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Monday, February 17, 2014

Winter's Tale Then and Now


I read Helprin's Winter'sTale the year before I graduated college on the recommendation of my thesis advisor in preparation for writing my thesis (which turned out to be the novella Tree/House). I'm sure it was recommended because of my interest in magical realism, but my reading of it went much farther than academic analysis, and like a lot of readers of this book, I experienced an enduring, gasping devotion to it long after I forgot what it was about. (If I ever knew. It's special in its inability to be pinpointed.) Even now, having moved a million times, I have Winter's Tale with me. I've gotten rid of a lot of stuff, but's non-negotiable. I tried to read other Helprin works, but they never worked out. Maybe I can only go through such a complex, transformative experience once.

Go to the microfiche for the really amazing discoveries.
Fast forward to 2014, and there's a movie of this unwieldy masterpiece. It was such a thrill when the first trailers came out. To think, someone dared to bring Winter's Tale to the cinema! I doubted it could be done — and apparently, so did everyone else! The reviews have been terrible.

I went to see it on opening day (Valentine's Day — thanks, sweetheart!) and the film is lovely to look at and highly sentimental, a perfect Valentine. If it weren't compared to the book, it wouldn't be judged so harshly. In fact, I'm not sure the two should be considered together because this goes beyond the usual cutting necessary for the visual medium. It's so simplified and reprocessed, it's hardly the same story at all.

I have personal reasons for being okay with the movie version being so much more linear and to the point. When I read the book, it encouraged me to see the world in a complicated, ritualized way I was already cultivating. But I went to see the film with my one true love, and our life is simple and our love is uncomplicated, so both art forms were a perfect match for the way things were going with me at the time.

A bad reason to like a movie that doesn't deliver even half the messages of its book? I don't think so. See the Winter's Tale movie with your true love and you'll see what I mean.