Angela's ashes

Essay by gumpgumpA+, May 2004

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How does the sense of emotion and depth of characterisation diminish in the film version of " Angela's Ashes"

"The book was much better than the film" is the ultimate cliché of the pretentious cinemagoer. However, as is the case with most clichés, there is an element of truth in this statement. For, while a picture might say a thousand words, there are some words that pictures can never express. When the words of great literature are translated into scripted lines and stage directions, some of the depth and beauty is lost. Cinema simply cannot convey internal thoughts and emotions with the same subtlety and clarity as the novel. This was certainly the case when one of the most acclaimed works of contemporary autobiographical writing was recently adapted for the screen. Frank McCourt's Pulitzer Prize winning memoir, Angela's Ashes, is a bittersweet narrative of growing up in poverty in 1940s Ireland.

Seen through the eyes of a child, the events are intricately linked to a childlike innocence and wonderment. In the film version, this very personal outlook is lost because the film genre requires a more omniscient perspective. The loss of personal perspective and its accompanying insight into the protagonist's thoughts and emotions results in both a diminished depth of characterisation and a reduced emotional impact in the film version of Angela's Ashes.

When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood. (McCourt, 1996, p. 11)

So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in the Great Depression in Brooklyn to recently...