Slaughterhouse-Five: The Novel and the Movie Essay

Slaughterhouse-Five: The Novel and the Movie Essay

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Slaughterhouse-Five: The Novel and the Movie


In 1972 director George Roy Hill released his screen
adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five (or The
Children's Crusade; A Duty Dance With Death). The film made
over 4 million dollars and was touted as an "artistic
success" by Vonnegut (Film Comment, 41). In fact, in an
interview with Film Comment in 1985, Vonnegut called the
film a "flawless translation" of his novel, which can be
considered an honest assessment in light of his reviews of
other adaptations of his works: Happy Birthday, Wanda June
(1971) "turned out so abominably" that he asked to have his
name removed from it; and he found Slapstick of Another Kind
(1984) to be "perfectly horrible" (41,44). (This article was
writen prior to Showtime's Harrison Bergeron, and Fine
Line's Mother Night). A number of other Vonnegut novels have
been optioned, but the film projects have either been
abandoned during production or never advanced beyond an
unproduced screenplay adaptation, indicating the difficulty
of translating Vonnegut to the silver screen. So why does
Slaughterhouse-Five succeed where others fail? The answer
lies in how the source is interpreted on screen. Overall,
while there are some discrepancies that yield varying
results, the film is a faithful adaptation that succeeds in
translating the printed words into visual elements and
sounds which convincingly convey the novel's themes.

While Vonnegut's literary style is very noticeable in
Slaughterhouse-Five, the novel as a whole differs from the
majority of his other works because it is personal with an
interesting point of view techniq...


... middle of paper ...


...kle every time I watch that film,
because it is so harmonious with what I felt when I wrote
the book" (Film Comment 41). Whether or not someone who has
not read the novel could get some meaning from the film is
hard to decide, but if one considers that it would take just
about as long to watch the movie as it would to read the
book, the decision should be obvious.

Works Cited

Bianculli, David. "A Kurt Post-mortem on the Generally
Eclectic Theatre." Film Comment Nov.-Dec. 1985: 41-44.

Loeb, Monica. Vonnegut's Duty-Dance With Death. UMEA, 1979.

Nelson, Joyce. "Slaughterhouse-Five: Novel and Film."
Literature/Film Quarterly. 1 (1973): 149-153.

Slaughterhouse-Five, dir. George Roy Hill, with Michael
Sacks, Universal Pictures, 1972.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five. New York: Dell
Publishing, 1968.

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