Thursday, May 3, 2012

Read the Book

(Warning: Possible spoilers for Game of Thrones, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and We Need to Talk about Kevin.)

I'd had enough violence for one week by 7:00 Tuesday evening this past week. Not real violence, of course, but screen violence -- lots of graphic screen violence. And not nearly enough sex to keep the balance.

I also made a firm and irreversible decision about the decades-old question: Should I see the movie after I read the book? Or before? Should I even see the movie at all once I've read the book? (No question whether to read the book or not. Of course you should read the fucking book.)

The answer is to read the book first, and although there are several reasons, the most compelling is simply so you know when to close your eyes. Obviously you can't do that when you read the book, so there's only one way this formula works. You must read the book first.

As evidence, I offer my violence diary for this week.

Sunday night the Diplomat came over for dinner (grilled salmon, zuccini and sweet potato, and  a decadent salted caramel brownie that was almost as good as a cookie), a walk down by the river in the rain, and some bloody, gory TV. First we caught up on Game of Thrones.

I've read the first chapter of the first of five books in the series. The Diplomat has read all of them, some more than once. He remembers the dozens of kingdoms and the hundreds of characters and even when each of those characters dies -- as apparently they all must. Not only that, he once ate dinner with George R. R. Martin, so he wins great big geek cred.

That means I can't watch the show without him, because I have to pause the DVR every 5 minutes and ask who is being killed or raped or tortured now. He remembers all of the characters and gives me the back stories from the books, which makes the show much more interesting, but that's not the only reason I need to watch it with him.

I  just wanted a photo of my beloved Ned here so I can look at him while I write. My king. I will never forgive George R. R. Martin for taking him from me.

He also tells me when to close my eyes to avoid the often gut-wrenching violence. He warned me before Ned -- the love of my life -- was cruelly beheaded in season 1. I still cried. He warned me when the dire wolf died and the horses. Sunday night he warned me to close my eyes just before the soldier's leg was sawed off*, although there was nothing to be done about the sound of a saw grinding through bone and the screaming.

Sadly I report, he also warns me about the sex. Oh, you laugh, but I'm not kidding.

Lots of people get naked in GoT. Lots of people get it on in GoT. It never turns out well. Never. And I just keep hoping someday ..... But here's how it usually goes.  The clothes start coming off and I jump up and down on the couch and shout, "Somebody's getting naked! Here come the cookies!" I slap the Diplomat's arm lightly to make sure he notices the naked people on the TV. "Tell me if you want me to hit pause or rewind!"

And then he turns to me slowly, a look of apologetic pity on his face, and gives a tiny shake of his head. Shake.

"No," I whimper. "Don't tell me there won't be any cookies again." I pause the DVR.

He lifts one eyebrow in a sympathetic curve, sips his beer and shrugs. "Enjoy it while you can," he says diplomatically.

"No, I don't believe you. You don't remember everything. This one will end with cookies. I know it will," I say as if my denial will somehow change what was filmed months ago. I press play and as the steamy, squirmy naked scene unfolds ..... yeah.

He's always right. Either some guy is doodling his sister while they ride on horseback and doesn't realize she's the baby sister he hasn't seen in 20 years, or somebody gets beaten or raped or -- and I'm not even kidding -- somebody will say, "You're doing it wrong," and stop them in mid-hump. Every single fucking time. 

Read the book.

I know, right?
 After we emptied the DVR of GoT, we popped in the movie the Diplomat brought: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I wasn't sure I wanted to see this movie because I've read all three books in the series and I knew the rape scenes would be graphic and disturbing. They were, but two things helped.

First, Daniel Craig is gorgeous, and if I dated, I would date him.

Second, I knew what was coming after the rape scene. It was awful to watch -- well played on the part of Rooney Mara -- unflinching, that scene was. If I hadn't known there would be more tattooing to come, I might not have been able to continue watching it. This movie is not light-hearted; it's dark, moody, bitter in places. I recommend it. But only after you ... 

Read the book. 

Tuesday evening I joined one of my community theatre sisters at our little downtown art theatre to watch We Need to Talk about Kevin, a movie based on the book by Lionel Shriver.

I've been eagerly waiting for ...Kevin to come to town .... and dreading it at the same time. Shriver is one of my literary heroines. The woman has written some of the best prose I've ever read -- some of it about cookies. But there are no cookies in this book.

It's the story of a school shooter (although not with a gun) told through a long, rambling letter written by his mother to his father (yes, she takes on the dreaded second-person POV). There is nothing sexy in this story, but there are lots of nasty, graphically written surprises (like the one I just gave away, but many more). As I read the book, I didn't see many of them coming. Or maybe I didn't want Shriver to treat her characters the way she did. She's brutal.

Anyway, it's the most compelling, unexpected story about a school shooter I've ever read or seen. She doesn't leave out any details, because the mother, Eva Khatchadourian, has all the time in the world to tell her story.

Tuesday, I was relieved I'd read the book. Because Shriver so meticulously blew up my brain with words, nothing I saw on the screen shocked me. The images couldn't compare, although not for lack of trying. This time I didn't even have to close my eyes, although at one point, I probably should have.

But I also knew the story in all its complexity -- not just what there was time to show on the screen. Same with Dragon Tattoo. So much is always left out of a movie.

If I hadn't read the book, I probably would have left the theater feeling ill. The movie was slow too, with lots of cinematic masturbation: slow, sometimes fuzzy, camera shots and a lot of reliance on the actors' expressions. It's tense and uncomfortable from the very first shot until the brutal ending. And the kid in this movie makes the psychos who stalk my life look like cuddly little puppies.

In fact, the only thing more disgusting than the violence at the end was the couple sitting behind us who came in 10 minutes late with bags of popcorn that they crunched and munched throughout the entire movie as they commented on every single fucking thing that happened as if they were in their own living room .... which of course they fucking weren't. After the climactic, gory scene I leaned over to my companion and said, "He did that because those people behind us wouldn't shut the fuck up."

I recommend the movie if you like dark, artistic movies that move slow but don't give you room to breath. It's worth the discomfort.

But what I suggest, so you'll always know when to close your eyes, is to just
read the book. 

* Have I written about my amputation phobia here? No? Forget it. Enough with my phobias.

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