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Read the Book, Watch the Movie

All across North America ambitious travelers can find enticing highways like this one in the Gaspe region of Canada

Off the Beaten Path

Recently, I watched two movies that in their own unique way defined going off the beaten path. I was especially interested in viewing these two films because I had read both books before I viewed the cinematic takeoff. Although the  two books story were published some 40 years apart (1957 & 1998) and differ widely in the worlds they describe, there is definitely a shared corps d’esprit that inhabits both literary adventures.

Essentially, both sagas are buddy stories, whereabouts two or more male adventurers set off on a journey of self discovery that definitely runs against the norms of conventional thinking and also poses a high likelihood of failure. In the end, the experience is the important event, not the goal.

On the Road

Overall, the movie, On the Road follows the original text to a greater degree than its counterpart, A Walk in the Woods. It is important to note, there are few novels, where all details can be compressed into a viewable two-hour movie. Taking note of this reality, the film catches the Zeitgeist of post war America in a convincing and entertaining way. It also explores the fascinating relationships of four men, (William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allan Ginnsburg and Neal Cassady), who would go on to become major writers  of the 50s and 60s. If this type of film interests you, you might want to check out the DVD. And of course, fans of the Beats would want to watch this movie also.

Despite the cover, no bears appear in the book….but in the movie, two of these wild creatures make a nocturnal visit to the campsite of Bryson and Katz.

A Walk In the Woods

When I first heard that A Walk in the Woods had been made into a feature-length film, I was surprised to say the least. Though the book was a great read, I did not see how anyone could make a decent movie from from two old men  attempting to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. After viewing the movie, I quickly realized that I had underestimated the imagination of Hollywood screenwriters or the ability of the two major actors, Nick Nolte and Robert Redford.

Though the movie makes some serious departures from the reality of walking the AT, it does weave a good tale around the late-in-life adventures of two senior citizens. Perhaps the biggest shortcoming, revolves around the portrayal of off-the-trail Southern characters that Bryson and Katz encounter, when they leave the trail for a night in a motel and a hot shower.

Essentially, what the writers did was to take the first half of the book and then expand the story, immensely, adding many scenes that were not in the book. The results were impressive. Redford and especially Nolte put on stellar performances that carry the story. They do this this despite the fact that both actors are in the twilight of their careers, where good roles are undoubtedly more difficult to find.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screenwriters Take Note

Creating workable scripts from popular novels is a challenging task. Not only is the writer faced with the difficult task of condensing a story that is way too long for the big screen, but he also faces an audience that is familiar with how the story line plays out. However, adding new material, to a popular story is a whole new ballgame that can have surprisingly results.

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