Book vs Movie — Annihilation

Hi all!

In this episode of Book vs Movie I’ll be talking about Annihilation, written by Jeff Vandermeer, and the big screen counterpart. I won’t be giving too many details because both the book and the movie are incredibly hard to explain. But, you’ll get it if you’ve read the book and/or seen the film.

Jeff Vandermeer is called the “King of Weird Fiction” since his works lie something between speculative fiction, fantasy, and horror. His most famous works are the Southern Reach Trilogy, and Annihilation is the first installment of this trilogy. This trilogy focuses on an expedition to a place called Area X, a place in the United States, where nature has taken over. Scientists are sending people into this area to investigate, but either they don’t come back or if they come back they die of cancer not many weeks later.

Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 21.11.25Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

The book is definitely very strange. It evokes a mood reminiscent of gothic literature at times, at others it’s more like a stream of consciousness that leaves you at best dizzy or at worst sleepy. It’s a book that reminded me of the frog in the pot of water, one that doesn’t realize it’s in trouble until it’s actually almost dead and there’s no way out. This book creeps up on you just like that, eventually you realize that there’s no turning back and you just have to keep on reading, even if no clear answers are offered in the end.

“Some questions will ruin you if you are denied the answer long enough”

So the book might not be the most enjoyable but it was definitely thought provoking. We follow four scientists who are never given names besides their specialties: Anthropologist, Surveyor, Psychologist, and Biologist. There’s a theme of the beauty and the power of nature, which rebels agains the humans after enduring the pollution, deforestation, and other abuses that it has endured for so long. The book doesn’t give a reason for Area X really, there’s no explanation of the origin, but there are some clues when the Biologist has flashbacks to her childhood, as she studies a microenvironment that thrives in the midst of the urban city. Also as she goes out of her way to find these small patches of nature in other parts of the city. The vision that the Biologist brings to the world is very important in the book and is the anchor that kept me reading.

Annihilation_(film)

The movie adaptation of Annihilation was directed by Alex Garland, who has been mostly recognized for his achievements in screenplay writing and his film Ex Machina.

Unlike the book, the film starts out by explaining the origin of Area X: a meteor. This immediately takes out the possibility of the changes in Area X being caused by nature reacting to human acts. Additionally, the characters are given names and our Biologist isn’t an expert in the transition of one microenvironment to another, she’s a cell biologist, specialized in cancer. The film focuses on an alien world that’s come and started interacting with ours in ways we can’t quite understand. There film is not only creepy, it’s outright gory, with bodies opened up and things crawling inside them. The film achieves the wonder of this alien world though, the beauty and the power in ways that the book lacked. The film is well paced even if it felt like they forced the expected Hollywood-esque plot as an attempt to make it less psychological and more explicit. There’s a heavy reliance on the Biologist’s, I mean Lena’s, life before the expedition, her life with her husband, even an affair! What does that have to do with Area X?

But honestly? I did enjoy both the book and the movie for different reasons. I loved the psychological thriller part of the book and I loved the visuals of the film. You could say that I loved the depth of the book while the film simply reflected the beautiful cover that made me buy the book. The plots of the book and the film are not very compatible so they can’t be compared. But they do complement each other.

Final verdict: It’s a tie! They even out because a bit more than half of the book was just boring, and only until the end did I get hit with all the complex themes and social commentary that Vandermeer was going for. Then the film was great visually but completely lacked depth of characters and plot that the book provided. The film had beautiful moments (and beautiful deaths!) all the way through which the book lacked.

What do you think? Which version of Annihilation did you like best?

PS. The next Book vs Movie that I’ll review is a movie that comes out at the end of this month, can you guess which one it is?

 

 

Book vs Movie — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Hello everyone!

As you are probably aware, there are many books that have been turned into movies, and, there are probably many more movies that were inspired by books. In this post I’ll be putting a book and its film adaptation head to head to see which one I liked best!

The second book that I read this year was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and it was a really interesting book that gave me a completely unique perspective to life in a mental hospital in the 1960s.

I was curious about Ken Kesey, how could he write such vivid descriptions of what it means to be constantly drugged in the ward and at the same time tell us about the narrator’s background?

“I know how they work it, the fog machine.” –Chief Bromden

In this sentence we think that our narrator is crazy, he thinks that they fill the ward with actual fog from machines, how delusional! Right? Not quite, he’s seen actual fog machines at work during the war, where they filled the fields with fog so that the enemy couldn’t find them.

“You were safe from the enemy, but you were awfully alone” — Chief Bromden

In this passage I was impressed with Kesey’s ability to give the reader that doubt of what exactly Chief Bromden was talking about. There are many more passages where things are not as clear, some filled with memories and others mixed with hallucinations and images brought on by the medications that the Chief is given throughout the day.

