I saw the movie this week and read the book about 3 years ago. I loved the book-- the subtitle is "A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption". I know, of course, that movies can never completely do justice to a book and this was no exception. Don't get me wrong, I thought the movie was fine . . . it just didn't really tell the same story of the book. The movie told only the story of survival.
And the story of survival is an exciting one. 47 days floating adrift in the Pacific ocean and 2 1/2 years in a brutal P.O.W. camp. He endured starvation, dehydration, shark attacks, being shot at, torture, daily beatings, slave working, and more. The movie shows each of these in excruciating, uncomfortable detail. And then it ends.
There are a few sentences at the end stating that he struggled severely with post traumatic stress and coped with it by drinking. He was a raging alcoholic who then finally made good on his promise to dedicate his life to God and had a great life. There was no telling of the resilience required to carve out a life after enduring the atrocities he had. There was no telling of the redemption he found in a Billy Graham revival meeting. Laura Hillenbrand wrote
“At that moment, something shifted sweetly inside him. It was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete. For Louie Zamperini, the war was over.”
The movie felt so incomplete.
If I hadn't read the book and knew how it ended, I might have found the torture more than I cared to watch. Showing just how cruel humans can be, is really not my favorite form of entertainment.
Read the book. Maybe see the movie.
Here are some of the quotes I liked from the book.
“The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer. In seeking the Bird's death to free himself, Louie had chained himself, once again, to his tyrant. During the war, the Bird had been unwilling to let go of Louie; after the war, Louie was unable to let go of the Bird."
“What resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him. He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that the Bird had striven to make of him. In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation and helplessness, had fallen away. That morning, he believed, he was a new creation. Softly, he wept.”
The story of survival alone is not enough to be compelling. It is the story of surviving and then moving past it and thriving. The ability for him to suddenly and completely change his life by embracing forgiveness is what makes this story amazing. Far too many people survive horrible ordeals only to become bitter, unkind, and willing to inflict the same suffering on others. Their stories aren't worth the retelling, but Louis Zamperini's is.
It's too bad, they didn't consult me. ;)