Slaughterhouse Five The Novel Vs. The Movie

1406 words - 6 pages

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five


George Roy Hill's Movie Adaptation

For the most part, the movie adaptation of the Kurt Vonnegut novel Slaughterhouse Five is a faithfully adapted version that does not veer horribly far away from Vonnegut's own vision. It is no secret that Vonnegut displayed some extremely obsessive tendencies in this novel due to his own experiences as a prisoner of war. For this reason, I did not believe that the movie would be able to accurately display Vonnegut's own personal feelings regarding these issues. However, I felt that the film did a good job of keeping with what Vonnegut had intended to be seen and felt in his novel.

I was extremely surprised by the way in which Hill's movie managed to successfully portray the ideas of the novel which I believed would be nearly impossible to visualize on screen. I had a hard time imagining how it would be possible to show abstract topics such as "being unstuck in time" on a movie screen. However, I came away extremely impressed with the way that Billy managed to travel around different points in his life as seamlessly as he did in the novel. Throughout the novel I actually had a harder time following Billy's travel through time. I came away surprised by this as I imagined it to be much tougher to follow in the movie.

I think that Hill was able to make the time traveling easier to follow by incorporating an aspect that Vonnegut did not use in the novel. In the novel Billy's travels seemed to be completely at random, with him at the mercy of time itself. Hill's tactic for disguising what seemed to completely random and without any rhyme or reason was by making it so that whenever Billy traveled to a different portion of his life, it always corresponded somehow with the portion that he had been in prior to traveling. An example is, if he was lying in his bed in the hospital then he would travel to a point when he would be laying down in his bed on Tralfamadore. These transitions give the movie an almost artsy feel as Hill uses a strong musical element during these times, typically with the music heightening to its crescendo right at the moment of transition. This gave what in the novel was an entirely nonlinear, basically random life, an almost linear albeit clearly not chronological by any means.

I did not feel that there were any obvious plot differences from the novel to the film. It almost seemed as if the director, Hill, was probably a great fan of Vonnegut's work and he wanted to keep it as similar to the book as possible. He managed to do a good job I felt of conveying the novel as accurately as possible. As has been mentioned in class it seemed like it would be hard to keep Billy as the hapless individual that Vonnegut describes due to the fact that being the center of attention on screen makes one take more of an interest in that person as a character. However, I felt with the use of the time traveling and even getting further in depth...

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