Posts Tagged ‘books and movies’

Even before the credits rolled at the end of Never Let Me Go, I could tell who hadn’t read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel before seeing the movie. Some had already walked out. Others were murmuring, “This is depressing,” or “Why were the students so passive?” Mainly, “I don’t understand . . .”

I’m a firm believer in reading a book before you see the movie. So what if you know what’s going to happen? Same thing if you see the film first, but at least reading is a first-hand experience. The writer’s vision hasn’t yet been filtered through a director, screenwriter, etc. And generally for readers, the books are better than the movies, The Godfather being a notable exception.

But I don’t really believe in comparing books to movies because it’s like comparing apples to oranges. As  Larry McMurtry once said — I’m paraphrasing here — the best apple in the world can’t beat an orange at being an orange.

That being said, I loved the book Never Let Me Go. I liked the movie. Because it had been several years since I read the novel, I reread it after seeing the movie, somewhat surprised at how faithful it was to the book in so many scenes. My initial reaction was that it wasn’t faithful enough. But I think that’s because the movie reveals a major plot point fairly early on, whereas Ishiguro’s elegiac narrative unfolds in impeccably controlled fashion. Something is odd about the exclusive English boarding school Hailsham from the first, but you don’t know exactly what. Disquietude grows as grown-up Kathy recalls her mostly halcyon days at Hailsham and her friendship with fellow students Ruth and Tommy. 

I also think a key scene in which young Kathy hugs a pillow while listening to the love ballad “Never Let Me Go,” shifts its emphasis needlessly. Then there’s the incredibly poignant ending. More is explained in the book; filmgoers end up “told and not told,” to echo Miss Lucy’s phrase.

Read the book. See the movie. I can’t get either out of my mind.

Open Book: I bought a paperback of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (Vintage) after first reading a library copy. I knew I wanted it on my shelf next to The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, my other Ishiguro favorites. I saw the movie at our local independent movie-cafe, The Enzian, because it was the only place it was playing. Too much talking among patrons and too many interruptions by waiters. And how is it possible to ruin a turkey sandwich?

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