Friday, March 31, 2017

Book vs Adaptation: Atonement



I've been watching a lot of TV shows and movies of books that I've read recently, and I thought it might be fun to compare how the same story plays out in different forms. My first post is on Ian McEwan's Atonement, since I just finished watching the movie tonight and it's fresh in my brain :) I'm going to do my best to compare the two without any major spoilers!

Image result for atonement film Image result for atonement book cover

I listened to the audiobook of Atonement a couple of months ago, so one of the most interesting changes I noticed was that I had already fixed the narrator's voice as Briony's voice in my head; it was really strange hearing a different voice in the film! I don't think I would have had as strong a voice in my head if I'd read a hardcover of the book instead of listening to it.

One of the biggest things I was curious about was how an unreliable narrator and nonlinear story were going to be incorporated into a film. The writing style and the unreliable narrator were my favorite things about the book, and I had no idea how you could do that in a movie. I thought the filmmakers did an excellent job of using the typewriter keys in the soundtrack to transition between scenes and give you cues for the nonlinear story. I thought the way the film nested the stories within stories was really clever too. The film stays very true to the three parts and narrative layers of the book, and it wasn't nearly as confusing as I was expecting it to be. 

Briony is the main character of this story, even if it seems to be more about Cecilia and Robby. She grows up tremendously throughout the book, and everyone who played her in the film was so perfect for the part. Especially Briony at the end of the film, that vulnerability and guilt...pitch perfect! The ending of the book, which infuriated many readers, was portrayed with much more gentleness and compassion. There's still the question of whether Briony's biggest decision is right or not; the film by no means excuses or justifies her actions.

Overall, I think this adaptation did an amazing job of staying true to the book and the writing style. It's so hard to capture the nuances and layers of writing in a visual form, but this film really captured that! I felt like I was literally watching the book in my mind's eye because I could remember every scene so vividly. There weren't any gaping holes or major changes from the book that I caught, but maybe there were some minor changes, who knows? I'd definitely recommend this movie (and book)!


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