Movie vs Book

Earlier this week, Phillip and I saw a wonderful movie, named Blue is the Warmest Color. It was from our Netflix queue. I meant to write a blog post about it earlier.

Blue is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle) is a three-hour French film from 2013.

Adèle is a high school student. She’s quiet, and a bit of a loner. She has a small circle of close friends.

Adèle goes out with a handsome boy from school. They go out for gyros and a movie. They have sex. Adèle feels unsatisfied, however, and ends the relationship.

One day, Adèle passes by a woman with blue hair. The blue-haired woman has her arm around another woman. Adèle and the blue-haired woman exchange looks as they pass. Later, Adèle has sexual fantasies about this stranger. She’s never fantasized about a woman before.

Adèle’s friend, Valentin, takes her out to a gay bar. She gets bored, walks outside, and wanders into a lesbian bar. She finds the blue-haired woman there. They begin talking. The woman’s name is Emma.

Blue is the Warmest Color is the story of the relationship between Adèle and Emma, from beginning to end. It is told from Adèle’s point of view. Adèle is in every scene of the film.

The film’s dialog, I learned later, was mostly improvised. There is a lot of emotion conveyed through silence, facial expressions, and body language. It is an actors’ film. Adèle Exarchopoulos, the actress who played Adèle, does an excellent job of showing natural awkwardness.

I have two nits to pick with the film.

First, I thought the sex scenes went on for too long. I get it that they enjoy the sex, and that it’s a big part of their relationship, but after the first five minutes of continuous sex scenes, the point had been made, and it was time to get on with the story.

Second, there were large jumps in time, with no introduction. Eventually, someone says something that tells us that time has passed, but until they did, Phillip and I were scrambling to figure out what the heck was going on. (Adèle is a junior in high school. She comes home from school one day, and she can’t find her parents. She walks into the back yard and there’s a surprise party for her. “Happy 18th birthday!” everyone shouts. Wait – we thought she was 14 or 15 – maybe 16 at the most. Oh, wait – she’s in college now. Years have passed between school and home.)

But those are trivial things. I absolutely loved the film.

After we watched the film, I learned that Blue is the Warmest Color was based on a graphic novel. Then I learned that the graphic novel was on the shelf at the Capitol Hill Library. I checked it out.

I hadn’t thought of the graphic novel for the Reading Challenge. I wanted to read it because I loved the film so much. I thought about it later, however. It is a book that takes place in Europe, and it was translated into English.

I am glad I saw the film before I started reading the graphic novel. I hated the graphic novel. I hated it so much that I didn’t finish it. I won’t be using it for the Reading Challenge.

The film is sad in places, and melancholy in others (there is breakup, after all, and Adèle isn’t the most happy-go-lucky person ever), but the graphic novel is depressing. (It begins right after a suicide.)

The film tells the story in a liner fashion – we didn’t know where it was heading. The graphic novel is told in hindsight – we know, from the beginning, how it’s going to end. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I preferred the surprise.

The reason I hated the graphic novel so much, though, is that while the film was subtle, the graphic novel tended to hit me over the head with a message. The film is about two people falling in love – starting a relationship that isn’t conventional. (Adèle’s working-class parents think – or pretend to think – that Emma is merely Adèle’s tutor.) The graphic novel is about Clémentine (Adèle’s name in the novel) constantly screaming “I’m not a lesbian! What am I doing? People are going to hate me!” (Clémentine’s dad goes into a rage over seeing a gay pride parade on television.)

This is a case, in my opinion, of a film adaptation being better than the source material.

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