Sunday, May 13, 2012

Jesus' Son: from book to film


Jesus' son is a book (and film) made up of many moments experienced by the protagonist, a messed up druggie, named Dennis Johnson. The book does not present much of a story arc, however, it does convey a certain feeling of passing by through moments quite quickly and people leaving and never being a constant. The film version incorporates the stories in the book, but applies a clearer character/story arc, showcasing his need to be with people and how drugs brought him closer to certain people, then tore him away.

After reading the book I assumed that the film would have a dark morose feeling: this, I was wrong about!  The film adopted a very comedic (yet still sad) outlook, making all of the characters seem almost idiotic. The drugged out sequences were very chaotic and odd- for instance, the scene (taken from the book) where Dennis sees his friend's naked wife parasailing past the window. The film presented this by having it come as sort of a random spur of the moment event, leaving us with the question of both: who is that? -and- what on earth? Like a set up punchline sort of comedic style, these questions are answered when Dennis' friend reveals the woman to be his wife. In the book it is impossible to reveal information as humorously.


In the book there is not much of an arc, but rather, moments of hope. An odd, but life-changing event of his life, Dennis spectates on a Muslim woman's way of life. Additionally, we see him as he begins to go through the process of ridding himself of his drug-bound lifestyle. In the film, more emphasis is placed upon these moments. The film applied more fantastical elements to the story then were eluded to in the book. This is probably because moments of fantasy best summed up the feelings of being high in a visual manner. Continuing off of this- during one of the scenes were Dennis is watching the Muslim woman, we see him [magically] place his hand through the window and onto her head. Although effectively summing up his transformation as a person (now he is fully aware of others and cares for them despite having any real reason), I felt as though this effect was a bit odd. To me it was an awkward moment to see his hand on her head, rather than a sweet and heart warming moment.

In the film (and book) we watch Dennis immerse himself into the realities of how easy it is for something to disappear from ones life.  We see this through the car crash, the death of his friend from a bad drugs (that could of and should of killed him too), the death of his girlfriend, the hospital, the death of the baby rabbits, and the old folks home. The film effectively utilized these stories and additionally found a way to harness them altogether: the film starts with the car crash and later on goes back to it. This applies a sense of closure to his character: he finally seems to realize that things are constantly changing and that one moment you have something, the next you don't.

All in all, I feel as though this film adaptation was quite brilliant. It not only provided a clearer structure/arc to the series of stories and moments, but additionally provided viewers with a deeper understanding of what Dennis was feeling by paralleling the effects of drugs with fantastical imagery. I would suggest watching the film if you have time.

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