forrest

And that’s all I have to say about that.

“Let me say this: bein a idiot is no box of chocolates.”

Books and movies, movies and books. The relationship is a curious one. While Hollywood continues to take hold of someone else’s writing and often destroy it for a quick buck at the box office, very rarely do you see it happen the other way around. Forrest Gump was a book eight years before it was a film, but I’m willing to bet that some of you reading this now didn’t even know it had originally been a book.

The trouble with converting books to films (I’ll get on with the review shortly) is that the mediums are so totally different that it becomes practically an impossibility. An average book can take six to eight hours to read, let’s say. A film has to be over and done with in, generally at most, two. You are going to lose a lot of the plot, a lot of characterisation, perhaps even some entire characters. Granted, any descriptive passages are removed because they can be shown much quicker, but is that really a good thing?

Turning books into films is not an easy task, and that’s not to say that it has never been done well. The adaptation of Never Let Me Go was rather good, for one. However, on the whole I think that you shouldn’t ever try to compare a film to a book. The differences are too great, they will never work out quite right. The Harry Potter movies are masterpieces in their own way, but only if taken as a separate entity to the books. The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Colour of Magic, A Series of Unfortunate Events – all pretty good films but nothing like the source material. Often, the change happens because a lot of stuff has to be cut out but occasionally you get an instance where a lot gets added. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Hobbit, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – all very short books that managed to inspire two or three hour films, or in one case, three whole films.

And now we arrive at Forrest Gump – another book which seems to have been mostly ignored by the filmmakers.

Forrest Gump is one of my favourite films and I’m pretty sure that you’ll have seen it too at some point. I decided to pick up the book and experience the story in a different way. What actually happened was that I experienced an entirely different story. The really famous scenes from the film – Forrest’s leg braces, him running coast to coast, meeting John Lennon, Jenny’s death, the boat in the storm – not one of those things happens here. Sure, he still loves his Jenny, and he still fights in the Vietnam War (although he’s home again by around page 60) and he meets Bubba (who might be white, it’s never made clear), but the Forrest in the book takes a wildly different path to the Forrest of the film.

That’s not a complaint at all. The book has all the same warmth, heart and sweetness that the film did. Forrest here, however, is more an idiot savant, capable of highly advanced mathematics and being a skilled chess player. He just struggles with words and doesn’t always know how to express himself. Still, his IQ is about 70 and so, legally, he is an idiot. It doesn’t, however, stop him from having one hell of a life. He meets several of the Presidents, saves Chairman Mao from drowning, becomes best friends with an orangutan, appears in a play at Harvard, gets put in an lunatic asylum and is even sent into space. In short, this version of events is even more unbelievable than the ones you are probably more familiar with.

For a different – and, more importantly, the original – take on the character, this is a nice, quick read. Do I prefer it to the film? I don’t know. The two are such different creatures that, as usual, I think it’s pretty difficult to compare them, and wouldn’t be fair to either one to do so. And yet, this is a blog about books, so I feel obliged to say that the book is the better of the two, if only because it was the original version and the sequel (yes, there’s a sequel) opens with the line, “Don’t never let nobody make a movie of your life’s story.”

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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