I just watched the movie version of Atonement. I actually was wondering how they were going pull off this adaptation, since the book's power hinges on the metafiction aspect. How were they going to make that twist happen?
Ah, by an interview.
Well, not quite the same.
The movie was entertaining, if wrenching. It took some interesting adaptations -- retelling of scenes from two perspectives, a murkiness during the war scene. Backpedaling. These were strong ways to portray what McEwan had written, I thought.
The part with Robbie in war was whittled down considerably. Which is fine, since no one really needs this to turn into a war epic, though I could have had a couple more scenes to really sort of drive in the "suckiness" factor. How to get out of prison he had to go through all this war crap, which really came across in the book. In the movie, you just kind of follow him as he's walking around aimlessly. But there's this really wonderfully shot scene on the beach where the camera just follows the soldiers and pans around as scenery comes in and out. The background music syncs up harmoniously with the singing soldiers. Very well done. I didn't LOVE Robbie the way I did in the book though, and that's probably because we didn't spend enough time with him.
Briony. Still hate her. Hate her weird awkward quiet blue eye-ness. Also, shhh, don't tell anyone, but I watched a pirated version of this film. Decent quality, but it meant I was missing subtitles. So my favorite scene with the French kid... I didn't get any of the words. So I can't tell you if it was as affecting as it was on paper. Somebody else let me know.
Oh god, Paul Marshall is deliciously disgusting in this film.
Okay, but the ending -- that's what's important. You know what, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of the book. I really appreciated the ending, I just couldn't stand the beginning section. The movie, in my opinion, was weak on the ending. It still works, but having read the book, it doesn't do it the same way for me. And, you end missing the central point of the book -- the intellectual part of it. About atoning for one's sins, making things right. About rewriting the past. It lacks the power that the book did. But I suppose for a movie, where most people are going to just see the plot, it works. It doesn't need to be as intellectual. And Vanessa Redgrave does a good job. But it's clearly not nearly as effective.
I enjoyed the movie -- liked the little touches. The staccato of the keyboard. The creepy music. Briony as a creepy child. It was heartbreaking. And it was a great adaptation. So even though you lose a little of what makes the moral of the book so great, it was done well, I thought.
By the way, part of me wonders how differently I might have reacted to the movie had I not read the book. But I guess I'll never know.