Monday, June 28, 2010
Book vs. Film: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button vs. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Plot: Benjamin Button is born under unusual circumstances. Unlike those around him, he's born elderly and grows backwards until eventually reaching infancy. During the course of his life he fights in a war, falls in love, and has various other adventures.
Primary Differences Between Book and Film: Um... pretty much everything except the basic concept and the protagonist's name. Even the concept is a bit different because in the film Benjamin is born an old man but infant sized and though he's born old in body, he's born new in mind and his intellectual/emotional development occurs in a normal way. In the book, Benjamin is born a full grown old man (incidentally, after this we never hear of his mother again) with the mind of an old man. As his body grows younger, so too does his mind. Further, while the film version is built around a love story, there's no Daisy in the book version. Instead, there's a woman with whom Benjamin falls in love when he's old and she's young, and then gradually falls out of love with as he grows young and she grows old.
For the Book: Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the prose is of course extraordinary. The tone is light, leaning to comedy where the film leans towards drama, and it's a quick, easy read.
For the Film: The film is more ambitious in terms of the journey that it wants to take. The book sort of washes over you as it immerses you in absurdity and then it lets you go, but the film achieves something more profound. It's about the elusive qualities of life and love, and about the inevitability of loss and many of the images and scenes crafted by David Fincher et al. are lasting and beautiful.
Winner: Film. It comes down to a fairly simple storytelling issue: the book tells the story of a man who starts out with knowledge and gradually loses it, devolving as a person. The film tells the story of a man who, while physically growing backwards, nevertheless continues to grow and learn as a person and that makes him a more compelling character. The book is worth a read (particularly the illustrated version), but the film easily tops it.