“The Transition from Book to Film: Examining YA Books that Have Been Made into Films” by Mary Warner
The Application of Contrasts in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Review by Miriam Malca
The book is told from a third person limited point of view that heavily favors the main character; the story is told through the eyes of Bruno, the nine-year-old son of a Nazi military official. Boyne uses child-like language when referring to certain elements of the story – “The Fury” rather than Führer, “Out-With” rather than Auschwitz, and so on – in order to illustrate Bruno’s naivety and innocence with regards to the conflicts raging around him (2, 24 this and all other quotations in this paper are taken from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne). Telling this story through the eyes of a child softens the details, adding a more human aspect to the harsh realities of the Holocaust. However, in the novel, this is not done successfully: by limiting the point of view to that of Bruno and only Bruno, Boyne softens reality too much, resulting in a novel that glosses over important details, and a story that misses the mark in terms of impact. Bruno’s narration is too unreliable, a detail that director, Mark Herman corrects in his film adaptation. In the film version of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Bruno’s naivety and innocence are contrasted by the stark imagery of Nazi Germany: the film opens on a public square filled with Nazi flags as Bruno and his friends run and play, literally showing the convergence of adult reality and childhood innocence (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 00:01:00 – 00:01:40).
The contrasts provided in the film take the simple, one-dimensional characters of the book and add detail and dimension to them. Boyne’s treatments of Bruno and his sister, Gretel, are overly simplistic. In attempting to illustrate the degree of innocence and naivety in these characters Boyne portrays them as slow, almost stupid, and more immature than they should be, considering their ages. As previously mentioned, nine-year-old Bruno has trouble with Nazi concepts that would be common in his life, such as the phrase “Heil, Hitler” and the Nazi rhetoric relating to Jewish people (54, 182). Likewise, Gretel is shown to be quite simple, particularly in their conversation about their move to the countryside: she defines “the foreseeable future” as meaning “weeks from now…Perhaps as long as three” (15). At twelve -year - old, Gretel should understand complex concepts more deeply, as she does in the film. Gretel is shown as very one-dimensional in the book, with Bruno simply referring to her as “a Hopeless Case” (3). The film shows Gretel’s transformation from a little girl into a young woman, not only through her discarding of her old dolls in favor of Nazi propaganda posters, but in her reactions to Bruno and her parents, as well as her interactions with Lieutenant Kotler (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 00:37:00).
Similarly, in the book, Bruno’s impression – and therefore the only impression conveyed – of his mother is that of a woman who takes frequent “afternoon naps” and drinks many “medicinal sherries” (150, 167). In the film, Bruno’s mother, Elsa, is a more well-developed character, who struggles with the inhumanity that her husband’s job requires, causing her to feel depressed and to become physically gaunter as the film progresses (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas). Elsa is unhappy living near Auschwitz and instigates an argument with her husband, expressing her distress and depression. In the book, Bruno overhears snippets of an argument between his parents that he does not understand; in the film, the entire argument is shown, with Bruno entering the room and discovering his crying mother and angry father (186-187) (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 00:49:10 – 00:50:10). Bruno is distraught and confused, appropriately highlighting his innocence through this contrast, displaying the extent of the disagreement.
The visual contrasts made throughout Herman’s film provide information that the book does not. The stark differences between Bruno and his family, and the Jewish inmates that work in their house – such as their waiter, Pavel – illustrate the important differences between Jews and non-Jews in Nazi Germany in a way that is inadequately emphasized in the novel (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 00:15:17). In the film, Bruno sees a propaganda clip highlighting the happy lifestyle of Jews within the concentration camps (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 01:01:55 – 01:03:54). In this scene, Bruno’s father and the other SS officers laugh and applaud the film, while Bruno looks confused as he attempts to reconcile the differences between what he sees in the clip with what he sees in real life. Once inside the camp, Bruno cannot help but compare the images in the propaganda clip to the harsh realities that he experiences (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 01:20:31 – 01:22:11). This visual contrast between the propaganda clip and the reality of the camp makes a greater impact on the viewers and on Bruno himself. In the book, Bruno compares the empty, dull camp with the vibrant cafés and public spaces of Berlin, noticing the differences between lifestyles rather than highlighting the dangerous lies of Nazi propaganda (207-208).
