Be the first to leave a comment on this post to win Jen’s own copy of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle which is only a bit dog-eared. It’s always too easy to say the book is better than the film when one is reviewing both. Sadly, this is often true, but in the case of the movie adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time (released in Australia cinemas just before Easter) - it’s actually not that simple.
Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 children’s novel A Wrinkle in Time is an odd yet enchanting cross between scientific thriller and spiritual journey. The book espouses several deep and meaningful messages including (but not exclusive to) accepting, even trusting, things that we don’t understand intellectually, and the power of love, self-love in particular.
Directed by Ava DuVernay of Selma fame, and starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling, the A Wrinkle in Time movie stays true to the book’s themes while simplifying, amplifying and glamorising them in the process. This is undoubtedly for the benefit of the mostly female young adult audience who populated the cinema on Sydney’s Northern Beaches where I saw the film. And it could just as easily be helpful to the time-poor, multi-tasking parents and carers who accompanied them!
The story of the book and the movie (in the main) goes like this. Our unlikely heroine, Meg Murry, is the awkward, misfit daughter of two scientists. Her father is investigating the concept of ‘tessering’ or travelling anywhere in the Universe via an energetic collapsing of time. But the erudite Mr Murry disappears without a word or a trace, for several years, leaving the family bereft and the community in which they live rife with rumours and rather unkind suppositions.
One dark and stormy night, the Murry’s home is visited by someone called Mrs Whatsit who is already known to Meg’s ‘special’ five-year-old brother, Charles Wallace. The outside world considers Charles Wallace ‘subnormal’ but his family and Mrs Whatsit, are well aware and quite accepting of the fact that he is different in a good, highly conscious kind of way.
Mrs Whatsit introduces Meg, Charles Wallace and a school friend, Calvin, to Mrs Who and Mrs Which. This otherworldly trio have received a message from Mr Murry who’s trapped somewhere in the Universe. They employ ‘tessering’ or ‘wrinkling’ through space to transport the children to distant dimensions in search of Meg and Charles Wallace’s father, encountering a thing called ‘The Black Thing’ along the way.
Rather like The Nothing in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, The Black Thing is an amorphous force of pure evil that is fast enveloping everything in the Universe, including Earth.
Here is one of the starkest comparisons I noted between the book and the film. In print, descriptions of The Black Thing are suitably disturbing on an intellectual level, but I found them hard to connect with emotionally. For someone like me who’s a ‘visual’ reader with an overactive imagination, that’s saying something. However, in the movie, the impact and dread of The Black Thing or ‘the Darkness’ as it is referred to, is rendered in a highly relatable way.
As Mrs Which explains how the Darkness is infiltrating the Universe, the viewer sees the black, billowing, cloud-like tentacles reaching to Earth. There is Veronica, the girl who bullies Meg at school, sinking into a tortured, body-image driven despair. There is Calvin, Meg’s companion on this journey and a handsome boy who is popular at school, being berated by his angry father over grades that aren’t high enough. Mrs Which concludes by saying the Darkness spreads fear, person by person, and that fear eventually gives way to rage. Despite the predominantly teenage examples on the screen, this message about fear being all encompassing if one allows it, hit me in the solar plexus where the book simply did not.
But to say that instances like this make the movie better than the book would not be entirely accurate. A Wrinkle in Time’s print and celluloid renderings both deal with some mighty big concepts like resisting the darkness the threatens to overwhelm you, learning to love yourself faults and all, being courageous in the face of danger, and plugging into the power of love.
However, things that I found quirky, endearing and beautifully expressed in the book have been modernised and, dare I say it, ‘Hollywood-ised’ in the film. One example is how the film-version of Meg is elevated to a pantheon of other ‘warriors against the darkness’ who’ve emerged from Earth - the likes of Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou. Having been written in 1962, these eminent personages don’t rate a mention in Madeleine L’Engle’s book. In print, the greatest rewards for Meg’s valour are the realisations that her faults are in fact gifts of great value, and that love is the most powerful force in the Universe.
Those things should be rewards enough for us all, I think. But if imparting the essence of the book’s messages is made easier by a supremely digestible, exquisitely visual Disney adaptation, then that’s also a good thing.
Remember, you can win my only slightly dog-eared copy of the book if you’re the first to comment on this post.