Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wristcutters: A Love Story vs. "Kneller's Happy Campers"

It's never fair to compare a film to its prose counterpart, but readers do it all the time. So when it comes to Wristcutters: A Love Story and "Kneller's Happy Campers" - written by Etgar Keret and can be found in the collection The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God & Other Stories - there are few things that irked me.  

First of all, the names are changed. Rather than following Mordy, Uzi and Lihi on their afterlife adventure into the unknown, we're following Zia, Eugene and Mikal. Kneller, who is played by Tom Waits in the film, and Desiree (Leslie Bibb) are the only characters who keep the names of the literary counterparts. But that's something I can get used to because it was expected. "Kneller's Happy Campers" wasn't originally written in English - it is, after all, a translation - so it was expected that some sprucing up would taken place. And with that, the characters' nationality vanished, too. 

Now conflict is always big so, with an adaptation, there has to be some sort of tension between the characters. Mordy was obsessed with finding Desiree in the short story so his attention toward Lihi minimum, but you can see the budding romance between Zia and Mikal as the search for Desiree carries on. So it would make sense that the whole guy meets gal, gal runs away, guy slowly realizes his love for gal. 

Most of the movie follows the same idea as the short story. Additions here and there to explain the problems with Eugene's headlight problem and what not, but otherwise it keeps the same idea. A plot device is added in the film's story - a black hole beneath Eugene's passenger seat adds to the movie's conclusion. And while the bitter sweet ending in the short story - Mordy hopes that Lihi one day returns to the world of suicides, continues on with his afterlife by mixing a little everyday screw ups into his daily routine - is endearing on its own merit, the film decides to give us the ol' Hollywood ending. It's not bad, however it's not good either. It's just so-so.

"Kneller's Happy Campers" has also been adapted into a graphic novel entitled Pizzeria Kamikaze - where Mordy/Zia is employed in the afterlife. I wonder if the movie borrows elements from the graphic novel. Either way, the winner of this is the short story. While the movie was good - dramatic where it needed to be, humorous when it was appropriate - it holds no flame to the short story. 

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