Generally, I am not that person who freaks out over movie adaptations of books. I really like seeing how a movie producer and his cast and crew interpret the author’s story and adapt it for a different medium. If you read my book/movie comparison posts, I try to look at the theme and characters instead of every little scene and detail. there are even some movies I like more than the books! I know, blasphemy, right?!
But there is a book near and dear to my hear that is being adapted into a movie, and I don’t know how to feel about it.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This is a book about a young girl named Liesel. She grows up in Nazi Germany and the story is about her learning to read, using words to find power. It’s about her friendship with a boy named Rudy and a Jewish fist-fighter they hide in their basement.It’s about her loving adoptive parents, Hans and Rosa. It is an amazing book and if I could, I’d recommend it to every single person I met.
It’s a book about the power of words. The power of story. It’s a book for book lovers, and yet my husband, who isn’t a huge reader, loved it, too.
So, this movie business.
There are so many things about this book that work because it’s a book. It’s narrated by Death. He interrupts the narrative with little definitions and lists and thoughts. He foreshadows to the ending multiple times. He tells you in the beginning who dies. His voices bring this ominous and yet darkly funny tone to the book. Included in the book are two stories that the Jewish fist-fighter, Max, wrote for Liesel. You see their drawings, the faded words of Mein Kampf that Max uses for his book, their handwriting.
Those are huge parts of the story. Being made into a movie will put the story in a linear fashion through the all-knowing eye of a movie viewer. It changes that which makes it so unique. It takes just Liesel and her friends and family and her stealing books and tries to make sense of it for the everyday movie-goer. It’s going to be a very different story because it will be relying on visuals, on spoken words, on music.
So, yeah, I’m nervous. It’s not going to be the same. It never is, but this book is really, really going to be different. Like I said, I’m not sure how to feel about it. Excitement because inevitably more people will read the book? Dread because it’s going to be much different than what people will probably expect after seeing the movie? I feel both. I’m excited that the author’s work is being recognized, that his story is being told, even if it’s in such a different way. I dread that they will take this lovely story and strip it of what makes it so good. But in doing so, they will create their own story. And maybe that’s okay.
For example, in Everything is Illuminated, there were some pretty big changes that took the basic story and made it into a different one. You can’t honestly say that the story is the same when in the movie, Jonathan isn’t a writer, but a collector; when Alex doesn’t confess that he never went to clubs or ‘became carnal’ with girls; when his grandfather is secretly Jewish instead of a flawed person who turned his Jewish friends into the Nazis. Those things take the Everything Is Illuminated story and change it. They take Jonathan Safran Foer’s story and make it Liev Schreiber’s. But I love that movie. I love the story of the movie, and I love the story of the book.
So, I hope the same thing happens with The Book Thief. I will recognize that it is a different story, though taken from the same flesh and bones of my favorite book. I hope I can love it for itself instead of comparing it to one of the books that changed the way I think about life.