I have a strict rule in my house. No one can watch a book-turned-movie until the book has been read, and better yet, read recently.
Reading and listening to books is a wonderful opportunity to exercise your brain’s creativity…where and how else can you be director, casting agent, costume designer, and prop/scene artist all at the same time? For young children, there is the advantage of being able to craft their own age-appropriate level of tension, fear, and excitement. The battle scenes of Narnia are much different in the mind of a 13 y/o than in a 4 y/old’s, and I like it that way.
So it is with a certain amount of reluctance that I watch a good book turned into a movie. I know that I will be disappointed and my idea of characters and scenes will be tainted by the director’s vision. As long as I remember that in advance, and watch it for simple amusement (a=no, muse=think), I will still have a good time.
So, last night we rented a 2005 version of Heidi, by Picadilly Films. All in all, it was a pleasant film, missing many of the baser elements found in so many movies today . The Alp was much like I imagined it, although it was darker and less sunny in Slovenia, where it was filmed, than in my mind’s idea of Switzerland. The grandfather was well cast. Klara, Sebastian, and Peter’s grandmother were nearly spot on. I think it would be difficult indeed to cast the perfect Heidi, but Emma Bolger did a very good job and was charming to watch.
The tale tried to remain true to the book, save for a VERY important part. In the filmmaker’s effort not to offend anyone, he cut the legs off of the story. How can you tell the story of Heidi and leave out “the good God?” Imagine Heidi without Grandmamma’s counsel to trust in God’s providence, considering all the events in Heidi’s life that He turns from bad into good. How could you leave out the woven tale of the prodigal son and the Alm Uncle’s return to his community? Instead of the reconciliation taking place in church, the town meets the two at the grandfather’s old house in Dorfli to include them in May Day celebrations. Peter’s fabulous struggle with possession, anger, guilt and finally, forgiveness and redemption is completely left out. Peter’s grandmother’s sweet hope found in the book falls flat without “the good God” strengthening her faith at the very time her eyes fail her. You come away from the movie with nice feelings, but without ‘the scarlet thread’ woven throughout the movie, the depth of the book is sadly not translated to the screen. It is a little like following a dot-to-dot picture skip counting by 10s. The basic outline is there, but the details are missing.
Having recently read Heidi, we enjoyed discussing the differences between the movie and Johanna Spyri’s classic. My children enjoyed the movie, but I am so glad that their memory of the book will fill in the missing dots.