The effective use of contrast in the film is not limited to the visual, but also encompasses the verbal. The contrast in dialogue between the children and the parents is a means of emphasizing Bruno’s innocence while still providing all of the necessary information. In the film, the ideas that Bruno has about the camps and the people in them are clarified by his parents’ own discussions (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 00:16:24 – 00:18:17). In the novel, the dialogue is limited to Bruno’s inner and outer monologue, his conversations with Shmuel – the equally innocent Jewish boy with whom Bruno connects – and the snippets of adult conversations that do not always make sense (26, 30, 52-54). The contrasts between Bruno’s conversations with other children like Gretel or Shmuel and the conversations between the adult characters builds an understanding of events and brings a sense of clarity to the film that is severely lacking in the novel.
Contrasts serve as a means of highlighting important aspects of the story and increasing the impact of the events that take place. This is particularly evident in the different endings of the film and the novel, illustrating the importance of contrast in creating an ending that challenges and captivates an audience long after the end of the piece. Boyne’s ending is anti-climactic: the nineteenth chapter ends with Bruno and Shmuel about to die in the gas chamber, then concludes with a long-winded epilogue about how Bruno is never found, how Elsa and Gretel return to Berlin while their father remains in Auschwitz, only to finally discover, one year after his actual death, how Bruno was killed (212-216). The ending of the film is much more satisfying. Scenes of Bruno entering the camp, walking around with Shmuel, and entering the gas chamber are contrasted with scenes of Bruno’s family realizing that he is missing and frantically searching for him; his death is punctuated by a long, silent shot of the gas chamber’s thick, metal door (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 01:19:51 – 01:28:03). The film concludes with Bruno’s father realizing too late that Bruno has died in the gas chambers, his mother and sister crying in absolute anguish, and one final shot of the gas chamber doors as the camera pans out to show the rows and rows of discarded striped uniforms belonging to all of the murdered inmates (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 01:29:03 – 01:30:16). The contrasts between the innocent scenes of Bruno trying to help Shmuel find his father and the frantic search scenes elevate the importance of Bruno’s death. These two sets of scenes culminate at the same point: the gas chamber doors, illustrating the final, tragic meeting place of Bruno’s innocence and his reality. Therefore, the convergence of adult reality and childhood innocence in the first scene of the film is mirrored in the last scene.
The contrasts that Herman brings to Boyne’s story are vital in the development of the main characters and in the presentation of the plot. Bruno’s confusion and frustration build as his naivety comes into contact with the stark reality of the Holocaust, emphasizing the tragedy of his untimely death and allowing a full exposé of the horrors of the Nazi regime. The contrasts used in the film create a more impactful ending than that of the book, resulting in a story that resonates more strongly.
Boyne, John. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: A Fable. Random House Group Ltd., 2006.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Dir. Mark Herman. Miramax, 2008. Film.
The Better Game (Ender's Game) Review by Ryan Madison
The doctor was twisting something at the back of Ender’s head. Suddenly a pain stabbed through him like a needle from his neck to his groin. . . The doctor was trembling; his voice shook as he spoke, “They leave these things in the kids for three years, what do they expect? We could have switched him off, do you realize that? We could have unplugged his brain for all time. (3-4)
Rather than focusing on Ender as he is being prepped by the doctor to take out the observation device in his neck, the movie focuses on the battle for Earth, as alien ships fly in the sky and fighter pilots desperately defend their homes. It’s eye-catching, full of action, and represents absolutely nothing about what the book is about. Instead of conveying that the main character almost dies in the first scene, outside of anyone’s control, this scene and the book as a whole are treated like an action sci-fi film. This very scene, where the device in pulled out and Ender leaves the room with a sore neck in the next shot, is left out of the film. All of the substance is taken away, and there is nothing else left besides surface. Yes, the book is a science fiction story, but it wouldn’t be so successful if it didn’t have something else inside of it.
