses selected memories to make a particular point or if he thinks it has some particular relevance to his situation at the time of writing the book. So, I think he had a particular focus.
But it has sure got me thinking about what my top, say, 7 memories would be.
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Unread postby nebraska » Wed May 28, 2008 8:56 pm

suec wrote:. So, I think he had a particular focus.
But it has sure got me thinking about what my top, say, 7 memories would be.


His book is not really a biography, but a collection of stand-alone vignettes, as it were, and I agree, he had a point to make with each. The bits he shared with us were more like illustrations. He carefully planned what he wanted to write and the order the chapters were to follow, but it is not a chronological order. So perhaps it is not so much about your top 7 memories as what 7 observations about life you would like to share. The more I think about this, the more I respect what Jean-Do accomplished as a writer.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed May 28, 2008 9:11 pm

Agreed, nebraska! And the more respect I have for you, our Noodlemantras! Your observations are food for thought indeed. I think there were some comments earlier about the fact the memories he chooses to share with us are not so much about family or his personal life with the exception of the passages about his feelings on seeing his children at Berck. Perhaps he was always a private person in that regard? Given his situation, how in the world do you choose what to write about and in such tightly woven chapters? I agree suec that he probably reached into his memory bank to make a particular point in each chapter but what an amazing focus he must have had.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby gemini » Wed May 28, 2008 9:59 pm

I have mixed feeling about the film since I read the book first. I think Schnable did a great job but I think the effect would have been just as poignant if he had not altered the real facts. The story come through anyhow and knowing the facts doesn't make me any less sympathetic to his situation. I think Jean Do made an attempt to be truthful in the book and they should have honored his story.
I think the book had sad scenes in it but the movie was really sad to me. I think Jean Do as the author, letting us know what he thought, made it much more interesting and even amusing in places.
Something tells me I should have watched the film first but it may have been even more sad to me and I may not have wanted to read the book.
Obviously I enjoyed them both but the book more so.
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