The Lens of a Story through a Book or Film: Martin Guerre Style

1 02 2010

The differences between something portrayed in film and how it’s originally written on pages or manuscripts rests very much on how the audience reacts to their preferences on imagination or how their brain reacts to visuals and audio.  Everyone is different and so their preferences on whether they enjoy the book or the movie more shows natural relativity in all humans.

So, what did I actually think about Martin Guerre in terms of the movie versus the book?

I feel that since the book contained very little dialog, it was hard to picture the full extent of emotions from the characters.  Even though it was known to be a true story, it was difficult to relate to various aspects of them because the book was written in a very “matter-of-fact” manner.  Of course, the more academic students will swear by the book and always do (honestly, it makes you look more intelligent!), but there are some legitimate arguments for the film.  The wonderful thing about films, when done correctly, is it has an ability to make a powerful connection with the audience.  The simple details that are too trivial to include in the book, unless it’s any novel written by JRR Tolkien, are there in the film.  The soft wind and how it affects the trees, the grass, the sounds, the clothing and hair of the characters, is so much easier to present on film rather than making a lengthy and boring paragraph describing the exact descriptions of the scene.  However, it’s really not the small details that can make a film much more intriguing, it’s the reactions and facial features of the actors.  Their reactions are those that as humans we connect with.  Frustration.  Anger.  Jealousy.  Happiness.  Love.  Frailty.  Confusion.  And the list is truly endless on the amount of emotions and expressions we would really recognize.  Even at times, we don’t even know how to verbally explain the particular emotion we witness, but rather we relate to the “feeling” of it all.  Being able to visually see the story acted out on film makes the tale feel so much more REAL.  If humans had always believed that books were enough for entertainment, plays would have never been conducted.  Plays have the same basis of film, which is to help the audience relate more effectively.  Visuals are embedded in our mind, and humanity often needs them to fully (or partially) connect with the story.  That’s why people say, “Well, it doesn’t make sense when I tell you it, but it’s one of t

The Film in its Glory, "The Return of Martin Guerre"

The film in its glory, "The Return of Martin Guerre"


hose instances that you should have been there.”  Seeing really does make all the difference.

However, the story of Martin Guerre was put in a book through findings of documents and knowledge about his time period in relationship to where he lived geographically.  This makes it different than the average storybook.  Even as I mentioned above, the one thing that bothered me about the book was the lack of dialog.  I thrive on dialog when I read something.  That’s what makes me interested in the characters and truly takes me into their world.  Naturally, when reading this book, I was having a bit of difficulty to forget that I was just sitting on a couch in my living room in Waco, Texas rather than be thrust into France during the 16th century.  Obviously, the latter would have been much more interesting place to be, but it was hard to get fully enveloped in the story.  But who can forget that the movie isn’t completely historically accurate?  Oh yes, that small thing.  Well, I suppose if maintaining historical accuracy is something that you strive, you would be squirming in your seat from indignation because of certain issues.  The most notable being that Arnaud di Tihl and Martin Guerre met during Martin’s years away from his family and home.  As mentioned in the book, it cannot be ruled out that the two met, but it is not documented either.  The means in which it is revealed that they met in the film was during the courtroom scene, so naturally if the proclamation had been made, it would have most definitely been documented.  Also, Arnaud never recoiled his original defense in the courtroom whenever he caused a continuity error in his story.  Something I found interesting about the film was towards the end after Arnaud lost the case, and Bertrande was being privately interviewed.  She was then asked an “off the record” question.  Bertrande was honest in her answer about her knowledge of Arnaud’s fakery.  Her response was exactly as I had imagined her intentions while reading the book.  Even though the book never clearly stated her part on the falsity, due to lack of mention in the found documents.  I believe there are two explanations on why this particular scene was included in the film: The first being that films need drama to keep the readers attention. Films rely on theater sales and VHS/DVD sales.  So even though they want to stay historically accurate, they want to make a profit more.  The second possibility in this inclusion is that maybe the historian Davis believed it to be true.  In her book, she could not include any unnecessary or unfounded drama since it is based on historical accuracy.  Just because Davis thought that it happened was not enough reason to include it in her book.  Since she did help during filming, why not add aspects that you believe to be true?  It’s important in a film to have a wide scope of reasons behind actions so the audience doesn’t get irritated with the lack of motives.  People constantly want to know WHY some action has occurred and loathe being left in the dark on certain subjects in a movie.  In a historical book, it is acceptable to leave out motives because it is unwarranted if the true motives are unknown.  Fabrication isn’t looked highly upon in the book realm.  Films are allowed to fabricate whenever they feel.  Yes, they will make the historians angry, but it doesn’t exactly matter if they constructed a nice, overall film… and if they make money.  Lots of money.



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