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Jerzy Kosinki's Being There
At quaint coffee houses, expensive restaurants, and homes around the world, movies and books are spoken of quite frequently. What happens when a best- selling book turns into Hollywood's project? In many cases, the remade story often does not do the book justire. Remaking a movie after a book can also propel a book and its author into stardom. This is the case for Jerzy Kosinki's popular book Being There. Patterning the remade movie version of Being There after the original book, Kosinski greatly enhances the entertainment value for the audience. "...you're a very photogenic man, you know." (p. 81). "...when I see how good looking you are..." (p. 85). These statements are said by one of the female photographers and the hostess of the UN soiree about the intriguing Chauncey Gardiner. The reader is led to believe that Chance is a handsome young man, possibly in his late thirties, with a very powerful aura about him. When he enters a room, all those present sit up and take notice. On the other hand, in the movie, the audience notices that Kosinki portrays Chance as a striking man, yet he seems to be in his early or mid-fifties. This is not a disappointment to the reader, it just seems a bit suprising. His effect is not diminished when he walks into a room, yet most younger people may not picture him the way Kosinski portrays him.
In the written version of Being There, Thomas Franklin, the lawyer who initially threw Chance out of the only home he has ever known, can not place the now famous Chauncey Gardiner. He knows he has seen his face before when he sees him on the television show This Evening. He even believes that he may have met him, but he still has no idea why. On the other hand, in the movie, Mr. Franklin knows right off the bat who he is seeing when This Evening airs. Although he recognizes Chauncey for the Chance that he is, he does not quite put it all together. He assumes that there must have been some government setup at the time he had met him at the Old Man's house.
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A doctor's duties consist of helping to heal people's ills, not playing Sherlock Holmes. This is exactly who the doctor thinks he is in the movie version of Being There. He becomes a bit suspicious of this newcomer Chauncey Cardiner. The sleuth want- to-be decides that something is not quite right with Chauncey. He proceeds to find out about the missing link. He snoops through Gardiner's clothes, looks in his room, and attempts to make small talk and find out just who this man is and where he comes from. He does not get much out of all of this, except for obtaining a business card with Thomas Franklin's name on it and he proceeds to hook up with him to find out whatever he can. This is quite a nice little scenario that, like the Franklin enhancement of the movie, makes the movie a little more exciting. The audience wonders how long it will take for Chance to get caught. The scenes the doctor is in, also have an element of humor in them also enhancing the book for those who have read it. The doctor in the book does his duties as a doctor as he should and that is the end of it. He does not try to become a shylock and he does not sooop around. In the book, the doctor accepts Chance for who he is and not what he is thinking or saying, as do many other people.
Chauncey Gardiner's name is synonymous with genius and hero. These adjectives can apply to Chance in the book version of Being There. People can not praise Chance enough for his incredible pre-dictions and metaphors. He helps everyone get a better outlook of themselves and their lives, so of course he is regarded os a genius right off the bat. Each person he talks with goes away with a better understanding of life. Many of his acquaintances are much better off because they talk to him. In the movie version, Chance's conversations are enhanced by the comic relief added in a few scenes. Chance speaks and people listen, as they did in the book, but they do not know what to make of this strange man. He receives many stares of confusion from those with whom he engages in conversation. The movie portrays him almost as a village idiot whom everyone can laugh at. For example, when Chance talks about the e]evator being a "very small room" to one of the servants, the servant thinks of him as extremely funny. When in actuality, he really thinks of the elevator as a room. Also, Chance's conversations cause others to think more in the movies about what he is saying. For instance, with the President of the United States, Chance explains his normal garden talk. 1n the book the president automatically figures out the correlation between the economy and a garden. In the movie he has to stop and think about what Chance is talking about.
Chance's thoughts help the reader to find out who he is and what he is about in the book Being There. Unfortunately, in the movie the audience does not hear these thoughts. In the book, the reader is amused by his infantile thinking on one page, and his acute perception on the next. The reader knows how he feels in certain social situations and understands why he reacts certain ways to politics, personal questions and sex. In the movie, Chance's thoughts are hidden behind the lens of the camera. Obviously, Kosinski wants the audience to make up their own minds about Chance's introverted feelings. This becomes evident from all the blank stares Chance puts on during the course of the movie. Having the audience make their own decisions about Chance's emotions makes the movie more interesting because they are not told how to perceive Chance at any given time, and their opinion is all up to them.
Overall, the remaking of Being There in the movie form is quite a success. Kosinski succeeds at creating two very popular modes of entertainment both with a central idea of the aristocracy. The movie version has been greatly enhanced by letting the audience get more involved by drawing their own conclusions and being able to laugh. Kosinski teaches the audience that putting a book into movie form does not mean that the book will be lost in the shuffle, but that it will be enhanced greatly. Kosinski proves from these two entertainment triumphs that an audience should never judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its preview. You never know what you will miss out on.