Thursday, May 13, 2010

Married to It, Either Way...

Well, I've done it. I've seen the movie more times than I remember, but I have finally read the novel of The Princess Bride. It's always been on my list, but What with one thing and another, years passed... and I never got around to it. [That's a "mostly quoted" passage from the book. I've taken out the word "three" (as in "three years passed.")] Perhaps it's the "out of sight out of mind" phenonemon, I'm not sure. But somehow I just came to read it now.

My friend Buttercup lent me her copy of the book. (Yes, her moniker for this site is such because of that very fact.) She seemed to think the book is better than the film. I'll have to ask her when she comes over tonight (as well as return her book) to know for sure. In nearly all cases, I'd agree that the book is going to be better. In this patricular case, though, I'm going to have to accept that I like both versions equally, for different reasons.

First off, William Goldman adapted the book to screen himself. He did a wonderful job. From that aspect alone, the book had been a fascinating read. To see what he decided to cut (and realizing why) as well as what he added or modified had been quite educational. A lesson in editing/repackaging for sure.

I'm pleased to say that the "good parts" are all intact, including my favorite lines (though sometimes with minor tweaking.) The parts that are missing from the film, I'm also pleased to say, are "good parts," too. I mean, what fan of the characters isn't going to relish hearing the 'full' story of Inigo Montoya's and Fezzik's pasts? How did I survive not knowing about Buttercup's parents before? And the Pit of Despair (actually the Zoo of Death in the novel) is a whole other adventure I'd never known.

Truth be told, I wish I could have experienced the story without knowing it already. For as I've said, it's a marvelously faithful adaptation. One of the better book-to-screen transfers out there. Yet it would have been nice not to know the identity of the "man in black" or what the great plan for storming the castle would be. Even though I adore all the actors and their performances, I could not help but use their faces and voices while reading the book so I couldn't really form my own perceptions. Fortunately it's all wrapped up in a little more info and background than the movie is able to give, so it did have a freshness as well.

Also a treat had been reading for myself the way in which the book is written. In another post I explained how the 'author' S. Morgenstern is but a literary device. William Goldman's The Princess Bride is allegedly an abridged version of a Florinese classic. Parts of the novel's texts are in red, in whoch Goldman tells not only what he took out and why, but also a little story of him and his father, who read the novel to him, a sick ten year old boy. (Those who know the movie can see the parallel with the boy and his grandfather. In fact, the very exchanges between them are nearly identical in the film - which is something I did not realize when writing the other post.) It allows for Goldman to poke fun at the book's rich silliness as well as touch on concepts without actually having to 'write' about them. There's also a new level of surreal achieved when realizing that the parts about him and his father and his own attempt to track down the book for his own son [and thus leading him down the path of abridgement] are actually only "somewhat true" themselves (e.g.. he doesn't have a son!)

There are a couple of changes in the film which I think work much better than the original story. Both come at the end. Don't worry, the book and film have very similar endings. For all intents and purposes it plays out to the same effect. But it seems that having a chance to revisit it, some new ideas came to Goldman. For one, when Westly is lying on the bed after being mostly dead he does not have the powerful moment of standing up as he does in the film. Also in the film, Westly suggests to Inigo that he'd make a good Dread Pirate Roberts - but not in the book. I'm glad these changes were made, as each moment is much more effective and logical.

So for everyone who loves the movie, do pick up the book. You'll be treated to a lot more of the delicious Goldman/Morgenstern humor and a deeper understanding of the beloved characters and their world. You'll wind up loving both.

Thank you, William Goldman, for your work. It's truly remarkable and we're so glad it had not been inconceivable.

It's Gold, man!

1 comment:

Anon said...

Glad you liked the book too! ^_^ I felt similarly to how you did.

Did you read the original version of the book or the 25th Anniversary Edition? Because the latter has some added material, like commentary on the movie, and Chapter 1 of the not-yet-written "sequel," "Buttercup's Baby" (which also has abridgement notes).

Also, some of the text of your copy was RED? O_O It wasn't like that in my copy.... That's making me think of the original edition of "The Neverending Story" by Michael Ende, which was written in red and green ink (and even references this IN the book), and which I unfortunately do not have (mine is like "The Princess Bride," with italics and regular text)....