Almost every teenager feels frustration, whether it be because of family, loss, or from having choices taken away from them. Choice is something that is routinely taken from Ender as he is manipulated by the two figures observing him in the book. Colonel Graff and Major Anderson repeatedly discuss their observation of Ender at the beginning of every chapter, as they discuss their various strategies and eventually argue over the ramifications of their manipulations. In the movie, these two are set at odds and eventually the Major quits because of the Colonel’s uncaring behavior towards Ender. In the book, these two are almost equals, both drenched in the mire of their schemes, knowing they are doing terrible things and still pushing forward. They are making hard choices that the protagonist is hopeless to stop. They are the cause of all of Ender’s trials, forcing him into one altercation after another, where he ends up causing the deaths of two other boys.
Another thing that the movie elides is that both of the young boys who Ender defends himself from die. The first is brushed aside, while Bonzo is placed in a comma. The movie doesn’t allow people to die, as if it forgets that the conclusion of the movie ends in the death of an entire race, which turns out to not have been their enemy after all. This is just another example of where the movie doesn’t explore all the ramifications.
Family is an extremely important concept, as it drives Ender’s progress further than any other force in the book. The movie shows the older sister, Valentine, as a simple shoulder to cry on. She talks to Ender with love and calms him down. Peter, the older brother and the eldest, is just mean and antagonistic. However, both of these aspects are brought down to their most crude forms. Valentine is actually a genius in terms of emotions and psychological analysis. She knows exactly what to say to people to make them feel happy or crushed. This is why she is such a pillar of support to Ender and why she was called to convince him, after his reclusion on the lake, to go to commander school. As Ender flat-out gives up, pushed to the breaking point, Valentine says exactly what he needs to hear to get him back up. Then there’s Peter, who can’t be better explained than with his introduction. As he “plays” with Ender in a mock fight, he gets him to the ground and says, “‘I could kill you like this’ Peter whispered. ‘Just press and press until you’re dead’” (12). This is cruelty and violence wrapped into one, which makes it all the more understandable when Ender says he’s afraid of becoming like Peter.
The actors chosen in the movie also diminish much of the book’s plot. The famous Harrison Ford is playing as Colonel Graff, while Major Anderson is played by a woman named Viola Davis. The decision behind these cast choices represents another problem in most adaptations. Graff, in the book, loves Ender dearly, despite how hard he pushes him. He’s grown with the boy and yet he forces himself to break him, mold him, all while loving him. It’s similar to Ender’s philosophy toward his enemies, where the moment he defeats them, destroys them, he loves them and understands them on a fundamental level. Anderson is analytical, a man who sees the way Ender’s mind is forming and understands that they are doing terrible things to him. He disagrees with Graff because he doesn’t think Ender can make it, while Graff trusts the boy. The movie changes Graff into being the overly strict sergeant with only the drive to do what’s necessary. Anderson is played by a woman and is made into the maternal, caring figure who tries to fight for human rights. There’s no reason to have done this, when the original characters are so much more captivating in all their flaws and talents. They both know that they are doing horrible things and do what they know they will regret. Then there is Bonzo’s character, played by Moisés Aires. This destroys any semblance I had of a suspension of disbelief. I’ve grown up with this actor on the Disney channel as the funny side character, so when I see him try to act serious, trying to branch out, he only seems out of place. They should have re-cast for Bonzo because that character is extremely integral to Ender’s development, and it can be jarring to see an actor play a role he/she is unused to.
The book and the movie are different enough that they almost tell two different stories. Incredibly important details are left out, like Valentine and Peter taking over the world’s government while Ender is training, or the court case against Colonel Graff for the murder of two youths, and most importantly the time dilation. The movie goes through its story in the span of months, while the book takes years to finish its story. The stakes are so much higher in the book because of how Ender feels and just how his situation has backed him into a corner. The movie guts all of the important themes in the book, like impossible decisions with no right answer, death and murder, and a family that drives Ender to his highest and lowest points. The movie is suddenly left with a basic sci-fi story, with no underlying theme to take away. The last scene in the book says it all, as Ender finds and cares for the last surviving queen of the alien race he exterminates, nominates himself as the speaker for the dead. After all his frustration and so many betrayals, Ender finds his purpose in righting the wrongs of his actions. The movie leaves with a cliff hanger after he finds the egg. Ender is still just a child, so his promise to protect his charge is idealistic at best and doesn’t seem to have the weight of his position behind it. The movie is a shell of what is a fantastical journey of discovery and struggle with a life that is not in Ender’s control, much like the journey from youth to adulthood. It is, after all, a piece of young adult literature.
