Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Giver: The Book, The Movie, and A Chat

A couple weeks ago, I was invited to a screening of The Giver movie. I'd never read The Giver, but private screenings are amazing, so I got up early last Wednesday and had my dad drop me off at the train station so I could visit my home. I got to my apartment just after rush hour ended, picked up my copy of The Giver, and read the book in the next hour and a half, scarfed a lunch, and got to the screening just in time.

First, let's talk about the book.

The Giver
Lois Lowry
HMH Books for Young Readers
[April 26, 1993]

In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community's Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.

This is very much a book you should read when you're young. And by young, I mean younger than me. By several years. The writing was very simplistic, somewhat aggravatingly so. I brushed it off since this is a middle grade and it is older, so I could get over it. There were some unbelievable aspects, mostly at the end. But it was a very quick read, interesting and thought provoking.  I liked the characters and really liked the portrayal of the weird time they were in, age/hormone wise.

Then there's the movie

In a perfect world where there is no conflict, racism or sickness, every member of society has a specific role, and 16-year-old Jonas is selected to be the Receiver of Memory. As Jonas uncovers the truth behind his world's past, he discovers that many years earlier, his forefathers gave up humanity in order to have a stable society. may notice there's a bit of a difference. But, let's talk about the movie on its own first.

This was an excellently acted movie. A gorgeous cast, though not obnoxiously so, with a lot of talent. The black and white to color transition was beautifully done with one, brief exception. The writing was well done and really kept the heart of the book without ever seeming like too much. It had some amazing scenery that was far from what I imagined, but still beautiful and perfect for the story. It had some more incredibly unbelievable moments I'm not ready to forgive.

Overall, it was a good movie. Maybe not my normal kind of movie, or maybe it's because I read the book and saw the movie SO closely together, I found something to be a bit off. But I did enjoy it as a movie.

But the book and the movie.

(At this point, there be spoilers. I'll try for nothing major, but I'm talking about plot/character changes so...yeah)

There's that first, obvious thing in the summary. They were 12 in the book. They're 16 in the movie. More hormones. More maturity. More responsibility.

That was one of the smaller changes though. It resulted in more things you'd imagine happening if the characters were older. It also made certain events more realistic.

Some of the character changes were a bit more significant. Jonas's mother got a bigger role. His sister was a year older. His friends got different jobs that changed their roles in the movies quite a bit. The Chief Elder was both more and less involved in day to day life. And those are still minor changes compared to some things that work out. There's a lot more technology in their lives. The unbelievable scenes in the book became about 5 times more unbelievable in the movie.

A lot of the changes make sense in the context of the movie. There were corresponding moves for each change so the world still worked and the plot still had the same core. But this isn't The Giver, the book. It might have Lois Lowry's approval, but there are SO many changes, I hesitate to call this an adaptation. I consider it more of a "based on." I might even throw "loosely based on" out there. A lot of the differences were completely practical reasons on the studios part (child actors are much more limited, but you age up the characters, have actors above 18, there's less restrictions, etc.) or based on available technology, which is much different now than it would've been 20 years ago.

The heart of the story is there, but the story itself is hiding behind some pretty big changes. On their own, The Giver is a good movie and The Giver is a good book. But I wouldn't call them the same. Still, check out the movie when it premieres this Friday, August 15, and check out the book when you get the chance if you haven't already, and try not to tie the two together too closely.


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