Posted at 10.16.2018
Keywords: lovely bones analysis, book to film comparison
Alice Sebold's bestseller The Lovely Bones is another book you don't quite know very well what to expect when you pick it up, but when you read it you obtain it very quickly. It affects you emotionally as a reader and helps it be interesting. Mass market book publishing is, like movies, a calculated and repetitive business. Sebold was included with something really different. She was lucky to get her publication published, and when she did, no one expected it to sell over 2 million copies or be on the brand new York Times bestseller list for over each year (Bradshaw). This bestselling book became the basis for the film, taking on the same name, and directed by Peter Jackson; who also is known for directing Heavenly Creatures, The Lord of the Rings, GOD, THE FATHER of the Rings the Two Towers, and GOD, THE FATHER of The Rings the Return of the Ring (York). Having read The Lovely Bones and then watching the film it became clear that not only was there an obvious difference between the movie and book cover, but there were many dissimilarities and changes that were made on behalf of the film.
The Lovely Bones is set in the suburbs of Philadelphia in the first seventies. It's about the Salmon Family; husband, wife, three children and the tragedy occurring within the family. These were in the prime of the lives, the next thing you know the authorities have arrived and nobody really knows what happened to the key character, Susie Salmon, a young girl who's murdered in a corn field just beyond the back of her house. In the book Susie is going through her process of going up into Heaven and looking down on her behalf family struggling to deal with the death with their daughter and sister. A major aspect of the book is how she directs her family towards her killer in some sort of retribution (Sebold).
As the book was translated to film the dissimilarities that are often seen in book to film translations can become more evident as it goes along. As the procedure of translating The Lovely Bones to film was approached it became "the ultimate puzzle for screen writers" based on the director Peter Jackson. (Filming) Getting films out to the public for directors or the marketing team of any movie has become easier and easier with Amazon, YouTube, eBay, and personal websites, filmmakers have immediate access to the general public (Garon xix). Jackson seemed to hope for an identical outcome from the movie as the book. If he previously stayed truer to the book, he might have gotten what he wanted.
In an attempt to produce from within the pages of the novel, the film, and book, take place through the nineteen seventies and is narrated from the perspective of any fourteen year old girl named Susie Salmon. She is a separate photographer, has the love and support of her family, and is even getting looks from the boy she has a crush on in school. Life is all good. And then she is brutally murdered by her creepy neighbor George Harvey. (The Lovely Bones) It begins with the same line from the first page of the book:
"I am Salmon, like the fish, first name Susie" (Sebold 6).
Even although book and film start the same, the storyline in the film and the storyplot in the book have become, completely different. In the book the actual process and the crisis of the death in the very beginning of the book is covered in the first chapter. This first chapter covers forty-five to fifty minutes of the film, which is almost all of the movie. Susie Salmon the lead in the movie, played by Saoirse Ronan, and the primary character of the book is portrayed amazingly. She does indeed capture the tone and the innocence combined with the development away from the innocence of the type of Susie in the original text. Mark Walberg plays the daddy and is an enormous character in the book. The best casting to the book is Susan Sarandon, as the Grandmother, even though physically they may have a totally different description of the Grandmother in the book (USA). However, translation to film will not detail you the torment that the family goes through chapter after chapter. For instance, the destruction of the family unit, the extended leave of the mother, sleepless nights of the sister and obsessive give attention to finding Susie and her killer. There is absolutely no depiction in the film of the horrific nature of the abduction, murder, or even more specifically the graphic rape and dismemberment of Susie. The movie is quite sugar coated compared to the book. It almost appears that the screenwriters because of this movie pulled an old teenage trick of reading the first chapter and then skipping to the last. (York)
Many differences continue steadily to unfold as the movie shows Susie feeling life fading away from her as she grabs onto the top of any flower, forcing herself in to the in-between. There, she actually is confused and alone until she meets Holly, who helps her navigate her new world. It's just each of them in utopia, a perfect world of their own making, initially. Since it plays out Susie and Holly only exist with an increasing number of girls that Harvey has killed. Jackson creates a visual basis for the in-between that is nearly wonderful. Creative license took shape when the director places visions of ghostly Susie entering the realm of the real world to inspire changes in events. (The Lovely Bones)
Among one of the bigger dissimilarities in the film to book translation, which wasn't a challenge before viewing of the film, was it became unclear in the book what kind of state or status Susie was at when she died; rather she is at a kind of purgatory or they call it the in-between in both the book and film. It was made clearer in the movie that she was going on a particular journey, and they actually created that world very visually, which was very good. The only issue with these visuals was as a reader you have your own images in your head which were previously described in the book. Visually the film is spectacular, but for a reader there are no huge bottles with ships inside and visions of her in the eyes of her family. These events just don't exist in the text.
Contrary to the production, book Susie puts her dismembered body back together and meets Franny, her intake specialist, who helps her navigate this new world. Susie refuses to go to heaven until she can reach her family and help catch her killer (Sebold 8). Only then does she meet Holly, her roommate (Sebold 17). Susie lives in her vision, with people everywhere throwing javelins and wandering around in their own versions in the length, like the real life. She creates cool swing sets and a duplex that she always wanted and shares it with her new friend Holly. Susie's interpretation of heaven is populated with real women and men, of all ages, from all background, who died and today resides in overlapping worlds (Sebold 19).
