Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Book vs. Movie: Slaughterhouse-Five (1969/1972)
"I love George Roy Hill and Universal Pictures, who made a flawless translation of my novel Slaughterhouse-Five to the silver screen ... I drool and cackle every time I watch that film, because it is so harmonious with what I felt when I wrote the book." -author Kurt Vonnegut.
"Whoever *did* write this doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut!"- Dr. Diane Turner (played by Sally Kellerman) regarding a term paper about Vonnegut ghost written by Vonnegut in the movie "Back To School" (1986)
"You were just babies then! You were just babies in the war-- like the ones upstairs! But you're not going to write it that way, are you... You'll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you'll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we'll have a lot of them. And they'll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs." -Mary O'Hare
I read a book. It was about a fellow who happened to be a POW during the bombing of Dresden. He decided he would author a great book on the subject. Two decades later, he still hadn't managed the feat. He visited an old war buddy to drink in his kitchen and remember bad old times. Bernard O'Hare's wife didn't appreciate this, as she had strong feelings about sending babies to war. The author agreed, and swore to write an anti-war book (and perhaps an anti-glacier novel after,) called "The Children's Crusade." He did so, though his story was more like a pleasant, rambling, possibly drunken series of anecdotes told out of sequence about an archtypical character representing all those babies. Billy Pilgrim was a fragile little boy who was sent to places he did not belong, not that anyone did, and never recovers. His mind is functional, for the most part, but he remains a passive spectator in all things until the end of his life.
I saw a movie. It was about a good-natured young man who has a series of serio-comic adventures in a wacky POW camp. It was like "Hogan's Heroes," by way of "Catch-22." No one told the story, at least no one with a voice. It just sort of happened. The fellow becomes unstuck in time, and bounces from era to era, and eventually to other worlds and a future. He was heroic, in that he tried to save people from tragedies he is aware of from his many travels. Also, he is assertive when necessary, like when he demands privacy while sleeping with a porn star within the first few minutes of meeting her. This may be because he has a huge wang. You never know who'll get one.
A great many events from the book appear in the movie. It is a depiction of events from the book, you see. I do mean, "you see." As in, you see actual breasts that were only drawn on one page of the book. You see a plane crash, and far more of a car wreck than you'd expect from the author's telling. But as I said, the author doesn't tell this story in the movie, and a story really is all in the telling. Also, the wang does not appear in the movie. It isn't even mentioned. There is a coo. It does not go "Poo-tee-weet?"
If I were to direct my own version Slaughterhouse-Five, I would not mention the aliens. They are described at length in prose, but I would let that go. I think I would focus entirely on the war. That may seem like a deep cut, but movies are short, so time is a factor here. Obviously. It takes time to show with pictures lethargy, starvation, and the depths of squalor. The book is about an ordeal that never ends. Without seeing the trauma, hearing the reflections, nor really the effects, you're left with a series of events told in a clinical fashion in the style of only the most pretentious 70's cinema. The movie is a thing. It is a series of photographs that could be projected while reading the book, except there are discrepancies. These were ill-considered.
I read a book. It was impactful. The phrase "so it goes" was recited 106 times.
I watched a movie. It was a thing. It did not move. It was a lovely shade of azure. I don't recall the phrase "so it goes" being used in the film. The film did not repeat itself much at all. They loved it in France. So it goes.
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