The Giver’s Colorless Adaptation Review by Steven Le
An immediately noticeable change to The Giver in its film adaptation is the character of Jonas and his classmates being sixteen years of age rather than being twelve years old. This is not a superficial change and significantly changes Jonas’ character and his journey into adolescence. In the novel, in addition to the isolation Jonas suffers as “The Receiver,” he must also deal with the growing pains of adolescence. For example, in the novel, Jonas experiences an erotic dream about Fiona due to the onset of puberty, “feelings that his mother called Stirrings” (Lowry 36), and takes pills in order to get rid of his sexual and romantic desires. The film touches upon the surface of this subject in the scene where Jonas and Fiona sled together and are reminded “that it is impolite to touch Community members outside your family unit” (Noyce), but then uses the relationship between Jonas and Fiona to create a romantic subplot instead, failing to capture the confusion and isolation that Jonas suffers in the novel when trying to understand his feelings. Noyce instead chooses to provide a clear answer about the nature of Jonas’ feelings for Fiona and the value of these feelings by creating a romantic relationship between the two characters.
Ambiguity about traditionally positive features of humanity, such as love and family, is maintained throughout the novel. The first memory Jonas is given in both the novel and the film is the memory of sledding, a very positive memory, but the film does not include the scene in which Jonas receives his first negative memory, a sledding accident where “He fell with his leg twisted under him, and could hear the crack of bone” (Lowry 104). The very first joy that Jonas experiences in the thrill of sledding also comes with the possibility of pain or even death should an accident occur, and this theme of choice allowing for both happiness and suffering recurs throughout the novel, especially when Jonas and The Giver decide to give the Community back its memories, choosing freedom over the compulsive peace that the Community enforces. In the film this ambiguity is briefly mentioned, but is not deeply explored; Jonas accidentally receives memories of war, as opposed to the novel where he receives them to help The Giver who asks Jonas to “‘take some of the pain’” (Lowry 113), and decides that the joys he sees in memories of the past are not worth the horrors of war and whatever else mankind may be capable of given the opportunity. This moment of hesitation is quickly ended minutes later in the film when Jonas witnesses a baby undergoing “Release,”and decides that the murder of war is still present as “Release.” While the novel considers the possible consequences of Jonas and The Giver’s quest to bring freedom of choice back to the Community, the film presents freedom as the ultimate good and characterizes the fear of the dangers of freedom as irrational.
Not content to just simplify important themes that are present in the novel, the film adaptation of The Giver also makes an effort to unnecessarily complicate the narrative. Lois Lowry focuses on Jonas’ personal coming-of-age struggles as The Receiver and the isolation he suffers from his friends and family forces Jonas to rely on his own strength throughout the novel. Noyce confuses the narrative by introducing a romantic subplot between Jonas and Fiona where Fiona struggles with her feelings and a sudden reintroduction of Asher at the climax of the film where Asher places his faith in Jonas. These various subplots only take away from screen-time that could have been spent examining the difficult decisions that Jonas and The Giver must make, and in fact the novel does originally spend much of its time dealing with the issue of whether or not rebelling against the Community is the right thing to do. The film adaptation changes the climax of the story from a contemplative and thematic journey in which Jonas and Gabriel must find the strength to free humanity to a Hollywood action sequence that does little to inspire even the cheap thrills it goes for, much less provide a thought provoking ending for the audience.
