The Road (movie)

dvd cover of the roadI just watched the movie they made of Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road – a bit tardily, I realize, as it was in cinemas a while ago, but since the book features in my thesis I did not want to watch the movie before I had finished writing about the book. I dreaded watching this movie a bit, to be honest, both out of a combination of the grim subject matter and the doubt that they could really do the book justice, and alas, I was right on that second account. Some of the really gory bits are in the movie all right, but they are entirely not as horrible in the movie as they are in the book, because McCarthy’s descriptions makes them feel much closer, since he usually uses the most beautiful language to talk about the most heinous things, and thus makes them far more disturbing than a non-aestheticising depiction of them is.

The acting is overall fine (outstanding in some cases), some of the imagery and mise-en-scene are beautifully done, but the depth the novel has is entirely missing. They’ve shorn all the complexity out of the novel and turned it into this straightforward (somewhat shallow) story, and twisted the religious complexities to boot – the interaction between Ely and the man is … not what it could be, and they’ve left out the entire complexity that the flare pistol has.  –> The philosophical depth: gone.

Also, visually, the world is entirely not dark and bleak enough.

(I could get nit-picky here about a lot of things [the boats!], but I shall refrain, both to not post too many spoilers and because I think few people actually want to read a list of my complaints, right? Or observations about the interesting choice of using voice-over for parts of the movie – it gives the father a narrative agency that is quite different from the book [but a viable alternative to lots of establishing shots]. Some of those voice-overs are good, some … not so much).

Good actors let down by a strangely lacking and shallow script. A shame. So: if you know neither the book nor the movie do yourself a favour: read the book. If you love the movie for what it is: don’t read the book. If you like Viggo Mortensen: yeah, okay, go on and watch the movie, then (though I don’t think it’s his best work, either).






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