Love and hope is a very powerful theme in the classic tale of The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Published in 1973, this novel is set in the European country of Florin where a milkmaid named Buttercup, and a farm boy called Westley fall in love. The story is about their romance and everything they do to stay together. After Westley leaves for America to become wealthy and successful, Buttercup is devastated when she finds out that he has been abducted by pirates and presumed dead. She agrees to marry the Prince, Humperdink, only to be kidnapped by three men, Inigo, Fezzik and Vizzini, and pursued by a man in black. When the man in black is revealed to be Westley, he and buttercup face many obstacles and violent princes to fight for their true love. Correspondingly, the film version of The Princess Bride is very much the same in view of the fact that it mainly focuses on the theme of love and hope. Thus, the director, Rob Reiner, has made the general plotline and dialogue almost exactly the same as in the written medium. However, while The Princess Bride film is a great adaptation of the novel for these reasons, there are several notable changes in characterization and plot structure that are made. These changes, as well as the similarities, affect the audience’s view of the story to give them a more hopeful and optimistic story such as through the removal of dark elements like the characters’ past.
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As indicated above, the book as well as the movie are very similar. In fact, some of the conversations are word for word and taken straight from the book. For example, the quote “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die,”(Reiner) (Goldman 348) said by Inigo when he is battling the six fingered man, is repeated multiple times in both mediums. In this scene, the line helps to assure himself as well as the audience that Inigo will succeed in getting his revenge against Count Rugen. It gives the audience an understanding of his determination, creating a feeling of hope that if characters like Inigo can succeed, than Westley can also succeed in reuniting with his true love, Buttercup. The use of the medium camera shots in the scene of the movie is also effective in creating a more uplifting story because it shows that even with all of his pain and wounds, he still fought bravely.
The storyline in the movie also resembles that of the novel and although much of it is kept the same, there are still some significant changes that the director has made to strip the film it’s dark elements and focus on enhancing the theme of love between Westley and Buttercup. A case in point is the removal of Inigo and Fezzik’s backstories (Reiner). The absence of their dark pasts diminish the viewer’s understanding and attention on Inigo and Fezzik’s individual conflicts. In the movie, it is enough for the viewer to know that Inigo’s father was killed by the Count and he wants revenge so, by doing this, they won’t focus on the true depth of his revenge and instead on other things like Westley and Buttercup’s love and the hope that he will find closure. The film also doesn’t address Fezzik much. He is just there with not much to do. With the book, he is much more interesting as he is given as much a backstory as Inigo and has his own fears and problems to overcome. This is completely removed in the movie so that the viewers would only feel the positive vibes of love and hope, and a sense of loneliness and darkness. Furthermore, the plot structure near the end is quite different as the Zoo of Death is not shown when the novel was developed into the film. It is instead replaced completely with a one-level, Pit of Despair (Reiner). It is simplified vastley of Westley’s torture and Inigo and Fezzik’s relationship which is significant so that the absolute fear and darkness that it drives in the characters and audience does not overcome the sense of hope and love. At the same time, the purpose of this is also so that the audience is mostly centering their attention on Buttercup and Westley’s relationship and not the development of Inigo and Fezzik’s.
Finally, one of the main differences that was made between the book and the film is that there is much less characterization of certain characters in the movie. With the absence of the Zoo of Death in mind, this affects the characterization of Prince Humperdink. In the novel, it proved to us his obsession of killing and hunting and showed his violent and rotten personality. With it removed, he is more vulnerable and weak and it contributes in providing a sense of hope, that Westley and Buttercup’s love will work out, for the audience.Another example is Vizzini. In the movie, his character is much less evil and violent. Notably, in the novel when Buttercup jumps into the shark infested water, he is so corrupted that he is willing to cut himself and pour his blood into the water to get her back on the ship (Goldman 105-107). This is not the case in the movie, as the sharks are replaced by shrieking eels and he does not spill his blood in the water (Reiner). Not only that, but Vizzini’s tone in the film is very cheery, which makes him more virtuous. These adaptations are effective in taking away his dark elements that is in the novel and removes the sense of fear that a reader experiences with him.
Overall the director of the film The Princess Bride did a wonderful job in staying true to the novel with the word for word dialogues and creating the same general plot. But of course, the particular changes in removing dark aspects of the film such as the Inigo and Fezzik’s backstories, Vizzini’s evil personality, and the Prine’s violence and his Zoo of Death, have made it so that it is a much more optimistic story that the book.
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