The Giver is not an entirely awful movie, and at times the film’s visual elements help portray the atmosphere and aesthetic of The Community in a way that words alone cannot: the use of color as Jonas and the Community reclaim their perception of it takes advantage of film as a visual medium and the sanitized appearance of the Community is reasonably well done. Still, the film’s attempt at creating a sense of foreboding surveillance did not quite live up to the oppressive atmosphere of the novel, which is disappointing as there are other dystopian films such as Minority Report provide excellent examples of how to achieve such an atmosphere. Ultimately, even with some strengths in the visual direction of the film, Noyce fails to understand what makes The Giver such an engaging novel. Changes from the novel that may seem innocuous at first, from Jonas’ age to the additional roles given to Fiona and Asher in the plot, all pile up as the film progresses and the final product is a distilled, shallow summary of the ideas Lois Lowry presents in her novel.
Lowry, Lois. The Giver. Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
Noyce, Phillip, director. The Giver. The Weinstein Company, 2014.
Untold Accounts in Narnia Review by Shelby Escott
The first supplementary scene that Adamson adds takes place in the very beginning of the movie, depicting the Pevensies’ flight from the war-torn city of London. In this scene, Peter and Edmund Pevensie are immediately pitted against one another, setting up the premise for Edmund’s ultimate betrayal of his siblings to the White Witch later on in the novel. Furthermore, the scene sets the tone for the beginning of the story, beginning with danger, suspense, and realism, which serves to contrast with the introduction to the land of Narnia, which is full of color, life, and fantasy. These elements that separate Narnia from reality are enhanced by the dark tone of the cinematic prologue. The train ride from the city into the country pushes the separation between the manmade construction of war and the fantastic and natural world of Narnia in a move that reflects the Romantic period’s preference for nature over industry.
In passing through the closet, the Pevensies part ways as Edmund seeks out the White Witch and the rest of the siblings continue to seek out Aslan. In the original novel, this progression is treated with brevity which could have been reflected in the film with a montage or something similar. Adamson, though, chooses this opportunity to begin developing Peter’s character by introducing the Witch’s wolf early on in order to foreshadow their later confrontation. To do this, Adamson gives the wolf more individual agency as well as a sense of importance by giving him a name, Maugrim. By creating a scene to facilitate Peter and Maugrim’s first confrontation, Adamson creates a subplot between the two, emphasized by their repartee and Peter’s initial failure to participate in the battle, choosing instead to break the ice and escape, leaving the wolves alive and creating potential for a rematch. Because Peter cannot bring himself to fight in this first encounter, his victory over Maugrim later on by the river feels that much more triumphant in comparison.
Before Peter’s rematch, though, is yet another added scene between Susan and Lucy Pevensie. In the book, Lewis writes, “‘Meanwhile, let the feast be prepared. Ladies, take these daughters of Eve to the pavilion and minister to them,’” a quote spoken by Aslan and the only indication of what the two sisters do while Aslan speaks to Peter concerning his future as high king of Narnia (125, This and all other quotes featured in this work are taken from C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). Adamson, however, takes advantage of this small phrase and the following scene where Peter first bloodies his sword to build a scene in which the sisters’ relationship is explored. By creating tension between the older and younger sisters, Adamson gives their characters more depth as compared to the relatively flat characters in the book. Although this scene does not appear in the novel, it is described in the original plot within the novelization and so is not totally divergent from Lewis’ writing, but takes advantage of the third person point of view in that Adamson adds the account at the river as told from Susan and Lucy’s perspective. Additionally, by depicting the sisters as bickering and with an imperfect relationship, there is less of a need for the suspension of disbelief because that realistic element within the magical world grounds the characters just enough to make them believable as well as interesting.