Because this movie is based off a three hundred page book it feels as though it moves too fast missing key components in the timeline. Several minutes into the film George Harvey lures her to his hidden den in a field, sparking excitement and desire for Susie. Harvey tries to cover his deed and discover other victims as her family tries to deal with the tragedy as well as trying to learn just who is in charge of her murder (Filming). After that it becomes confusing for readers when the movie cuts to a point where Susie seems to escape from the underground lair in the corn field and then is running through the streets. It's not immediately apparent that she is dead or how she died. This ghostly appearance does not occur and the death scene is clearer in the text. The book is detailed and sharp which causes the confusion of the timeline within the movie.
Timelines within the film get more blurred even as read further into the novel. It graphically describes the rape accompanied by him murdering her with a shaving razor (Sebold 12). Then, he dismembers her body, putting her remains in a safe that he dumps in a sinkhole (Sebold 53). This timeline is skipped in the film as they focus more on Jack, Susie's father, and his search for a killer. He is obsessively seen collecting personal files and digging up tax records on a number of shady men, every man they can think of (The Lovely Bones), although, Mr. Harvey is the first, in support of, suspect of Jack in the book. He knows it and feels it after helping Mr. Harvey with a project in his backyard, causing another difference, a ceremonial tent in the book and a duck blind in the movie. However, this occurs two years later in the movie. It's within the first month in the book. It requires eleven months before the police even arrive Susie's hand-knit hat. Inside the book Susie's elbow arises three days later, the hat within weeks. The film skips or twists increasingly more detail and leaves you expecting and waiting for them to unfold but, some never come and more don't come until almost the finish, and then it is vague and contained in sudden flashbacks without explanation. (Sebold 55) (The Lovely Bones)
In terms of the plot line the film attempts to obtain it, though it does not go in to the depth that they certainly in the book. Jackson takes his amount of time in carefully setting up the plot sufficient so that we have a good hold on the world of the storyline the entire time (USA). The time period is reflected well and the main character is likeable and somebody who we can sympathize with easily, but not because she actually is a teenage girl that dies. Her personality and narrations are what do it instead. The film moves backwards and forwards between the actual book and movie call the in-between or afterlife and real life and results in in the movie very visually (Visual). The visuals are just stunning and there's a unique feel about them as if you are in a dream while they play before you. The structuring of this movie is also kind of weird; thankfully with so many other dissimilarities this didn't make the movie so confusing concerning lose the audience completely (Filming).
In film it diverts backwards and forwards to Susie focusing on having her first kiss with Ray, the visually extravagant in-between, and warning her family; whereas the book, although narrated by Susie, explores so a great many other characters and life experiences. In contrast to the movie, the book is more of a coming old story in regards to a girl who will never get the chance to grow up. Susie can only grow spiritually by watching her family and friends as both reach milestones, leave for college, get married and also have kids of their own. For book readers she's already had her first kiss and after watching her sister and Samuel make love she longs to do the same with Ray, the boy who was going to day her, her crush (Sebold 237). Susie later possesses Ruth, her former classmate and friend. Ruth, that has a spiritual connection with Susie, is overwhelmed by the feeling of her presence. Susie then enters Ruth's body and makes want to Ray, which is again graphically described in text (Sebold 300). The movie focus again takes away from the book journey eliminating this sexual growth aspect to the teenage girl.
Like many adaptations found with book to film projects; you decide to do lose a multitude of really important events. In a way that, the scenes where we follow Harvey are well-planned in just how they show his life and his way of thinking in the film very vaguely. His apparent odd psychological state of mind, expressed along with his need for an alarm to prompt him to open his window shades, does not translate as well in the movie (The Lovely Bones). His odd psychological state and inability to check out social norms are described at length within the chapters as he devices ways to seem normal to the outside world (Sebold 130). In the book you get more comprehensive descriptions which develops the characters of not merely Harvey and Susie but, her sister, her father and, especially, her mother. You learn a lot about her mother which is important however, in the film you learn hardly any.
It is played out in the text that Abigail, Susie's mother, never wanted children, withdraws from her family and comes with an affair with police detective Len Fenerman, the investigator to Susie's case (Sebold 196). Additionally you don't learn in the movie that the mother abandoned the father, sister and brother. The thing is her in the film leave with one suitcase in a cab as if she is taking a vacation or just a getaway to clear her head. However, in the book narrations she abruptly leaves and requires a job at a winery in California and attends College. Abigail leaves and creates a life for herself with her boyfriend, Samuel Heckler, who she becomes engaged to after finishing college. Only after hearing that Jack has already established a coronary attack does she return eight years later (Sebold 220). This huge gap with time and events are not portrayed in the movie. The relationship between Abigail and her children is then laid out in detail as their son Buckley expresses bitterness for her abandoning the family for the majority of his childhood (Sebold 264). The filmmakers cut this out completely never even giving a hint that this fracture happened within the family. She actually is practically ignored in the movie giving us just small glimpses of any upset and lost mom, until Jack is practically beaten to death and then appears again creating a graphic that she was there the complete time, perhaps distant in her mourning (The Lovely Bones). These details may have made the film come to life as more realistic, instead it is projected on the screen that the family also lives in their own utopia of sorts.
