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Hypable

In my recent column about the transfer of Harry Potter from page to screen, I used Lois Lowry’s The Giver as an example of a book that could never be made into a film because of its nature.

It was then revealed to me that The Giver is headed to the big screen.

I’m not a naysayer. Fans of my regular column know that I prefer to look on the bright side of life, but as soon as this news reached my ears I had an immediate allergic reaction.

The Giver? Is nothing sacred? How could a film adaptation possibly do justice to the original novel? How would it be possible to capture the magic of the book on screen? Like I talked about at length in my column, the conversion from book to film is never an easy one.

A book is a mental medium while a film is a visual medium and fans of The Giver will immediately understand why this is a problem.

Those of you that have not read The Giver should probably skip this piece since I’m about to reveal something huge about the plot that would infinitely complicate the movie adaptation.

The power of The Giver isn’t in what is talked about, it’s in what is not talked about. One of the very first huge reveals of the novel is the reveal that color does not exist anymore.

Sure, it seems simple enough. Film it in black and white, dust off your hands and call it a day.

The problem with this, of course, is that a savvy audience will be looking for a reason. In a novel, all you have to do is omit any reference to color. I went back and checked. Where before I could have sworn that they made mention of a red bicycle, there was just mention of a bicycle. Sure enough, I had colored in their world myself without being instructed to.

Since 99.9% of films nowadays are produced in color (because why not?) if a film is presented in black and white the audience will wonder why. When the big reveal comes to light, depending on how it is handled, it can either come off as brilliant, or just plain stupid.

Imagine the scene when our protagonist witnesses a flash of color on the ball in his schoolyard.

In the book, it’s noted that he sees a “shift” in the ball. Because we haven’t been told yet that color doesn’t exist anymore in this world, we’re left wondering what he could have possibly meant. In a film, because we’re basically forced to see what he’s talking about, we might understand right off the bat that it’s color that he’s talking about.

If we have a million-dollar, slow-motion, computer-animated, super-detailed reveal of “OH EM GEE the ball is turning red! ITS COLOR! IT’S BLACK AND WHITE IN THEIR WORLD TOO!!!” then the film adaptation may have taken a step in the wrong direction.

We’re here for The Giver to give us this information, not a team of thirty special effects artists.

The moment I heard that it was being adapted, I imagined that the heavily nuanced scenes would be handled like this and I turned against it immediately. It wasn’t until I talked to a friend of mine that I realized that it might actually be possible to bring The Giver to the big screen and still retain the magic of the book.

Imagine if instead of the million dollar treatment of the ball, we just saw the look on the protagonist’s face as he noticed the shift? We don’t need to see the ball, we don’t need to see the color. Until the Giver reveals the world’s lack of color, we don’t need to notice that anything is out of the ordinary.

Fans of the book know what other things are absent in this world. Snow, pain, family, music, love are just a few of them, but each reveal is almost as important as the last. It would be a tight-rope walk, ensuring that all of these surprises wait until they are revealed without the audience noticing them, but if they are handled carefully, The Giver film could very well end up being a masterpiece.

The Giver novel takes advantage of what is not mentioned, and in doing so it takes advantage of one the basic aspects of literature itself. It walks a very fine line between honest storytelling and self awareness. If the movie version does the same by using the trickery of the medium to hide things instead of showing them, then the film adaptation will be staying closer to the spirit of the novel itself.

Right now, Jeff Bridges is slated to play the all-important Giver and the wheels are in motion to get the film into production. Harry Potter director David Yates is rumored to direct.

Personally, I would prefer to see Marc Webb at the helm since his 500 Days of Summer has me convinced that he has no problem cranking out an unconventional film that takes advantage of the medium of film itself, but if Yates ends up stepping up to the plate (after Deathly Hallows- Part 2, studios have been clamoring to get their hands on him), I would want him to spend more time with it instead of cranking it out Harry Potter style.

In the months to come, we’ll find out more about the production, including who is slated to play Jonas, who has been tied down to direct, and who will adapt the screenplay. Who knows, The Giver to film might be the smartest book-to-film adaptation since The Godfather (which, by the way, is another book no one thought could be adapted to film).

They just better not try to make a sequel.

