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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Musical Faithfulness/Non-faithfullness To The Book

These days, I've taken a more relaxed view to movie's faithfulness to the book.  No matter what, the book will always be better (except in the case of Little Dorrit), so why allow some unfaithfulness to spoil your enjoyment of the movie?  And if it's really blatant, it's fun to watch anyway and discuss in tones of outrage with your friends, right?  So it's a win for everyone.  Still, nothing quite matches the thrill of watching a book you love so much come to life on screen (or stage) in breathtaking detail and, not only that, something that matches the tone of the book (which is extremely important).  I've only watched a very few movies that do that and, unfortunately, ATOTC doesn't quite do it right.  It doesn't follow the book that faithfully and, in my opinion, doesn't quite capture the tone.  But I still love it (see how generous I am? ;)) and I thought I'd outline some ways it doesn't/does follow the book.

  • Lots of lyrics are taken directly from the book.  Or at least as much as they can.  One notable example (actually the only one I can think of right now, although I know there are others), is during 'If Dreams Came True'...

If dreams came true I might have been a better man.
If dreams came true you might have set me free.
But God is kind, for you he had a better plan,
And saved you from the pain of loving me.
And even if I'd not surrendered long ago,
All you can ever do for me you've done.
You've been the finest dream a man could ever know:
That this abandoned fight might have been won.
Old voices I had thought long since dead,
A whisper of another life I might have led.
But daylight takes dreams away.
Dreams that leave a sleeper where he lay. 

Compared to...

“If you will hear me through a very little more, all you can ever do for me is done. I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul. In my degradation I have not been so degraded but that the sight of you with your father, and of this home made such a home by you, has stirred old shadows that I thought had died out of me. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent for ever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.” ~Book 2, Chapter 13

And also from 'If Dreams Came True'...

What are you weeping for?
I am not worth the tears you waste.
Not far from now I'll sink once more,
And even mark the heart that loves you chaste.
The low companions, low desires, I scorn,
But yield to every day,
Make me unworthy of your caring, 
Yet you still don't turn away.
I won't forget.
You wept for me!

Compared to this passage from the same chapter...

"Be comforted!" he said, "I am not worth such feeling, Miss Manette. An hour or two hence, and the low companions and low habits that I scorn but yield to, will render me less worth such tears as those, than any wretch who creeps along the streets. Be comforted! But, within myself, I shall always be, towards you, what I am now, though outwardly I shall be what you have heretofore seen me. The last supplication but one I make to you, is, that you will believe this of me." 
  • The revolutionary fervour of the book is well portrayed in the musical.  Dickens' focused quite a bit on the revolution in the book and both 'Until Tomorrow' and 'Everything Stays The Same' show a good picture of what he tried – and succeeded in portraying.
  • Actually, many of the songs are accurate to the book, if not in words, then in situation.  'The Promise' is an excellent example of that.  Even though the conversation between Charles and Dr Manette isn't word for word from the book, we still get a good sense of all the key parts in this meeting – Dr Manette's distrust, Charles' respect and love for Lucie, and, of course, the part near the end with Charles wanting to reveal his name and Dr Manette forbidding it.  Other notable examples include 'Resurrection Man', 'Letter From Uncle', 'Reflection', 'The Tale', and 'Finale'.

  • The biggest thing for doesn't is the character portrayals.  Sydney is the main character. Mme. Defarge is sympathetically portrayed.  Lucie is much more spirited.  Charles is barely more than an extra.  Of course, pretty much all these changes are good, but it's still taking away from the book.
  • Some songs are completely different from the book.  This mainly has to do with the character changes I mentioned above.  Songs like 'Never Say Goodbye' (well, maybe not that so much), 'Without A Word', 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind', and 'No Honest Way' are not book accurate.  Especially 'No Honest Way'.  I guess each musical has to have that kind of song although, thankfully, it's clean, unlike 'Master Of The House' (that was one thing I forgot to mention in my review of the musical is that it's refreshingly clean.  Only about half a dozen British slang words/swear words and that's it for content.  Well, of course, 'The Tale' all hinges on some questionable activity, but it's handled well, in my opinion).

Have I missed anything for either side?  Let me know your thoughts!



Miss Jane Bennet said...

Oh, yes, I've noticed the lyric-matching as well! I haven't heard ATOTC in its entirety much besides watching the concert(just the soundtrack, and even that I skip some songs), so I haven't thought much about accuracy to the book, but now that you mention them, I agree with all of these. Especially the character portrayals. I liked Lucie's change and I mostly liked Sydney's (and anything that gives Natalie Toro a chance to use that voice of hers is fine with me ;P), but I would have loved to see Charles get more screen time. (And yes! I was so surprised at how clean it was. They could have slipped in a *lot* of things and gotten away with it, but they didn't.)

Anonymous said...

just came across this and enjoyed reading your comments. i'd forgotten how faithful to the book i was actually ;-) thanks for laying the comparisons out side by side - that was fun to read! JS

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