A final scene which Adamson adds to the film adaptation is that of Peter and Edmund’s charge into battle against the White Witch’s forces, a pivotal moment in the movie which is not depicted or even necessary in the book. Lewis, in the original novel, focusses his attention on the revival of the statues in the Witch’s home, following Susan, Lucy, and Aslan after his triumphant resurrection at the stone table. Meanwhile, Peter and Edmund begin the battle for Narnia, but what they are thinking or feeling is lost to the limited third person point of view. The moment the reader encounters the battle is in media res, as it is written, “There stood Peter and Edmund and all the rest of Aslan’s army fighting desperately against the crowd of horrible creatures whom she had seen last night; only now, in the light of day, they looked even stranger and more evil and more deformed” (173). Adamson remedies this in his iteration, depicting Peter and Edmund on the edge of battle, coming to terms with what they are about to do, which displays their growing maturity as individuals. For Peter, who cannot bring himself to raise his sword against another, this role of general in Aslan’s army illustrates that he has proved himself and has earned his title, which is indicated in his soldier’s loyalty and trust in his leadership. For Edmund, his willingness to follow his brother’s lead and defer to his advanced experience shows that he has learned humility and to place his trust on others instead of relying on himself.
While C. S. Lewis chose what scenes to depict and what had to be sacrificed in the name of story and plot, Adamson picks up where Lewis leaves off, filling in the gaps and telling the untold stories of the Pevensie siblings. The transition from book to film usually results in cut scenes and missing moments, making The Chronicles of Narnia film adaptation a welcome exception from the norm. Because Adamson takes scenes only mentioned in the book, utilizing them to expand on character development, his creative divergences from the original maintain a sense of accuracy while increasing the amount of individual character development. In this way, Adamson’s film can be considered more of a companion piece than an alternative retelling of the original.
Lewis, C. S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. New York: Scholastic, 1995.
Adamson, Andrew, Ann Peacock, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, and C S. Lewis. The Chronicles of Narnia. Burbank, CA: Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 2006.
The Parallel Between the Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower
and its Film Adaptation Review by Stevey Beall
The film adaptation of Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is actually written and directed by Chbosky himself. This is a significant detail because all of the creative choices made in the movie that differ from the book are conscious decisions that Chbosky makes in order to develop the movie alongside the written narrative. The movie opens up with narrations from Charlie’s letters introducing his new school and a few of the central characters from the story. The movie only mentions Michael and Charlie’s relationship with him once, in a conversation Charlie has with Sam. I find this to be the most interesting part about the film version because in the book, Michael’s story seems to contribute to much of the central plot line. However, Chbosky does this to make the story as a whole easier to follow through the movie. The book contains multiple plot lines that are revealed in pieces through a stream-of-consciousness writing style that Charlie uses in his letters. In doing this, Chbosky establishes Charlie’s state of mind and presents the idea that he has a hard time communicating his thoughts and feelings. For the film version, Chbosky chooses to focus mainly on the central plot line of the story, Charlie’s struggle through high school, revealing the hard-hitting details toward the end in a more organized fashion. This change in deliverance allows the movie to unfold in a more dramatic way that wouldn’t work as well on paper.
Charlie’s stream of consciousness writing style is crucial to understanding him as a character. In the movie, this way of thinking is only presented once, when he is high and talking to Patrick at a party. Throughout the rest of the movie, Charlie’s character is understood through his nervous or reserved body language, and his quiet nature. The use of narration in the movie serves a different purpose than what might be expected. Naturally, the film version relies on narration only to deliver of Charlie’s thoughts or feelings that are expressed through his letters in the book. However, the narrations included in the film also serve the purpose of revealing details about the other characters that Charlie describes through experiences in his letters in the book. For example, in one of his letters, Charlie mentions that he thinks Mary Elizabeth’s haircut is something she will regret in the future; in the movie, Chbosky chooses to have Charlie say this directly to her at a party. Alternately, information that Charlie communicates about his friends in his letters is depicted as full scenes in the movie. These lost scenes that are written about in the book come to light in the movie to give the viewer a more complete understanding of the chronological order of things. The film version utilizes Charlie’s revealed experimentation with drugs to compose scenes that communicate the honesty that Charlie reveals in his letters in the book.
The movie version changes certain details about some of the characters like Mr. Anderson. In the book, Mr. Anderson has a girlfriend and dreams of writing plays to be performed on Broadway. In the movie, Mr. Anderson is married and is a successful writer who has already written plays that have been shown in New York. Chbosky decides to make Mr. Anderson a character who can be seen as more steady and reliable in the movie. The book offers the impression that Charlie relies on Mr. Anderson a lot for an unspoken kind of reassurance. The more conventional depiction of him in the movie gives the same impression without having to make Charlie over-explain his role. Mr. Anderson’s character is also important because he delivers the famously quoted line, “we accept the love we think we deserve.”