This column post was written by Hypable Movies Editor Jimmy Bean. Follow him on Twitter @ThisIsJimmyBean

  • Jason

    This was my favorite book when I was younger! It’s THE original Hunger Games! Sad the movie’s not really on track… 

    • Jason

      Also, I think that David Yates is the perfect guy for it… the book deals a lot with memory visiting, and the artful way he handled the pensive scenes would be perfect for this. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=17127641 Laura Jurgensmeyer

    The Giver is one of my top five favorite books. I always assumed it would never be made into a movie. You’re right, this could definitely go either way. It’s going to be really cool to see that society on the big screen though.

  • Jessica

    Before reading this article, I never thought that the movie could go bad. But now I understand why it could. Because we know what color is and Jonas doesn’t, the audience will not understand why he is so perplexed by the apple “shifting” and when they find out, they could think it’s completely stupid.

    What I am about to say next could contain somewhat of a spoiler, so if you don’t want to know, don’t read.

    There kind of ARE sequels to The Giver. There are two more books that follow two different kids in each. In one of them, I believe it’s the third, Jonas kind of comes back. I’m pretty sure he’s not named, but he is an adult now, and things that he says tell the reader that it is, in fact, Jonas. The books are called Gathering Blue (book #2) and Messenger (book #3).

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=531808242 Courtney Gibson

      i didn’t think gathering blue was a sequel to the giver. i just thought it was by the same author. i’d have to re-read it but i thought it was a differnt society all together. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=17127641 Laura Jurgensmeyer

        Gathering Blue is a companion novel to The Giver. It is a different society, but they’re both from the same world. Jonas may or may not make an appearance in Gathering Blue. It doesn’t actually state it’s him, so it’s up to the reader to decide. Characters from both books come together in Messenger.

        • Aschiller10

          I teach all three books in my 7th grade Literature class. They are in fact comapnion books. In the second book at the very end, Matty tells Kira that there is a boy about her age, that has amazing blue eyes…maybe she could marry him. Of course we all hope and expect that to be Jonas. In the third book his ‘new’ name is Leader. Amazing series of books!!! However, she calls them companion books.

  • Ida

    I’ve been waiting for a long time for this to happen. Think I read years ago about the movie being made, but it never happened.

  • Morsmordre79

    I think if done properly, this could really please fans of the book. However, the casual moviegoer may find it completely boring. The absence of color will probably turn off a lot of people right from the beginning (a lot of people have a stigma against B&W) but there’s another thing missing from Jonas’ world that is crucial to movies: music! It’s going to be incredibly weird to watch a movie with NO music until practically the end (that’s when the Giver gives him the memory of music, no?)

    As you said, the book is more about telling than showing, and movies are meant to do the complete opposite. If they manage to tell Jonas’ story without showing much and still make the film enjoyable, this will be awesome. However, this is one of those stories where literally EVERYTHING would have to be kept in, and we all know that rarely happens for book-to-film conversions. The Giver’s short, though, so we may get lucky. Finger crossed!

    Great post, Jimmy.

  • Dreamer

    I agree with many of your points but I think that the apple shifting scene is going to be almost impossible to pull off. Showing the audience the “shift” wouldn’t work as you mentioned but I think that not showing the apple and just showing his face wouldn’t work either. People in the audience who haven’t read the book would be thinking “Why the heck is that kid looking so astonished? It’s just an apple.” and if the actor who plays Jonas doesn’t get the expression just prefect, it could come off as akward or jsut plain bad (ie Bridge to Terabithia when they swing back and forth on the rope for the first time and look at the sky. That scene makes me feel akward every time). I think that The Giver film adaption will need to use a lot of sound (or lack of) to help convey many of the feelings and ‘big reveals’.

  • http://twitter.com/RyanHBP Ryan Floyd

    I found that The Giver could be very cinematic when I read it. They don’t have to film in black and white and then switch over (Pleasantville already did that). I think they could just film it in dimmer colors and filters. The audience would adjust and get used to the filming style when BAM! bright colors start appearing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=531808242 Courtney Gibson

    i think with the right director, screenwriter, actors… basically every person has to be just right and want to adapt this book as faithfully as possible and give it enough time to do so. Then i think it will be good. I feel like since Harry Potter, Twilight and now Hunger Games that it better be engraved in the minds of film makers that it is not a good idea to stray away from a book when adapting it. So many flops have happened because of it. If the people making the film make it for the art of turning this amazing book in to a film for a broader audience to see, then they should understand the material and it should be good. If they look at it like a good book that has a good following and want to make money, they will fail miserably. I’m crossing my fingers that it will be amazing, and i’ll go see it no matter what. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1683360003 Paige Barton

    Funny that this column appeared today….. I was talking to my brother about what kind of differences there might be in THG movie and we started talking about other books that we like that we would like to see made into a film. i brought up The Giver in our conversation and imo I don’t think they should make it into a movie. I just don’t see how they can do the book justice. I read it back in middle school and fell so in love with the book that I just HAD to buy it at our school’s book fair.

    As far as Jeff Bridges playing The Giver…. I honestly think someone older should play him. I imagined him really, really old.

    Also, maybe they should try filming it in sepia instead of black and white

  • IM1LuckyWoman

    I’m not quite sure how I feel about this as a movie.  I happened upon the book by accident just a year ago…and loved it immediately.  I don’t want it messed up but I know I’d have to go see it if it does turn into a movie.

  • http://about.me/kyle Kyle

    Am I the only one who didn’t like the book?

    • Desmond

      Probably.

    • Landon Hershey

      Yep pretty much

  • Katelyn

    The only way they can make the movie as good as the book is if they go completely avant garde with it.  No music, no color, nothing.  They have to take the risk that it’ll be branded as just a really weird movie.  Otherwise it’ll suck. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Megan-Mattesich/887610533 Megan Mattesich

    I think that The Giver will translate nicely to the screen, especially if it’s handled properly by the right director. Louis Lowry actually writes in a very visual way, which will make it easier to adapt to film. Instead of being a novel such as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close which takes place predominantly in the protagonist’s mind, The Giver describes the word and the actions that take place beautifully. I think much harder stories have been adapted to the screen…for me it all depends on the cast and the director. If the director has a good vision, I think this film will adapt fine.

    The concept that color doesn’t exist will not make or break the movie. The audience will be discovering many new things with Jonas, and I have a feeling that the lack of color will be made apparent as early as a trailer. I think the main thing that could go wrong in this movie is that they will gear it towards children. They will take adult ideas and ‘dumb them down’ which the book does not do. I read this book for the first time in 4th grade, was able to love it and understand it. I can re-read it as an adult and love it still. While I might get something else out of it, that can be said about any books I re-read. Our perspective changes as we change. That’s the biggest misconception with gearing films and ‘big ideas’ towards children. Adults think these ideas are too much for them. That’s not really the case. They will just interpret these ideas differently, it doesn’t mean they won’t understand them or that they’re beyond their mental capabilities. 

    I think that if they take the time and don’t gear this film toward just a ‘child audience’ then it will turn out to be a beautiful film.And yes there are two companion books ;)

  • http://myselfandpotter.blogspot.com/ VideoKilledSeverusSnape

    When will this film come out? 

  • Clark_arneivia_8808

    I think the giver is going to be great. plus pleasantville was done in blck & white & i loved it. I don’t think that the movie will be able to b pg13 b/c so of the scene will deal w/ abortions & more adult contain. for the book the more adult contain was left up spoken & left for the imaginations to say what was happening. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VDJ4M6LUTPDGSIQGVFYPXS5JCU MalikJ

    I totally agree with you, these were my original thoughts when I heard about the book becoming a movie. And it might be well in the box office because unlike the Hunger Games everyone more then likely read this book in middle school in stead of reading it once they heard a movie was coming out. You should start a column on who should play the chacters.

  • Rosie11

    Thank you for your opinion, I at first thought it would be great and I am still a little excited but I see your point. My main concern about it is the casting of the jonas(and other 12s) and lily. Casting directors seem to always cast kids way too old for the role. Like the city of ember they were supposed to be 12 but they were certainly not.

  • Artist fan

    The Artist was a black and white And Silent filmed and it was nominated for many awards.

  • Giverfan321

    ummm…i applaud your passion but how big of a fan of the book can you really be when you don’t even know that the first thing that jonas sees that “changes” is an apple that he and asher are throwing back and forth…NOT a ball.  

  • Ruka

    First of all it was an apple and not a ball.

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