Book vs Movie: The 33/Deep Down Dark

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.

Final thoughts:

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 rachel@booksandcleverness.com.

Happy reading, guys! Until next time,

Rachel

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Nonfiction or Fiction?

Hi y’all! I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything in almost four weeks. Fortunately, I’m going to cut right to the chase. I’m in a nonfiction mood and I’m starting to wonder what is better: nonfiction or fiction. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. I’ve just been starting to wonder when nonfiction or fiction begins to be too much.

For example, for a long time I really only read memoirs. I loved them, I loved being able to transport myself into someone else’s life for a short while. But for whatever reason I stopped reading them. I decided that fiction caught my eye more and that I could transport myself into not just someone else’s life but an entirely different universe and that was extremely appealing to me.

…Until recently. Recently I’ve been on a Netflix binge of crime documentaries. And I’m not talking about watching Law & Order type stuff. I’m talking watching shows about serial killers, about man hunts, about treatment in prisons and prisoners stories – even about the Drugs War inside prisons. I’ve been going ALL OUT to the point where I decided it would be a great idea to start reading nonfiction books again. But fear not, I decided to stick to the scary theme of murderers and bought The Strange Case of Dr. H.H. Holmes.

H.H. Holmes was America’s “first” serial killer. After murdering dozens of people during the Chicago World’s Fair in the late 1880s and continuing his murder spree by using his home (dubbed “The Castle”) as a glorified torture chamber, H.H. Holmes became an infamous name in history. Quite the uplifting story! This nearly 500 page book was extremely graphic and extremely strange to read because a part of me wanted to believe it wasn’t true, even though it 100% was. Also it was partially written by H.H. Holmes himself as his written confession of a lot of murders.

To give myself a change of pace after reading it, I decided to buy a book called Deep Down Dark by Héctor Tobar. This book is about the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped 2,000 feet below ground for over 60 days. Again, so uplifting. I’m almost done with this book, and to be honest it’s absolutely incredible. I think it’s even being turned into a movie, which would be really cool. But it’s nonetheless a very depressing story. As nice it is, and as great as it is that they were found and rescued, it’s still about 33 men living in their own filth in pitch black eating a spoon full of canned tuna a day and drinking dirty oil filled water that the men bathed in. So, yeah, not very happy.

But to top it all off (and to bring into light my predicament) I started thinking of books I should read next. And rather than read the many books I’ve already bought, or even to read the Star Wars prequel book that my boyfriend surprised me with, I’ve started thinking I should re-read The Diary of Anne Frank AND Night by Elie Wiesel. Because apparently serial killers, dying miners and crime documentaries weren’t enough, I had to decide to not only read, but RE-read two of the most depressing books of all time.

Now here’s where the predicament lies: I don’t think it’s at all bad to be reading these things! There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to learn more about things that school doesn’t go over. I’ve never been in a classroom that was like, “Hey kids! Lets talk about Jeffrey Dahmer!” It’s just not going to happen. Sometimes you need to use your own curiosity to learn things that aren’t publicized too much. Knowledge is power.

But when is it enough? When do you tell yourself, “you know what, I know it’s really interesting, but maybe limit yourself to one depressing book every now and then.” or “instead of watching The Killer Speaks, let’s watch Bob’s Burgers for a while”?

The hard thing is: I have no idea. For years and years I only read fiction. To give you a time frame, the last two memoirs that I read were the hilarious Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? in 2012 . and then The Devil at My Heels in early to mid 2014. That’s THREE years ago and more than a year ago! So am I going to be stuck on this autobiographical kick for the next three years, or at the very least a year? That seems like a really long time. But in comparison, I’ve been reading fiction books for that amount of time and haven’t felt like that was too much. It seems normal, it seems like what a regular reader does.

Which makes me wonder: which is better? What captures the attention more? What makes nonfiction seem somewhat scary in comparison to a fiction book? Fiction can be just as depressing (see my Letter to John Green. God damnit The Fault in Our Stars) but I guess it’s that disconnect: when you’re reading fiction you know that at the end of the book, it’s over. It’s done. But with a true story it hits you in the empathy gut really hard for a long time. It’s something that won’t leave you.

So I guess what I’m saying is, what’s better? Reading something completely depressing and horrible but knowing that it’s just fiction, or reading something that is true and horrible, but will ultimately give you more insight into the real world?

Comment below or send me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com so I can hear your opinions. I always love your opinions!

Until next time (and hopefully it won’t be four weeks from now!)

Rachel