In 1987, the classic tale of “The Princess Bride” went from being on the pages of a book to coming to life on the big screen. Though the novel and film both have many strong points and similarities, there are numerous differences between the two works. What can be questioned is whether the setting is as pictured, whether the chosen actors’ characters are as lively as those written, whether the amount of back story, absence of certain characters, and changes to the framing story throughout the film has greatly alters the finished product, and whether the film has the same magical impact as the initial written tale.
The novel gives an astounding amount of detail in regards to setting. For instance, the Cliffs of Insanity, the Snow Sand, and the Zoo of Death; The words that describe these places paint a vivid picture. After The Princess Bride was brought to film, the lively setting came with it. The setting throughout the film brought the fantastic lands of Florin and Guilder to life. The Cliffs of Insanity are among the similarities in setting within the two works. They look as described in the novel, a sheer and vertical face that proves difficult for even the most experienced climber.
The immense height of cliffs, coupled with the terrifying thought of having death looming over one’s head, waiting 700 feet below in the crashing waves are well-demonstrated deliciously frightening, as it was presented in the written text. Though the film stays true to the setting in most instances, the movie’s frames do not allow for the commenting upon the action that the novel does. In one instance, after Buttercup has plunged into the Snow Sand during their travels through the Fire Swamp, Goldman lengthens his sentences to give the effect of how suffocating is Buttercup’s fall.
Buttercup’s ears were now caked with Snow Sand all the way in, and her nose was filled with Snow Sand, both nostrils and she knew if she opened her eyes, a million tiny bits of Snow Sand would seep behind her eyelids, and now she was beginning to panic badly. How long had she been falling? Hours, it seemed . . . ” (Goldman 203) In the novel, Goldman gives a vivid description of how Buttercup feels as she is being consumed by the Snow Sand. She is suffocating, panicking, and paralyzed with fear.
In the medium of the visual effects of the film, the effects of this quote are lost as there is no indication of how she feels when she is submerged in the pit of the Snow Sand. All that is shown is Buttercup stepping in the region of the Snow Sand and disappearing among in. The novel ultimately gives a better understanding of the character’s thoughts of terror, invasion, and paralyzing shock. In retrospect, the loss of the impact of the Snow Sand seems to be a minimal alteration as compared to the completely refashioned Zoo of Death.
The original underground area consists of five levels where Prince Humperdinck saves a variety of creatures that test certain abilities, such as speed, strength, immunity to poison, fear, and ego. In the novel, Westley is thrown among these creatures, where Inigo and Fezzik later defeat these creatures, level by level, to save him. Though the pair were sabotaged and ambushed by such creatures as an Arabian Garstini and king bats, they manage to reach the fifth and final level, only to find a supposedly dead Westley, who is later taken to Miracle Max.
After Westley is given the miracle pill, he is immediately revived and prepared to fight for Buttercup. It presents a lovely sentiment, but overall it is anticlimactic. Consequently, the Zoo of Death becomes the Pit of Despair. The location and purposes are vastly different, as well as the description of its interior. Quite unlike the Zoo of Death, which was used for Prince Humperdinck’s hunting enjoyment, the Pit of Despair is a secret dungeon who’s sole purpose seems to be to contain The Machine, a torture device nvented by Count Rugen. Westley is captured and taken there, where the Albino nurses him back to health so he can be tortured thoroughly. He is then put through excruciating pain.
Once Inigo and Fezzik hear his cry of complete agony, they come to his rescue, and eventually find Westley strapped to “The Machine,” limp, drained, and seemingly dead. Similar to the novel, he is taken to Miracle Max. However, once Westley is given his miracle pill, he is conscious but remains in a state complete and total paralysis.
Westley is shown strapped to the torture device and remains paralyzed after receiving the aid of Miracle Max for the sole purpose of drama. It can be seen as rather anticlimactic if Westley had simply been on a bed, seemingly dead, and later completely and easily revived. The agony and later paralysis that Westley undergoes in the film adds drama, give an additional dimension of suspense, and demonstrates just how far he is willing to go for Buttercup, and how unbreakable the promise of their love to each other is.
The chosen actor for the role of Westley played this part extremely well with ingenious wit and an air of the swashbuckling heroes of early cinema He, along with the remainder of the cast, were noted as doing exceptionally well in portraying the characters of The Princess Bride. They look as described, act as one would imagine, and played their respective parts extremely well. The magic of the characters within the novel were carried over from their pages with stunning wit and perfection.
The differences to the characters throughout the screenplay, which was also written by Goldman, were made for the sole purpose of keeping the film within a reasonable time frame. Though the novel can render the reader with a better understanding of emotions of the characters, the film gives the viewers a more vivid image of the characters themselves, for they are right before their eyes. One example is Inigo Montoya. The actor chosen for this role, Mandy Patinkin, states that. “the moment I read the script, I loved the part of Inigo Montoya. That character just spoke to me profoundly.
I had lost my own father [. . . ]. I didn’t think about it consciously, but I think that there was a part of me that thought, “If I get that man in black, my father will come back. ” (Princess Bride: The Reunion) The life events of Patinkin gave him the passion of the love for his father that is shared with Inigo Montoya. As he says, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”(Goldman 340), his accent is heavy, the revenge is burning in his eyes, and the scars on his face reveal the damage that the Count has done to him. The medium of the film more effectively shows his etermination of avenging the death of his father. Patinkin brings the character of Inigo Montoya in numerous ways the written words simply cannot.
This logic also applies to the case of Fezzik. By some impossible feat, a man by the name of Andre the Giant was found that fit the enlarged physical specifications of Fezzik the Giant. The actor portrayed Fezzik to be the gentle, helpful, and lovable brute that he had been depicted as. The differences and condensations throughout the screenplay, which was also written by Goldman, were made for the sole purpose of keeping it within a reasonable time frame.
Numerous aspects are lost, such as the quantity of back story that is given for the characters. In the novel, the first chapter chronicles her early years. It shows the history of her family, their farm, her pastimes, and her struggle with beauty and jealousy. S. Easternmost even goes so far as to say that she is the fourth worst case of jealousy in all of history. During the beginning of the film there is simply a clip of Westley working on her family’s farm. Following this shot, they are instantaneously in love. Her motivation in the novel differs greatly from that in the book.
She is not the sympathetic, gentle, and wise character that she is presented as in the film. On the contrary, she seems to be rather simple and haughty. After Westley has saved her and taken her through the Fireswamp, she still agrees to marry Humperdinck, for she believes it is better to be alive and wealthy than penniless and perished. Without the somewhat extensive back story and lengthy descriptions of Buttercup’s behavior that were given in the text, it could be said that the character of Buttercup is perceived in a completely different manner.
As a whole, The Princess Bride is an accurate adaptation of the 1973 novel of the same name. Throughout the film, that majority of the dialogue holds true to that of the original text. The modest changes made to the dialogue, along with the loss of back story, do not take away from the film or the original plot; it simply shows “The Princess Bride” in a different medium. They each have strong and weak points when compared to one another. However, the original novel and the film ultimately give the desired effect of this tongue-in-cheek fantasy. They are different in their own distinct ways, though separately are impeccable pieces of work.