John Braine
John Braine asked:

Hi Has anyone watched the movie, then read the book... and still loved the book? I never do Movie-then-book. But I loved the movie, and didn't know about the book until I looked up more info. I'm quite intrigued about the book, but it seems to hinge on a slow reveal. Thanks

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Brian I first watched the movie, then read the book. Both disturbing, unsettling and compelling. And both I would recommend, yet both are quite different. The book is indeed a slow reveal, but it achieves this through challenging the readers assumptions about language and ideas. I enjoyed being tricked by the author - he made me pay attention to the words the characters were using. A film director attempting to recreate the scenes and plot lines from the book would pretty much be giving the game away early.
There is quite a lot of dialogue in the book, particularly dealing with ethical questions and ideas of class and exploitation. In the film, however, the film maker relies primarily on images to tell the story - it is a very quiet film, and the ideas hit you via emotional reactions to the scenes. The scene on the beach for me was devastating and powerful, and it was not drawn from the book. I appreciate film makers like this who latch onto some ideas from a text then make the story their own, telling it in a different medium.
Ellen Gilbert I also saw the movie first. In fact, I watched the movie twice before reading the book. The first viewing baffled and disturbed me, so I knew I needed to watch again. I turned on the subtitles as well, because the sound quality of the dialog leaves much to be desired, and the thick colloquial Scottish accents of many of the characters made it very difficult to make out what they were saying. It is, as Brian pointed out, a movie that relies mostly on visual impact to get its message across, but that only makes the sparse dialog even more crucial to understand. For instance, when Scarlett boards the bus and the kindly stranger asks her if she is all right; on my first viewing, it only appeared that she sat there mutely and then suddenly, in the next scene, she was walking with him. With the subtitles on, it shows that she answers him, "yes," and that makes all the difference, because it reveals her understanding of her need and her vulnerability and not just some robotic response mechanism, like a duckling imprinting on the first thing it sees upon emerging from an egg.

Which brings me to the difference between the movie and the book as I see it. In the movie, the character seems to be a sort of appendage of the deep, black, oceanic mass that consumes the hitchhikers. It simply carries out its functions and has no other personality apart from what that prime directive dictates. When it, or “she,” begins to develop a self-awareness as something separate from the black void/mass, she goes off and attempt to discover who and what she is. Unfortunately, when she attempts to eat (like all the other humans she observes) she chokes because she has no digestive system. When she attempts sex, she discovers she has no vagina. Yet she has feelings, sensations, desires, etc. because she is wearing the skin of a human woman. But she is not a human woman.

So the movie seems to be pointing out how much of our self awareness and self identification is not only wrapped up in the packaging of our human skins, but also how much that self identity is dependent upon how others perceive us. Also that being human is a continuing journey of self-discovery that is very, very fragile and can be influenced to a devastating degree by the perceptions, attitudes, and responses of others.

The book, on the other hand, journeys very deeply into our individual and collective identifications within our societal and institutional structures. Isserly knows very well she is not a vodsel. She has been physically altered in a most brutal and crude manner simply to be used as bait to “fish” for the biggest vodsels she can hook. But she doesn’t see it that way at first. She also, like Scarlett Johannson’s character, must go on a journey of self-discovery, as gradually her consciousness is raised from the belief that she was chosen due to special abilities for some great purpose, to finally realizing that she has been brutalized and de-“humanized” in order to serve the base appetites of a small but powerful elite group through a corporate organization. She finally recognizes that her role in the organization is not unique. She is actually expendable, easily replaced. As long as she identifies herself as having a unique and valuable role in her society, she can live with her circumstances, as bleak, brutal, and painful as they are. She can make excuses and rationalizations for everything going on around her, but when the truth is revealed, she discovers that she has nothing, no identity, no foundation, no ground to her being. She is lost in an alien world, but, like Scarlett Johannson’s character, she chooses to go forth and attempt to find or create a life and an identity for herself.

