During a book club meet recently, someone remarked that movies usually do not do justice to the book on which it is based. I thought otherwise, but didn’t voice my opinion. However, I decided to re-watch one such movie to see what ‘fault’ I can find with Tuesdays with Morrie.
This 1999 movie is based on the best-selling book of the same title by Mitch Albom. Executive producer, Oprah Winfry said at the opening of the film that Tuesday With Morrie “resonates with everybody. I think we all can relate to Mitch. His life is just going by too quickly. and then he was blessed to stop and find his old teacher Morrie. And even though Morrie was dying, he taught us about living. All of life is about teaching and learning. When you learn, teach. When you get, give. Life is filled with Morries. We all just need to look around.”
Morrie Schwartz is a retired sociology professor and his former student Mitch is an accomplished journalist who is so driven by his job he has little time or energy left for anything else. One night, Mitch happens to catch Morrie’s appearance on a nationl news programme and learns that his old professor is battling Lou Gehrig’s disease. To Mitch, Morrie “was more than a teacher. He was a force. He made a real difference in my life.” (Such as teaching Mitch to appreciate that one does not have to be first all the time, as “what’s wrong with being number two?”)
One visit turns into weekly visits (on Tuesdays, because it was the day when they used to have tutorials and they would talk.) Mitch learns many lessons about aging, fear, fantasy, death, love, marriage, regrets and relationships. Some lines that are stuck to my mind are: “Aging isn’t just about decay. It’s growth.”; “The fear of aging reflects those whose lives haven’t found meaning.”; “Fantasy is useful; we can learn from it.”; “Where is fairness?”; “Everybody’s got to die. But most people don’t believe in it. If we accept the fact that we can die at any time we’d lead our lives differently.”; “The tension of opposites – life pulling you back and forth like a rubber band.”; “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
I also enjoy how W. H. Auden’s poem, September 1, 1939, is worked into the dialogue between Morrie and Mitch: All I have is a voice, To undo the folded lie: The lie of authority, Where buildings grope the sky. No one exists alone; Hunger allows no choice to the citizen or police. We must love one another or die. We must love one another or die.
At this point, strains of the song Another Day plays in the background. So appropriate. Which brings me to the music used here. I particularly like the tango music played whenever Morrie is seen (whether in the storyline or in flashbacks a couple of times) performing his favourite dance, especially Blue Tango composed by Leroy Anderson in 1951. There are a few lovely songs used at the appropriate places, but I cannot recall their titles, except for two that really stand out : The Very Thought Of You and the well-known aria O mio babbino caro from the opera Gianni Schicchi by Glacomo Puccini (1858-1924). Both songs are played at touching scenes that bring tears to my eyes. Again, very good choice of music used.
To sum up, I do not think that movies based on books do not do justice to them. A movie cannot possible be exactly like the book. Just like the book alone would not provide the dramatisation and music. It is of course ideal if one can do both (read the book and watch the movie, like I did for My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult), but there simply cannot be a comparison.