The truth about Charlie’s relationship with his aunt Helen isn’t revealed until the very end of the book; similarly, the film version doesn’t reveal the full story until the end either. However, the film version provides flashbacks throughout the movie that coincide with related scenes. The flashbacks of Aunt Helen develop during the movie but don’t reveal all of the necessary details. The flashbacks serve the purpose of mirroring the visions Charlie experiences and contribute to the developing theme of Charlie’s mental health in the story. The guilt Charlie feels for Aunt Helen’s death is as a result of his secret hatred for her because of what she did to him. Holidays are a difficult time for Charlie because they remind him of his aunt Helen. The movie depicts Charlie’s discomfort during holiday scenes to reveal the internal conflict he faces from his relationship with Aunt Helen.
One of the most crucial scenes in The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the tunnel scene. In this scene Charlie feels the most connected to his friends and to himself. Chbosky honors this scene by depicting it purely in the film. The film version ends with a similar tunnel scene, in which Charlie is standing outside the truck. This scene provides a full circle effect of the story in which Charlie goes from feeling happy to externalizing his happiness.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is largely a story about empathy and growth. Charlie grows through the letters he writes and comes to the conclusion that he wants to be happy at the end of the book. The film version provides an important line that isn’t heard in the book. Through one of the narrations, Charlie says, “I would hate for Sam to judge me based on what I used to be like.” This quote is indicative of the growth Charlie experiences throughout the story. The movie serves as a parallel to the book, focusing on different scenes, and depicting them in different creative lights. The movie and book function together to deliver a complete understanding of the whole of the plot and message that Chbosky wanted to communicate.
The Princess Diaries in FilmReview by Taylor von Kugelgen
As if to signal that The Princess Diaries the film is its own, independent entity from The Princess Diaries the book, the filmmakers made a number of surface-level, aesthetic details during the adaptation process. Most characters’ names are changed: Mia Thermopolis Renaldo becomes Mia Thermopolis Renaldi, Lana Weinberger becomes Lana Thomas, and Boris the violin-playing Russian exchange student becomes Jeremiah the pink-haired stage magician. Other characters like Tina Hakim Baba, who is a great comfort to Mia during her falling-out with Lilly, are written out completely. Mia is aged up to her mid-teens, and the setting is relocated from New York City to San Francisco. She is given new hobbies, choir and rock-climbing, and is saving up money to have her antique car restored. As she is older, she is preparing for many “firsts”: her first car, her first romantic kiss. These “firsts” are more mature than book Mia’s “firsts,” which are generally more chaste and juvenile (for example, her first dance.) Similarly, instead of the school-sanctioned Cultural Diversity Dance, the film has Mia attending a beach party, sponsored by radio DJs and with relatively less adult supervision. Mia in the film has more agency, more independence, and is treated more like an adult than her book counterpart, who is in the midst of transitioning from preteen to teenager and not feeling very independent at all.
In order to clarify the themes of the story and tighten the plot to something more conventional for a coming-of-age comedy, many aspects of the narrative are rearranged and simplified in the film adaptation. In the novel, Mia is a typical awkward teenager, worried about her lack of assertiveness and passing her algebra class. These are largely internal struggles, easily conveyed through the diary format of the book, but trickier to depict in a more visual medium. While many films based on first person texts (Speak, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) utilize voiceover narration in order to maintain a level of intimacy with the narrator’s thoughts, the filmmakers of The Princess Diaries choose a third-person format. Much like streamers tied to air vents to show that air is blowing through, Mia’s insecurities are changed so that they can be understood with a glance; she is given a phobia of public speaking and public scrutiny so intense that she becomes physically ill. Fear of performing in front of one’s classmates, either in class or in sports, is something to which many teenagers can relate, with the added benefit of visual cues. It is also tied neatly into the dramatic structure of the film, as Mia’s final challenge of the film is to give a speech at a diplomatic function. She conquers her fear of public speaking in tandem with conquering her fear of royal responsibility, and so her two conflicts are developed and resolved together.