It is a brave yet ultimately tragic decision for both characters in the movie and the book. Yet, there is a sense of triumph at the end of both, if only that of self-authentication.
Phil I also saw the film first, and loved it, but found the novel far more disturbing - as well as slyly funny, as Faber has a habit of being, with language. Jonathan Glazer's film focuses more on the role-reversal of sexual violence that Faber introduces - quite legitimately and thought-provokingly - but Faber's novel also introduces questions of inter-species relationships, its most brilliant and horrific conceit being the assumptions made by Isserley and her people (who call themselves 'human') about what we would recognise as human beings, and they consider animals - and food-animals at that. Both versions are excellent examinations of the way people conceptualise their place in the world, and the oppression and violence they are prepared to take for granted in order to maintain their attitudes. On balance, and simply because it gives more scope for imagination and horror, I'd take Faber's original novel.
Larissa I saw the movie first and still loved the book, although, as Justin pointed out, they are very different. I think if you try and treat them as separate entities you may be able to appreciate them both for their different qualities. I don't know if I would have been annoyed with the movie if I had read the book first, which is usually what happens, but I saw the movie without realising the book existed so their was no option. This is now the second book I have read recently where I have seen the movie first and still liked the book. Am now beginning to wonder whether my rule of always reading the book first should be revisited - it may save lots of aggravation. On the other hand, it was hard not to picture the protagonist as Scarlett Johansson.
John Braine Thanks for all the feedback.

I thoroughly enjoyed both.

My review here:
Moira Yes, yes, yes! READ THE BOOK!
Liz For the record, I really didn't like the film very much at all. I knew a fair amount about it before seeing it, and I understand the artistic merit (particularly the soundtrack/ score) and the sensationalized aspect of it including non-actors, unscripted/ improvised scenes, etc. However, I just didn't enjoy it. I have just read the book (months later) and liked it much more. I knew that the book would be different, and had an idea of some of the plot elements that might otherwise have been a surprise, but I didn't feel this spoiled it for me. If anything, all the major differences between the book and the movie version constituted a different kind of surprise for me. I would recommend the book to some people, but can't say I feel like recommending the film to anyone (even though friends of mine liked it).
Frank Watch the movie; skip the book.
Justin Spohn Hmmm - thats a tough call. The book and the movie are very different both in tone and in terms of how they're trying to achieve their point. The book and movie share a common focus on the nature of what it is to be human, but where they part ways is that the book is far less abstract and far more political.

I enjoyed them both, but I think each one needs to be taken on its own.
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Ron Christiansen Agreed Brian. So important, IMHO, to see each incarnation of a story on its own merits instead of insisting a movie must contain everything in a book. Ridiculous because movies are a vastly different medium.
Tressa I read the book years before the movie and loved it. It was different than anything I'd ever read, and I read a lot of weird stuff. Although the movie is veers from the book quite a bit, I also loved the movie and just judge it on its style and plot.
Rose Katsanos Scarlett Johanson was great but the movie doesn't show the whole picture, only read the book because i heard it had something to do with evil corporations and interstelar trade and mining. Not disappointed at all, awesome story i gave maximum rate to.
Fernando Luis I suggest you to read "Smallcreep's day". I have found some similarities between the two books, i.e. science-fiction, capitalism, ecology, sexism and human beings opressed by the system. I hope you enjoyed my little piece of advice. Regards.
roy lugton Cannot disagree with M more. I totally loved the book.The film was a huge disappointment.To describe the book as trash is ludicrous beyond belief.
Matthew Marcus I've never watched a movie that was so completely unlike the book from which it was adapted. I thought they were both good, but it's like the movie was loosely adapted from the blurb on the back cover of the novel: aside from the central conceit, they are utterly different in terms of plot, characters, everything really. For me the crown goes to the book for being the most amazing pro-vegan parable I've ever read... as well as being a superbly written science fiction novel that manages to be repeatedly hilarious and incredibly dark by turns.
Liane Kerry I saw the movie, then read the book. The movie and book were entirely different in some ways but I liked both. The movie had less dialogue and more (amazing) effects, naturally. In the book, one hears the dialogue in the main character's head, thus we get to know her. She is also described as somewhat odd looking in the book. In the movie, she is obviously stunning.
Marcel I did movie then book and thought the book was trash, while I loved the movie. In fact, I felt the movie was closer to what the book (imo) wanted to be: about character development and the exploration of what 'alien'/'human' means and how empathy, racism and xenophobia are connected...
My issue with the book is that it is far too close to those bad splatter abduction movies hollywood vomits at us (Skyline, Extraterrestrial, etc), which totally distract from the core.
I also struggle with Faber's writing in this book. A bit like Houellebecq I find his style flat and without colour, while at the same time too much in-your-face provocative. This, however, could be a contemporary type / style of writing which is not bad, I just can't appreciate / get into...

So now that I have told you the book is bad, I would say: If you found the film interesting, no harm reading the book :)
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