Ken Kesey was an author who volunteered to take drugs such as LSD, cocaine, among others, for a CIA project called MKUltra, which sought to find drugs that could be used for interrogation purposes as well as torture. Kesey would then write about the experience for that project, so it is no wonder that the descriptions in this book are what they are, full of vivid descriptions, not just visual but also tactile and auditory.

Before watching the movie I wanted to jot down how I imagined the characters, specifically Randle Patrick McMurphy who is described as:

“…redheaded with long red sideburns and a tangle of curls our from under his cap…tall…broad across the jaw and shoulders and chest, a broad white devilish grin…”
–Chief Bromden

So, this is exactly who I imagine:

PP34178

Mad Sweeney = RP McMurphy!

McMurphy is this tough guy who comes into the ward to save all the crazy men from this institution. He’s careless and simply wants the men to be just like him, no matter who they are. He’s the only one who talks to Chief Bromden and expects to hear his side of the  story, which no one has done before apparently. McMurphy treats the men as any other man out in the world and therefore gives them courage and power that they’ve lacked while under the “care” of Nurse Ratched.

Nurse Ratched, the woman in charge of the ward and who has a strict set of rules that all patients must abide by is described as:

“Smooth, calculated, precision-made, like an expensive baby doll, skin like flesh-colored enamel, blend of white and cream and baby-blue eyes, small nose, pink little nostrils — everything working together except the color on her lips and fingernails, and the size of her bosom” — Chief Bromden

I honestly imagined her like this, except in white:

Miss_Dolores_Umbridge

Nurse Ratched = Dolores Umbridge!

Nurse Ratched is supposed to be a tyrant, someone who doesn’t care about her patients and only cares about controlling them and bending them to her will. And, from Chief Bromden’s point of view she seems even scarier, with arms that are much longer than normal, eyes that see everything, and buttons that control all the patients. ::shudders::

The novel in general has a very heavy mood, at times it was like wading through molasses, so I had to push myself to keep reading until I got to another part where our narrator wasn’t so heavily drugged.

As for the movie, Miloš Forman won an Academy Award for Best Director for his work in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Additionally, this film won all 5 major categories in the 48th Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Leading Actress (Louise Fletcher), and Best Screenplay (Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman). So needless to say, I knew that this movie would be pretty good.

The first main difference comes from the point of view. In the novel we see everything from Chief Bromden’s perspective, but in the film we don’t have this filter, we get to see things as they are and that takes away one of the layers of the novel. This change in perspective works for the film because it makes it much more accessible, even if it does remove that uncertainty of what is real and what isn’t. This uncertainty was what gave the novel the heavy tone and the sense that it was moving so slow. In contrast, the movie is bright and it moves on a bit more quickly.

Then there’s Jack Nicholson as RP McMurphy, and he’s not exactly how I imagined him (see above picture), but he definitely delivers with his portrayal of the gambler who starts a war with Nurse Ratched and is trying to make the men in the ward stand up for themselves. On the other hand Louise Fletcher portrays a softer Nurse Ratched at first, makes her seem more like a victim or bystander of what’s happening. She is still manipulative, but not as much as in the book. That might also be because they removed the layer of Chief Bromden’s narration, so that makes sense too.

Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher

In the end, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest makes you think about different aspects of life. Do you want to live in fear and go along with the rules imposed on you by society? Or, do you want to break the rules, live life to the fullest, but perhaps deal with the consequences of going against the system? This novel puts all this into perspective and puts you in a place where things might seem hopeless, but in the end I think that it shows us that we live in a world that isn’t set to strict rules, we can make a change in our society by living courageously and standing up for what we believe in. We have the tools to make a difference, whether they be our education, our culture, or our government, we must stand up for what we believe is right and fight for our values.

Ratings:

  • Novel:
    4/5 stars, will give you the perspective from the point of view of a highly medicated patient in a mental ward. The perspective from a patient with mental health issues is incredibly valuable, since it helps us understand why mental health issues are so misunderstood to this day.
  • Film:
    4/5 stars, will focus more on the aspect of courage against a system and the strength in numbers, and give you a very clear and scary image on what mental health meant in the 1960s. (I do believe that many of the ideas that existed then about mental health still exist and it is something that still needs to be worked on as a society).

Final verdict: Book wins!!! I personally liked the book better because of Chief Bromden, his perspective was much more interesting than just seeing McMurphy come in and try to save everyone from the Big Nurse, and it adds that extra layer that makes each character much more complex.

Have you read this novel or watched the film? Which one did you enjoy best? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Also, if you like this post, let me know which other books that have been made into movies I should try!