Recently, I was assigned to read Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and I absolutely fell in love with it. The book is outside of my comfort zone so I may not have read it had it not been assigned to me, but it is a truly inspirational story, so I’m assigning all of you to read the book, and if you’ve done so already, re-read it (you know you want to). My teacher told me not to watch the movie – mostly so that I’d actually read the book instead of trying to skate by on only what was in the film – but also because he found it terrible, however, I decided to judge for myself. I was a good student and read the book (though with little time to spare before my quiz), and watched the movie immediately after. While I thought it was a good movie, I felt that it didn’t quite measure up to the book.
I expected this, as book-to-movie adaptations are almost never satisfying. As an avid reader, I know all too well the excitement one feels when their favorite book is being turned into a movie and the immediate disappointment after seeing that the story was completely changed for the screen (looking at you Percy Jackson). While the movies can be enjoyable, they’re just not the same. You can see it, but you can’t feel the story because only an author has the power to craft their story in such a way that you get transported to their world – whether it be magical, dystopian, utopian, their version of the future, or factual accounts of the past – and into the lives of its characters. Images on a screen simply can’t achieve that.
This was my problem with the movie. I’m usually upset about inaccuracies, but this wasn’t the case (though several events were omitted), it was the fact that the movie lacked the emotional depth of the book. As I was reading his story, I felt a connection to Louie, as I do with all beloved characters. Because of this, the book was an emotional rollercoaster.
Sometimes I thought oh my God, he’s going to die. Even though I knew it wasn’t true, my heart pounded in my chest and I almost couldn’t bear to read on because I was convinced, this is it. But of course, it wasn’t, and I was relieved for a fraction of a second until I saw that he had been thrust into another life-threating situation the sentence after.
Most times I was like his mother, constantly worried about his well-being. I wanted to knit him a sweater and send it through the pages to keep him warm, or better yet, reach through the pages and back in time to take him out of the situation entirely.
My concern was like water in a tide, washing over me in waves and then subsiding, but always there. In those moments where the waves had subsided, I was filled with a mother’s sense of pride. I was so happy when Louie became a runner because of how hard he worked to achieve his goal and overcome any obstacles. During the war, he kept pushing beyond the point where his body should have failed him and his spirit should have shattered, and all I could think was that’s my boy. And finally, after the war came his true test of character and strength, and he did not fail. He released himself from his mental prison, found it in his heart to forgive the men who captured and tortured him for so long, started Victory Boys Camp for at-risk boys that were just like him when he was their age, and finally achieved his goal of running at the Olympics is Japan.
Lastly, in rare times, there were happy moments when everything else disappeared, and I smiled. There was no water lingering, waiting to crash into me again, because I was no longer on a rocky shore, I was home. In those times there was no war, it had been melted away by the warmth and coziness of home, love, and family. In his youth, before the war and the ever-present threat of death, Louie was a delinquent, and not only did I find reading about his adolescent exploits thoroughly enjoyable, from the descriptions I saw qualities that I knew would be the reason he survived the war. During the war, despite its ugliness, there were times I smiled and I felt that Louie probably did too, a bright and optimistic smile that shone through the darkness. Of course, Louie and I were both happiest when the war was won. My heart leapt with joy when Louie came home, fell in love with Cynthia (whom I personally thought was perfect for Louie), had kids, and finally achieved inner peace.
No one’s life story can be told in two hours, especially not a story as eventful and inspirational as Louie’s. The best we can do to really understand what he went through and who he was is to read the book, and even that’s not enough.You can’t really know what Louie experienced without having experienced it yourself, and being there for other important times in his life that shaped him that he may not even have remembered, but the use of words to describe his thoughts and feelings throughout his ordeal is far better than a film. The movie was just a series of events in Louie’s life, and the events aren’t what make the story all that it is. The story is so inspirational because Louie suffered through the most atrocious acts of cruelty and endured far more than his body and mind should have been capable of, and after all of it, when he had every reason to be spiteful and set on vengeance, he showed kindness and was able to love. Louis Zamperini is the epitome of resilience and the strength of the human spirit, he was and always will be, unbroken.