“The Road”: The Movie is Better than the Book?

This looks promising. Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road (2006), has been turned into a film, and a review in Salon suggests that the movie is actually better, on balance, than the book. That doesn’t happen every day. Here’s what Salon’s reviewer says:

John Hillcoat’s “The Road” is an honorable adaptation of a piece of pulp fiction disguised as high art; it has more directness and more integrity than its source material, the 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy. . . . Hillcoat’s movie takes the core idea of McCarthy’s novel — What does it mean to hang onto our humanity? — and boils it down to its essence.

If you’re a philosophically minded person, this seems like one of those “must see” films. But I’m not feeling much from the trailer, so I don’t know. I think it’s the musical score that is leaving me skeptical. The proper response to an apocalypse is silence, or the sounds of trees rustling in the wind, or ocean waves. The gravity of the event isn’t properly gauged to the music in the trailer. I’m thinking of one of Woody Allen’s 1970s films, Interiors, in which he was dealing with existentially heavy themes without humor, and so absented all music, even in the opening and closing credits, to produce an emotionally powerful effect. I wonder if the effect of this trailer would be different for me absent the music:

Oops. It doesn’t embed. Watch at YouTube here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbLgszfXTAY

Okay, I just tried watching the trailer with the music muted, and something else jumps out at me: the flashing jump shots, from one camara angle to another, take away from the gravity of the film’s content. The trailer, obviously, is trying to build up raw “rollercoaster ride” excitement, competing with 2012  for the attention challenged, apocalyptic moviegoer crowd. Hopefully, the director chose a more subdued tone in the progress of the film itself. Silence and stillness can themselves be forms of horror more in keeping with a Cormac McCarthy novel (as the film version of No Country for Old Men, in it’s concluding scene, attests). As I recall, the film ended in silence.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to “The Road”: The Movie is Better than the Book?

  1. toomey2k9 says:

    I’m afraid it might be too good:

    http://twynne105.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/493/

  2. jonathan says:

    Shame on you. The book IS high art. The movie is terrible. It dumbs down and modifies the conversations between the boy and his father when all they had to do was stick to those interactions and they could have had a great film. The boy is lousy in his avting and the whole cast, outside of maybe Viggo Mrt- is well fed and looks healthy. Also- WTF is up with Cheetos? McCarthy is a brilliant and time tested author of sincere and profound imaginings and his prosy books are thick with the real stuff of human thought and life. The movie is silly.

  3. santitafarella says:

    Jonathan:

    The score put me off the film, so I decided not to see it. I was just quoting the Salon author (who characterized the novel as “pulp fiction”). I know that McCarthy is a great writer, but I was concerned with whether to bother seeing the film. Knowing he’s a great author, and seeing somebody claimed that the film is better than the book, made me interested.

    —Santi

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