Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Snow Falling On Cedars

I just finished reading Snow Falling on Cedars and watching its film adaptation. Well, for me, both had advantages in their different styles of storytelling.

Before I go into details, I would first narrate how I knew this book. Way before, when we still have cable tv, I saw the trailer of this movie on HBO and I said to myself that I'm gonna watch it. But due to "territorial disputes" in our tv, I wasn't able to. So years have passed and just last year, I saw this book in softbound at Booksale. Discovering that it got a price that is too cheap for an award-winning movie tie-in book, I bought it immediately.

But it's just 2 days ago when I finished reading it because of my long list of books to-read. So there, I finished it, and I'm telling you, it's worth the excruciating pain it gave me while reading it.

First, the book was too detailed. Too descriptive. David Guterson did not manage to overlook details about the place, the history of the place, the characters' family histories, the events during the war, and many others. So when I was reading it, It's kind of a long wait before I get to the real happenings. What I like to what he did is that, because of too much vividness and descriptiveness, I was able to understand the community. It's like, being in there already because I already knew half a century's worth of happenings in San Piedro Island.

The gory details of Carl Heine Jr.'s death was perfect. It captured my attention and interest. I also accept what the author did which was to provide the details in the beginning of the novel. So that the rest of it has no elements of such. By that way, I see that it became balanced.

I also like its way of storytelling. Everything that happened in the book was within the three-day trial of Kabuo Miyamoto. And flashbacks were given by witnesses and other main characters in the middle of their testimonies. However, the flashbacks give you a thematic arrangement of events, not a chronological one. Thus, it gives you a freedom to think critically, arrange the sequence of events, analyze each others sentiments.

Now let us talk about the movie. For me, it was a great adaptation actually.

Many omissions were done to simplify the complex, too detailed plot. What's surprising too me was the change of position of Ishmael and Hatsue love story in the sequence of events. I think they did it to emphasize Ishmael's initial refusal in helping Kabuo win the case against him. But in the book, it was not like that. Yes, he initially had second thoughts but way after the love story.

What's good also in the movie was the merging of storylines. The love story of Ishmael and Hatsue was not written in one chapter only and was not narrated in a linear way. The same goes to other storylines. I loved the bringing in to screen of the misty fog of September 15 and the freight that struck Carl jr. The production in there was good. However, the depiction of the snowstorm was bad. I didn't feel it like in the book. 

The movie however was faithful in the book, so it's still okay. The cinematography was great, including the production of a post-war community.

Looking back to the title, I'll share to you my interpretation of it.

The "Snow" is both beautiful and terrifying. In the book, the heavy snowstorm was used by Guterson to bring disaster in the island. Yet in its end, Ishmael realized that the snow has given beautification to the place. The story which revolved around the discrimination of Caucasians to the Japanese, the trial of Kabuo, the betrayal, and numbers of deaths. Here, the terrifying snowstorm hits the island, but in the end, the purity and beauty of it symbolizes the end of bad things, especially that of Kabuo.

Another interpretation is that the snow "falling on" a cedar tree where Ishmael and Hatsue regularly meet before means the keeping of  their secret affair. The snow conceals everything--their affair, the truth behind Carl's death, the history of Japanese-American relationships, the problems of the Miyamotos with the Heines--but when the moment came where the snow finally stops falling and starts to melt offers beautiful images to look on.

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