Back in September I read a very interesting book that I had wanted to read since last fall. Back in 2014, my boyfriend and I went into a book store during a day trip to New Hope, PA, (quick note: my mom and I were in New Hope the day the miners were rescued and I remember eating my lunch and watching the miners come out of the mine in a tiny capsule with glasses on) and I found a book that I thought was super interesting. It was called Deep Down Dark by Héctor Tobar and it was about the 33 Chilean miners that were trapped in the San Jose Mine for 69 days (hahaha, I said 69… Oh, not the time for a sex joke? Sorry!)
Annnnnnyway… So I found this book in a teeny tiny bookstore and I really wanted to buy it, but it was about $25 dollars and I just didn’t have the money (mostly because I kept spending my paycheck on books). So I decided to pass it up, but I kept it on my list of books I wanted to read. It wasn’t until September 2015 that the paperback version came out and it was only like ten bucks. I preordered the book so it would be delivered to me the day it came out in paperback and I started reading immediately. It was such a good book.
The first probably 30 pages or so I didn’t find too interesting, it was more character development and the miners going into the mine during their regular working shift rather than being stuck in the mine. Nothing about being trapped yet. So I found it to be a little slow. But as the miners begin hearing some “weeping” sounds coming from above them high up in the mine, I started to get interested. And as the almost 800,000 ton slab of diorite collapses on the men, I was hooked. There’s nothing like reading a book that makes you so happy you stuck around to finish it. The joys of reading!
The book proceeds to explain what the miners went through: starvation, hopelessness, drinking water that was filled with oil and feces, literally having a specific spot where the men would shit every day, hearing the mountain of rock above you shift and fall as you slowly get even more entombed in the mine. It was an interesting read, to say the least, but I’ll get back to that.
Fast forward to a couple months later: I learned that they were going to be making the book into a movie when I finally finished reading the book. I was super excited but didn’t expect it to be out any time soon. Then last week I find out that it was coming out in theatres in a week. So of course I immediately texted my boyfriend with a round of I NEED TO SEE IT! LETS GO SEE IT! I WANT TO SEE IT! and here we are.
Just a few hours ago, I walked into the theatre with little expectations. I came out happy, but a little disappointed. Not because the movie was bad or because they didn’t stick to the original story, but because they glossed over certain parts of the original story.
I don’t think I have to say “spoilers” here because it’s something that actually happened, but just in case no one remembers when the Chilean miners were buried alive and rescued after 69 (ha!) days, *SPOILERS!* They get rescued.
What the movie attempts to do is turn this situation into something disheartening, but heroic. What I got out of it was similar, but not what was intended. I took the story as just that: a story. Rather than telling the audience the disgusting things they had to do, and about the physical fights the men had with each other, and the lasting PTSD, and so much more, they told the audience that the mine was not a pleasant place to be. They touched a little bit on the fights, and they touched a little bit on the grossness, but nothing in detail and nothing that would completely explain their rationale.
Now, when I think about it, I understand. A movie is a movie and no matter which way you turn it, it’s always going to be a movie. By that I mean that you’ll never be able to get inside someone’s head the way you would in a novel. You’ll never be told every single thing that happens in the book because a) a movie shows rather than tells, and b) there simply isn’t enough time.
If you think about it, a Harry Potter book is HUGE and they still couldn’t fit all of the details into it. Never once does anyone talk about Hermione’s struggle to prioritize and bring awareness to House Elf maltreatment by starting S.P.E.W. Never once did they mention in the Hunger Games movies that Katniss ran into two people fleeing their district and heading to District 13 in the woods. Why? Not because it wasn’t important, but because there isn’t enough time for everything. Sometimes you can still get your point across without showing everything you’ve read.
So yes, I understand. But what I don’t like is that they took the most human aspects of the ordeal and glossed it over. There’s nothing shiny and glamorous about survival. There’s nothing attractive about being emaciated for 30 days. There’s nothing sweet and sugar coated about drinking the water that you dump oil in, bathe in, and have feces and urine spread into. Nothing. And you know why? Because it’s survival.
For example, if someone were to tell you that they survived the Holocaust and said “yeah we starved, but other than that we learned a lot and all became good friends.” You’d be like, say what now?? So why should this be any different?
Maybe that was a drastic comparison, but it’s kind of true. Survival is not pretty, and forgiveness takes a lot for a person to do. I guess because I read the book I understand the struggles they went through to get to the point of forgiveness and of hope, but because of that I can’t really understand how the movie can go into so little detail about their troubles and helplessness.
That being said, I thought the movie was actually really good. Even though they didn’t go into too much detail, I thought they captured the essence of the situation as well as they could. I thought the director did a great job really putting into the light the different personalities of each miner and I thought the acting was really great. My boyfriend read a review that said they didn’t like the fact that they had white actors in the movie. I disagree. While I think they probably could’ve gone to Chile and said, “hey guys, wanna be in a movie?” and they would’ve gotten their non-white actors, I completely understand the desire for getting well known actors (white or hispanic) to be in a major motion picture.
Now back to the book. I thought it was great. My only complaints really were the beginning 30-40 pages and the end 30-40 pages. In the beginning it was too slow, and the end it mostly discussed their pact to only tell their story as a group, not individually (which is very commendable); but it also discussed their lasting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, their lasting drifts with fellow mine members and the lasting money-lessness even after fame. Basically, it was just a summary of what happened and how they are now. It touched on the fact that they were hoping for a movie, but otherwise it sort of just ended.
While the movie was extremely captivating and entertaining to watch, I didn’t find it to be as accurate as i think it should have been for such a traumatizing ordeal. The book I felt was great, but maybe a little slow at times. All that said, I still believe that the book wins this one. Hands down it was more honest, more heartfelt, and more detailed than the movie ever could have been.
Book: 6, Movie: 4
I hope you guys go see the movie and read the book and tell me your opinions. I would really love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Was I too harsh? Do I need re-watch the movie from a fresh perspective? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy reading, guys! Until next time,