Unlike the novel, which leaves several subplots unresolved for further books, the film leaves no loose ends. This is most evident in its treatment of Mia’s grandmother, Clarisse. Clarisse in the novel, called Grandmere by Mia, is stubborn and domineering and just a little bit terrorizing, and though she momentarily sides with Mia in the Cultural Diversity Dance debate, she is never redeemed. She is not quite a villain, but she does possess antagonistic qualities. Film Clarisse is a much more positive character to begin with, and she is given her own developmental arc as a character. Like her book counterpart, she struggles to understand her granddaughter, but unlike her book counterpart, she makes a concentrated effort to establish a better relationship, and in the end, has learned how to be a good grandmother to Mia rather than simply her queen. This brings an expected sense of catharsis to her character that the source material lacks. Similarly, while Clarisse is moved out of the antagonist range, the true antagonists – Josh, Lana, the “popular kids” – are more clearly defined as villains. Lana in particular is a manipulative, malicious, vindictive character in the film, so much so that in the ice cream scene – the only full scene that comes straight from the novel – even the adults around them seem to believe that Lana deserves it. In the novel, Mia is punished for her actions, and Lana never does much more than hurl thinly veiled insults.
The most fundamental difference between the novel and the film lies in the added emphasis and focus on Mia’s new role of princess. The novel can be described as a slice-of-life coming-of-age tale with a princess in it; the film is a princess tale with a modern spin. Part of this shift comes from the immediacy of Mia’s rule, in that she is not Philippe’s heir, but Clarisse’s in the film. Philippe has passed away from the cancer that in the novel renders him incapable of producing legitimate issue, leaving the grieving Queen of Genovia in desperate need of a new heir. Rather than the illegitimate child of the crown prince, she is the legitimate heir (as her parents are divorced) and next in line for the throne. This increases the stakes considerably, and so she not only loses control of her future career, or what college she will attend, or where she will live – she faces a great deal of responsibility in her near future. Large scenes are added where she must navigate diplomatic events, complete with a “scheming noble family attempting to usurp the throne” subplot. The narrative resources are reallocated to the princess plot, and even the conflicts in Mia’s San Francisco life are connected. As Mia is older in the film, about to get her driver’s license, her story involves a newfound sense of freedom and mobility. And with that freedom comes the freedom to choose, which is another thing that book-Mia lacks. She cannot choose to be a princess, just as she cannot choose who her mother dates or how big her feet are. Cabot’s story is about a girl learning to accept and find the good in that which she cannot control. In the film, Mia has nothing but choices, and with those choices come ramifications. Book-Mia denies the new developments in her life and tries to keep them secret in an attempt to keep things as they are, and as a result, she has a falling out with Lilly. Film-Mia’s communication problem is a non-issue, and when it looks like her keeping it a secret will strain her relationship with her best friend, she immediately tells Lilly the truth. As such, their fight comes from Mia’s choice to go to the beach party with Josh over going on a date with Michael and being on Lilly’s show. She learns very quickly of the ramifications of her choices and of the responsibility she now has to others. In the end, she is presented with two more choices: to accept or forfeit her title, and to face the consequences of her choice head-on or to run away. The “moral” of the film is that fear is also a choice, as Mia chooses to stop running away and face her future responsibilities as princess with courage.
The film adaptation of The Princess Diaries takes many liberties when translating the source material to the big screen, mainly because the filmmakers seem to have set out to tell a fundamentally different story. Though on the surface, both deal with Mia’s struggles to come to terms with a complete upheaval of identity and future, they differ in scope of that struggle. For Mia in the book, this means self-acceptance; in the film, this means accepting responsibility and the power of choice. The film also conventionalizes the source material to be more accessible within the context of its genre and medium, such as consolidating characters, dividing them into clearer roles, and adjusting aspects of Mia’s life to be more relatable to an older teenage audience. It is more of an homage to the source material than it is a direct adaptation, offering a new spin and interpretation to a cultural phenomenon of the time.