The Sweet Hereafter Novel compared to the Movie "ÃÂThe Sweet Hereafter' is a gripping tale of a small U.S town and the people who dwell in it. A saga of four vivid, sensitive souls linked in a school bus tragedy: the bus driver, the widowed Vietnam Veteran, the lawyer who tries to shape the heartaches of the towns people into a winning case, and the beauty queen, Nichole, who was left crippled by the crash. The novel was written by critically acclaimed author Russell Banks, from which spawned the Oscar Nominee movie of the same name directed by Atom Egoyan. The movie stays true to the spirit of the novel yet was still a notch below its artistry. Those who love both movies and books to the same measure would prefer the novel version to the movie due to Banks exquisite use of narration (four different narrators), character and shifts in time period.
Credit must be given where it is due, there is no doubt that "ÃÂThe Sweet Hereafter' movie is an exceptional piece of work, but the fact remains that its is still two steps behind the novel from which it was adapted. There were a few characteristics of the movie that made it less worthy than the novel. One thing lacking in the movie, which is present in was novel was the narrative voice of different characters such as that of Dolores Driscoll, each character chosen by Bank's was remarkably different, providing contrasting angles and meanings on the same event. In the beginning of the novel the reader is introduced to Dolores, she was the woman behind the wheel of the bus when it plunged into a reservoir. She is a sympathetic character in the book; the reader shares the overwhelming grief and guilt that she feels over the accident which killed 14 of the town's children. In the movie she hadn't enough exposure for the viewers to understand how she felt, and to see her perspective on the whole issue, all the hardships she went through were not revealed to the reader as they were in the novel. To the viewers eye Dolores was a minor character while in the novel she played a large part in the unfolding of the plot.
Nichole is a character of much importance, through her narration in the novel the reader was able to view how she felt about the accident and everything surrounding it. Unfortunately in the movie she only had a very minor narrative role leaving many loose ends in the movie since a lot of things remain unsaid. One thing that is wrongly interpreted as a result of the lack of narrative voice on her part is her sexual relationship with her father. In the movie it almost seems as if Nichole likes what her father does to her, it is as if she wants it. In the movie when Sam takes Nichole into the barn she shows no sign of resistance, when they enter the special room, it is lit with candles, which are usually a sign of romance. Her feelings of this whole subject are quite ambiguous in the movie while in the novel through the use of effective narration it is clearly shown that she despises her father for what he does to her. Since she doesn't show any hate or in fact any feeling to what her father does to her she has no reason to lie about Dolores' speeding at the time of the accident. While in the novel it is made clear that one of the reasons that she lies is to get back at her father to show him the power she possesses, and that she won't let him or anyone else control her life anymore.
An important scene in the novel that did not appear in the movie was the demolition derby at the end of the book. At the end Dolores has been almost completely ostracized, this is the heartbreaking scene, where Dolores feels the eyes of the town on her as she carries her husband up into the grandstands. In the demolition derby Dolores' old bus "ÃÂBoomer' competes, in the beginning of the competition everyone want to see the bus get crushed they cheer as it gets viciously rammed by opposing cars. Yet it is Boomer who emerges form the derby victorious and is accompanied with a thunderous applause, in a way it symbolizes how after all the hardship and troubles Dolores has gone through, she pulls through and moves on with her life. It was a good wrap up for the novel, which the movie lacked.
Egoyan makes a major change in Bank's text he inserts "The Pied Piper"ÃÂ into his screen play, as a poem read to the Billy's children a night before the accident by Nichole. The theme of the Pied Piper is that of a town's reaction to the loss of its children as well as the struggle of one child who is left behind, it merges with that of the movie. Nichole is perceived as the child left behind. By using the Pied Piper Egoyan is able to express Nichole feelings without having to have her talk to herself, or sit in front of the camera with a background voice. It serves the same kind of purpose as that of having Nichole narrate her own chapter in the novel, yet it is not as affective for it may not come to the attention of all the viewers or, they may not perceive it in the way Egoyan has intended it to be perceived. Feats like the above on the part of Egoyan give the right for his movie to be called art, yet it still remains a few notches below the Banks' masterpiece, "ÃÂThe Sweet Hereafter'.
"ÃÂThe Sweet Hereafter', a 1991 novel written by Russell Banks and adapted later into the 1997 film Directed by Atom Egoyan, deals with the devastating effects of a deadly crash of a school bus on those who are left behind. The traumatized community created by the accident comprises parents, survivors and witnesses. Despite the ongoing claim that "tragedy brings people together"ÃÂ, "ÃÂThe Sweet Hereafter' succeeds in proving that trauma and tragedy actually rip people, relationships and communities apart. As in mostly all cases the novel the movie is based on is far better. Due to Banks exquisite use of narration, character and shifts in time period, the novel comes out the sweeter taste, unlike the movie which is like coffee flavoured chocolate its bitter and sweet at the same time. In the movie there are lose ends while the novel leaves nothing hanging. "ÃÂThe Sweet Hereafter' novel is not a book to get from the library it is a book to add to your library.