Sunday, 18 March 2012
We Need To Talk About Kevin: Book to Movie Comparison
You may have read my review of the book We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver in my last post. The whole time that I was reading the book I had a strong compulsion to write to Eva, the mother, and narrator of letters to her husband, and tell her how I felt about what she was saying about her son after he had become a killer, hence the letter form of the review. You may know too that the book was made into a successful movie that was released last year.
As part of this years challenges I wanted to compare some books that had been made into movies. I totally loved the book and only read it after seeing the movie last October at the cinema. So I have to thank the film for encouraging me to read the novel at all.
I thought that the casting of Tilda Swinton as Eva was brilliant. An unusual looking lady, gangly, independent and strong, plus more European looking than American, perfect as Eva. I also liked the various incarnations of Kevin, good looking but with a slyness that matched his emotionless exterior. The part that I had a problem with was Franklin played by John C Reilly. It wasn't his performance which suited the all American dad, but his look did not go with the book descriptions of him. I thought (my apologies Mr Reilly) that Franklin was supposed to be extremely attractive, to explain why such a strong willed, unusual woman like Eva married him, and continued to love him while he became unsupportive and alienated from her as he became obsessed with Kevin. I couldn't imagine them having any kind of relationship.
The movie is dictated by Eva's point of view but without the letters. It successfully conveys all of her emotions that are in the book. The sense of unease is communicated by imagery dominated by the colour red. Conjuring disgust excellently in the viewer, this is one of the things that I took away from the film. The use of food in messy, served up in horrible ways, which added to this, as well as building tension throughout. There was a continual build up of nausea while watching.
I found the incidents of Kevins behaviour coupled with Swinton's passive face really had me wound up in a coil throughout. The screen was quite colourful, but the bleakness of the story and her situation clashes wholly with this. The discordance is felt throughout and is what I most enjoyed about the movie. A cleverly used device in this film.
The book has more detail than the film, and I was quite glad about that. It gives you enough so you can imagine the rest. It is easier to take when it is words on a page. The film is largely faithful to the incidents in the novel, including many details I recognised along the way.
This is a disturbing subject for any book or movie to tackle and I enjoyed both. I related to the Eva in the book more, but she is talking to you directly. It is this that I enjoyed more than the film. Tilda Swinton was in my head throughout though.
A brilliant book, and a very good movie adaptation with many strengths, intelligently made, and leaving a tangible impression after it has ended. Both are recommended, but especially the book.
You can read about We Need To Talk About Kevin - the movie, by using the link.
There is a Reading Group Guide to We Need To Talk About Kevin, use the link.
Also, there is an interview in The Guardian with Lionel Shriver about the book and film. Use the link.