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OBS BOOK VS. MOVIE: THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE

by Dawn, January 16, 2010

There’s a playground at the end of the block and I run to the swings and climb on, and Henry takes the one next to me, facing the opposite direction, and we swing higher and higher, passing each other, sometimes in sync and sometimes streaming past each other so fast it seems like we’re going to collide, and we laugh, and laugh, and nothing can ever be sad, no one can be lost, or dead, or far away: right now we are here, and nothing can mar our perfection, or steal the joy of this perfect moment

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“A most untraditional love story, this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who involuntarily travels through time, and Claire Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Claire’s passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in impossibly romantic traps that tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love.” (from the 2004 US paperback edition)

When Audrey Neffenegger began writing The Time Traveler’s Wife, she had told stories using art, frame by frame. She knew she couldn’t tell the story of time travel with still images, so “it either needs to be a novel, or a movie”. She realized that the novel allowed her to add layers she wouldn’t have in a short story. Over the basic formula of “boy meets girl, girl meets boys, they fall in love, have a family…”, she could add the difficulty of waiting for someone who was out having adventures, the common idea of loss (in uncommon circumstances) and come out with something extraordinary.

The book was optioned for a movie in 2004, but marketing delays and reshoots pushed the date back from a 2008 release to Summer of 2009. Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost) focused on keeping the emotional intensity from the book in the script, while being forced to cut details of the book itself (including some time travel): “We were very concerned about how we got out the rules of time travel, how we sort of layered them into the movie. It was very important that the movie not just be a movie that makes you cognitively involved and not emotionally involved.” The actors could relate to thier characters, despite the extraordinary circumstances; while the story is about time travel, it really focuses on love and loss, and what that does to a relationship.

Similarities

  • The big moments for Claire and Henry are still there (Henry disappearing at the wedding, how they meet, etc)
  • How much they love each other
  • Charisse, Gomez, and Henry’s father are still important

Differences

  • The relationships with other characters are gone; the movie is the story of Henry and Claire, the book is the story of their life together.
  • Henry time travels much less, we don’t see him go to Claire as often.
  • The importance of Dr. Kendrick
  • What’s going on with Claire’s family
  • The impact Henry had on Claire as a child

3.5 out of 5. The movie tried to convey the trouble they had through life, but it didn’t come close enough-the book is much deeper.

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