Princess Bride: Comparison Of The Book And The Film

To fully understand the film Princess Bride, reading William Goldman’s original novel will provide you with more detail and backstory of what’s going on in the film. Although the film adaptation visually captures the novel’s theme, characterization, style, tone, and the overall plot of the novel with little differences here and there. The adaptation is a quality film on its own and should be recognized as so. There are certain things that the book portrays more effectively than the movie and those include, the characters back stories, and how the book goes more into depth about the Zoo of Death. On the other hand, the movie also effectively does certain things better than the book and those would be how the movie uses and simpler frame device, and how the humor in the movie appeals to the audience’s emotions.

Goldman’s novel of the Princess Bride, he first encountered Bride, which he credits as the work of Simon Morgenstern. The book seemed to be Goldman’s “version” of Morgenstern as a 10-year-old child. Goldman suffered from pneumonia and his father would read him the book, which ended up becoming his favorite book. He even credits the book’s “Cliffs Of Insanity” with a similar scene in another book he wrote, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. According to the book, when Goldman’s own son turns 10 years old, he decides to continue the book’s tradition and giving him a hard copy for the birthday present. When he gets bored after reading chapter one, Goldman actually ends up reading the book and finding out how much his dad missed.

Goldman decides to write his own reprinting of the novel that he will shape into a better “version”. This edited manuscript is what makes up the majority of the book, even though Goldman frequently pops in with reasoning behind what he’s cut as well as to comment on “Morgenstern” and the man’s style choices. Morgenstern never existed; the “abridgment” structure and notations are purely literary inventions. His abridgment is, in theory, is an endeavor to recreate that experience out of the original work, with running commentary on what gets skipped and musings on his experiences. The novel reads a lot like the movie but the interruption is usually more adult-minded than when the kid in the movie says, “Is this a kissing book?”.

The film version of the Princess Bride, directed by Rob Reiner, was a straight interpretation of the novel, but with a more playful, teasing adventure feeling while still using the sophisticated literary devices to show the overall theme of the book.

In the movie, the story is being read by the grandfather to his sick grandson. In the novel, the step up is close but not exact. Goldman is a big part in framing the entire story. He talks regarding how the book modified his life. Goldman states that the novel is an abridgment of a larger satirical work subtitled, “S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure”. It was the same book his father read to him when he was younger but he skipped the parts that may seem boring for a kid. Also in the movie, the opening moves quickly along despite the intervening years Buttercup is engaged to Prince Humperdinck minutes after Westley is murdered by pirates.

While in the book, the opening is different. Humperdinck rejects Guilder’s princess named Noreena because she ended up being bald which we find out once the wind blows. The prince finds Buttercup to propose but she only accepts if she’s not loving the prince. Most of the parts that Goldman skips are early on as well, so that’s why there are more interruptions as he explains the history of Florin with forty pages and sixty pages on the attempts to get the King’s health better don’t end up working. In the interruptions, he also explains Buttercup’s training for being a princess. The rest of the characters get built up too like Rugen’s reasoning for seeking Inigo’s father are more clearer, his having six fingers isn’t just a way to identify him, but it’s a handicap, thus why he has a special commission. Fezzik’s childhood of being a “gentle giant” is gone more in-depth.

The differences between the two are subtle, but each version has its own unique strengths. The changes between the novel and film affect the way the audience portrays characters and the plot of the story. For example, instead of there being sharks in the water about to attack Buttercup (p. 99), there are Shrieking Eels in the water. The eels seem scarier than sharks because they make noise and they could electrocute Buttercup. Another example can be in the book when Inigo and Fezzik must fight their way through the five levels of the Zoo of Death before they can reach Westley and they encounter snakes, bats, and other scary creatures. While in the movie, they enter the chamber where they find Westley without any problem at all. Goldman added those details in the novel to give more action and suspense to the readers, also to his son so that he’d be interested in reading it.

To go more into depth on what the novel does better, we can talk about the character backstories. The novel does a better job at explaining to the audience how Fezzik, Inigo, and Vizzini come together and start their relationships with each other. Also, we do know Inigo’s father was killed by the six-fingered man, in the book that’s explained more in depth compared to the film. The book fills in all those details about the characters, we get to know each of their backstories and childhoods.

What is also heartbreaking, is the elimination of the Zoo of Death in the film adaptation of the Princess Bride. If you never read the book, you would never know that information and there is a reasoning behind why they eliminated it because the story is still understood without it, but on the other hand, it still would have been cool to see all of Prince Humperdink’s dangerous animals shown on the big screen. The book version generally has a richer world as well. It gives multiple details of the political relationship between Guilder and Florin, providing more context for Buttercup’s kidnapping.

In the film, there is the use of a more simpler frame device that captures the silly spirit inside the book without taking it to unnecessary levels. For example, how there is the grandfather reading a story to his sick grandson. The director did a wonderful job at pulling you away from the story in a story at just the perfect moments. Also in the film, there is more humor. Whether it’s Billy Crystal portraying Miracle Max or Vizzini’s speech when he’s figuring out which goblet Westley poisoned. There is also physical humor that does not come across as clearly on paper as it does on the screen. The actors they chose to play Vizzini and Fezzik could not have been more accurately chosen. Both of their attitudes throughout the film and their delivery are very key in building the storyline.

To conclude, The Princess Bride is a magical, wonderfully quirky novel, and the movie adaptation stays very true to the text in terms of plot, character, and tone. 

16 December 2021
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