Both the book and film end with a similar event. Mr. Harvey, her rapist, her murderer, and the evil man that exists on the planet is killed in the book when he is attempting to violate a girl and an ice sickle falls from a tree hitting his shoulder. As it hits him he is put off balance and falls into a deep ravine. He lies there, being buried by the cold snow, never to be found for weeks (Sebold 327). It really is similar in the movie; he's also hit by an ice cycle and falls down a big ravine then abruptly ends. You have a good idea that he is dead from the graphic fall, but still no closure, it is left open ended. (New Zealand).
When watching the movie you find that it appears to intertwine three story lines. First, is that of Susie in the in-between, the second handles her mourning family and the 3rd, interestingly, handles her killer. Although this movie has a serial killer on the loose and its share of cops it is in no way just like a crime or revenge story. Instead this is a movie about family bonds and in regards to a loss. It's about the presence people can have inside our lives even when they have died; it's about understanding what closure really means, and differs from the novel.
The Lovely Bones is a very compassionate story just how it is told from the girl's perspective and the innocence that she's in the manner she looks at the world she has left behind. Alice Sebold gives us a glance at how the Salmon Family is forever changed therefore of Susie's murder. Susie watches as her parents drift apart and her siblings and friends grow up and have experiences Susie can only witness. Throughout the activities of the Salmon Family inside the Lovely Bones, readers can examine their own feelings and reactions to loss and mourning. Susie is on this incredible adventure into the world of the afterlife, described as the in-between. The rules of the world no longer apply. She's to come to terms with where she is and has to somehow influence events back off on the planet that permit her killer to be caught. It really is an incredibly layered story getting its title from a section by the end of the book (Mehegan).
"We were holding the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections-sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent-that happened after I was gone. And I started out to see things in a way that let me contain the world without me in it. The events my death brought were mostly that the bones of your body that could become whole at some unpredictable amount of time in the future. The price tag on what I came to see as this miraculous lifeless body had been my entire life" (Sebold 320).
Throughout this discussion you can view that as the book was translated to film, by director Peter Jackson, the differences that tend to be seen in book to film translations are definitely more evident and clear as it goes along. Because of time constraints and interpretation, we find a most book to film projects do not hold faithfulness to the authors. It has additionally been discovered that many books to film correlations create added characters or eliminate characters for theatrical benefit (Cohen 1). It may even be better to watch the film and then read the book. This might prevent you from making judgments relating to this film on the basis of the book such as, visual effects, timeline, and content, due to it being three hundred pages converted into two hours, which in text form are actually only about one hundred pages.
Predictably, Peter Jackson's interpretation with the Lovely Bones is not equal to the interpretation of the author Alice Sebold. Clearly you can see that this story has been interpreted in very different ways, both in film and in text. Differences within the movie make a watered down and non-confrontational method of the real subject matter of the novel. Therefore, if you want to to research any book by watching its movie remember you are probably going to be missing about two thirds of the book, if not more. As exampled here, with The Lovely Bones, the distinctions between book and film translations can be extreme causing confusion and distorted reality of the content and subject material of the author's original concepts.
Bradshaw, Peter. Guardian. 2002. 14 Nov. 2012
http://books. guardian. co. uk/film/2010/feb/18/the-lovely-bones-review.
Cohen, Steven and Hark, Ina Rae. The Road Movie Book. Routledge. New York, NY. 1997.
"Filming the Lovely Bones" (Special Features). DW Studios LLC. Dreamworks Pictures. BLU-RAY. 2009
Garon, Jon. The Independent Filmmaker's Law and Business Guide: Financing, Shooting, and Distributing Independent and Digital Films. Chicago Review Press. Chicago, IL- 2nd Edition. 2009.
Mehegan, David. Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones. Words to live on by (Supplementary interview). Little, Brown and Co. NY, NY. 2002.
"New Zealand Principal Photography" (Special Features). DW Studios LLC. Dreamworks Pictures. BLU-RAY. 2009
Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones. Little, Brown and Co. New York, NY. 2002.
Sebold, Alive. The Lovely Bones. The Oddity of Suburbia. (Supplementary essay). Little, Brown and Co. New York, NY. 2002.
The Lovely Bones-Free Online Study Guide. THE VERY BEST Notes. 2008. 14 Nov. 2012. http://thebestnotes. com/booknotes/lovely_bones_sebold.
The Lovely Bones. Peter Jackson. DW Studios LLC. Dreamworks Pictures. BLU-RAY. 2009.
"USA Principal Photography" (Special Features). DW Studios LLC. Dreamworks Pictures. BLU-RAY. 2009.
"Visual Effects" (Special Features). DW Studios LLC. Dreamworks Pictures. BLU-RAY. 2009.
York, April. Book vs. Film: The Lovely Bones. 2010. 14 Nov. 2012.
http://culturemagazine. ca/cinema/book_vs_film_the_lovely_bones. html.