Last weekend David and I went and saw The Giver and it has taken me this long to get my thoughts in order about what I want to say. I remember when I first saw the trailer for me and it caught me a bit off guard because it did not feel like the book to me. It made me worried that they were going to miss the point of the story in favor of action. Later on I heard that Lois Lowry actually gave the movie a thumbs up about getting the essence of the story, so that was very promising. I have to say my initial impression was that I enjoyed the movie, but they definitely changed elements to up the drama of the overall story. The book has such a quiet simplicity, but still packs a lot of power. The movie on the other hand definitely ups the drama and conflict by changing around a lot of the elements at the same time they were able to keep the heart of the story. (Spoilers for The Giver after the jump)
Keep the Heart
The first thing that I was very happy to see that they kept the lack of color at the beginning of the movie because that alone is such an important element of the overarching story. It seems like such a little thing, but the easiest way to create sameness is to make sure that people do not see color. That way we do not fuss over someone being brunette, blond, red-hair, etc it is all just a different shade of grey. No differences in what we wear or anything else. Now personally I think if it was just the visuals and our emotions were still in tact we would still have the problems that they were trying to avoid, but they make sure to get rid of that as well.
One of the important moments in the training for becoming the new Receiver of Memories Jonas becomes to realize that other people do not really feel. He first realizes that when his sister says she is angry that she does not really understand what it means. Then he asks his “parents” if they love him and the response that his “mom” gives I think is very telling about the overall world of The Giver. She scolds him for precision of language because love is a term that is so antiquated they no longer use it anymore. Now in reality this is because how do you really describe what it means to love someone and what can happen when someone no longer feels that love.
That is really the core of the book and the core of the movie. We make sure that everyone is just content and there are no highs to try to avoid any lows. At the same time when you start to realize the pure joy that is missing from the world and how life is not worth living without those highs. That is the same idea present in both the book and movie, even though the movie ups the drama.
Now the place that the movie did differ is by increasing the drama of the story. The first way they did that is by changing the jobs that the two best friends got. Instead of having Fiona go to the house of the old she goest to take care of newborns and Asher becomes a drone pilot instead of becoming the head of recreation. Now with Fiona’s change this meant that when Jonas decided to runaway with Gabriel who is about to be released to elsewhere he actually gets Fiona to help him find the child and escape. Then when Jonas has left the community Asher is the drone pilot that the Chief Elder uses to find Jonas and make sure that he does not pass this invisible barrier. This of course allows for a lot more scenes between Jonas and his friends at the end to up the drama.
The book takes things in a much simpler direction and it builds up slowly. It is about the simple acts of emotion and resilience. Jonas and the Giver take a long time to plan the escape because they realize that the world cannot continue like this. No one remembers the past and no one really gets to experience the joy of truly living life. So Jonas leaves with Gabriel and the last section of the book is really about the struggle of Jonas and Gabriel without them really knowing what happened back in the community. They just keep traveling through all kinds of weather and conditions. Begin to really experience the hardships that life can throw at you.
Now the other part that is the same and different is the ending. There is a difference between reading something and watching something. The way the ending is described is perfectly portrayed on the screen as it is written in the book. Part of what was great about the book was that there was a question of whether it was really happening or was it Jonas succumbing to death. In the movie it definitely feels more like this is really happening and he is finally enter the world where the memories that he received existed.