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This Week's Question
What was the one time you thought
the movie was better
than the book?
(Submitted by Tomi @
Several years ago, when video stores were still around, I found this absolutely AMAZING movie, "Shining Through", starring Melanie Griffith and Michael Douglas. The fact that these actors were playing the leads should have told me that I was in for a real treat, as these two are excellent performers. Furthermore, the supporting cast was of the very best caliber -- Liam Neeson, John Gielgud, and Joely Richardson. So I snapped up the DVD, and watched it as soon as I got back home.
Happily, I was TOTALLY blown away.
The story concerns Nazis and spies. I've always had a fascination for WWII movies, so one of the things I really liked about this one was how often other famous films of this period were referenced in the plot. But there was much more than that. There was the fascinating plot itself, the chemistry between the two leads, the suspense, the danger....
Griffith plays a young Brooklyn woman who is half Irish and half German/Jewish. She starts working as a secretary for Michael Douglas's character, who works for the government. The story takes place in the early 1940s.
This woman, Linda Voss, is a very perceptive, insightful person who has a vested interest in the events taking place in Germany; her cousin, Liesel Weiss, is a talented flutist living there, and her life could very well be in danger. Linda immediately realizes that her boss, attorney Ed Leland (Douglas) is in reality more than he appears. In fact, she soon discovers that he's a colonel in the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the CIA) who has already gone on several secret missions to Germany.
Of course, the two eventually become lovers, and, when an agent is suddenly murdered, Linda convinces Ed to let her replace him as a spy in Germany. She also wants a chance to rescue her cousin in the process.
This was such a riveting, satisfying film!! I've seen it at least three times, and want to do so again, now that I'm posting about it! Released on January 31, 1992, it was written and directed by David Seltzer. The music score is by Michael Kamen.
This film is based on a novel of the same name, written by Susan Isaacs, which was published by HarperCollins in 1988. Since I was so in love with the film version, I then rushed out and bought the book. Well, I was in for a huge disappointment....
I dove into the book, expecting to find the same great storyline, the same passionate romance, the same excitement. Although some elements of the plot were incorporated into the movie, I was upset to see that the relationship between Ed and Linda was not given the emphasis that it received in the movie version. In fact, Linda first falls for another attorney, named John Berringer, whom she has an affair with and eventually marries. I remember I started to frantically skim through the book, desperately searching for Linda and Ed's story. I had to get through SO many pages to find it, too. The story with Berringer did not interest me at all, from what I read. In contrast, Linda and Ed's relationship, as portrayed in the movie version, was absolutely enthralling.
The suspense and action in the movie were great, while, from what I read of the book, things seemed to just drag.
To be fair, I never did read the book in its entirety, but merely skimmed it. What I gathered from it, though, was that it was just not as riveting to read as the movie was to watch.
Writer/director Seltzer did a fine job of tightening up the plot, thus making it much more compelling. He eliminated the Berringer character as well as events in the first three-quarters of the novel, and instead zeroed in on Linda's heroism, and the way it impacted her relationship with Ed.
The last third of the movie was totally electrifying to watch, and I almost couldn't sit still the first time I saw it. The movie ends on a very sweet note, too, as the story is framed in an interview that Linda later gives for a BBC documentary special.
I did some Googling for this post, and read the Wikipedia article about the film. When I reached the end of it, I was shocked to discover that this movie was not well received at all, by either the critics or the public. In my honest opinion, this movie should have received an Oscar for Best Picture, and Griffith and Douglas should have received awards for Best Actor and Actress, as well. Neeson, Gielgud, and Richardson also turned in stellar performances, and deserved their own Oscars. The cinematography was excellent, with beautiful scenes of the German countryside, and the action scenes were very well done. The suspense was worthy of Hitchcock himself. So I really don't understand why this movie was not a success.
Perhaps I'll pick up the book again, and see why the critics in particular rated it as much better than the movie. But I really don't care what anyone else says about this film. I consider it a masterpiece of romance and suspense, and would actually like to throw rotten tomatoes at the staff on the "Rotten Tomatoes" website!
When I checked out the DVD on Amazon, I was very pleased to see that the movie has garnered a total rating of 4.5 stars from 839 reviewers! In contrast, the hardcover First Edition of the novel has received a total rating of 4 stars, from 105 reviewers. So all those who criticized it, back in 1992, were TOTALLY WRONG.
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