Today I broke a rule of mine, I watched a movie without reading the book first. Normally I would never do this but I’ve wanted to watch 12 Years a Slave for awhile now and my list of books to read always seems to get longer rather then shorter. The reason I never watch a movie, especially one with a powerful storyline such as this, before reading the book first is because I feel that there is too much lost from the book to the movie. What I’m talking about is that moment of clarity where a character in the midst of chaos comes to a profound understanding about life and where the reader, absorbed in the mastery of the description truly feels for the character and appreciates how life changing that moment is. How does one translate that passion from a novel to a movie?
There is a scene during 12 Years a Slave where the main character Solomon is hanging from a branch with a noose around his neck, dancing on tiptoes to stay alive but contemplating I imagine the freedom of death. I haven’t yet read 12 Years a Slave but I envisioned the depth of that silence while Solomon danced for his life, that there was an instant of clarity and deep understanding for the reader that no one would help Solomon, that he was alone in a world that wanted him to fail.
Perhaps we sell movies short. There is a power and a passion behind words that can’t be matched but there is also something to be said for a quiet moment in a movie. One that hasn’t been shortened to keep our interest but one that instead tries to translate from novel to movie the strength of the emotion that the author put to paper.
Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures