What are some of the differences and similarities between the movie and the book Beloved?
The film version of Beloved does a decent job of trying to illuminate the primary themes of the novel, however, much of the book deals with abstract ideas such as guilt and shame which are difficult to translate visually. The primary similarities between the two versions of the story are the characters, which are virtually identical, although the novel spends more time on characters such as The Teacher and Sethe's mother. The settings are also nearly identical, but I find the longer descriptions of Sweet Home in the book to also help us, as readers, to more clearly picture the environment that leads to the horrific centerpiece of the story. The film does a fairly good job of depicting the illusive character of Beloved and, in this regard, may be more helpful than the book because it's easier to get a handle of the idea of Beloved as a spirit or ghost when one can see the physical manifestation. I find that my students struggle to understand how she can be real and not real when they read the novel. Probably the biggest difference between the film and the book, for me, is the lack of the "Middle Passage" scene in the film. This is one of the most critical scenes in the novel and the one that allows students to make the important connection between Sethe's story and the universal idea of the horror of bondage that resonates from generation to generation.
Beloved the film follows the book pretty closely with regard to characters and plot development. Some of the conversations in the film even follow the dialogue in the book directly. The biggest similarity between the book and the film is found in the setting of Ohio; the time period is accurately and appropriately depicted the way it is described in the novel. Also, the way Sethe is depicted as a caring and concerned mother stays true to the novel as well.
However, the thematics of the movie seem to draw away from Morrison's story, as the haunting, and even Beloved herself, are arguably too dramatized. The film also does not seem to translate Morrison's depiction of major themes, including the significance of nature, the power of a mother's love, and the struggle to move on from the past. Morrison develops incredible, powerful depictions of these themes through the language she uses throughout her novel, while the film seems to fall short of accurately depicting them. The birthing scene where Sethe gives birth to Denver also makes it seem like less of an arduous task than the book does. The slight nuances of difference in the film don't necessarily draw away from Morrison's novel; they just water it down a bit.