Using his own terminology, Billy Pilgrim is "unstuck in time", which means he is moving between different points in his life uncontrollably, although he is aware of it at certain of those points as witnessed by the letter to the editor he writes to the Ilium Daily News about his situation. Primarily, he is moving between three general time periods and locations. The first is his stint as a GI during WWII, when, as a pacifist, he was acting as a Chaplain's assistant for his unit. This time is largely as a POW, where he was in Dresden the day of the bombing, spending it with among others an older compassionate GI named Edgar Derby, and a brash loudmouth GI named Paul Lazzaro. The second is his life as an optometrist in Ilium in upstate New York, eventually married to the wealthy and overbearing Valencia Merble, and having two offspring, Robert, who would spend his teen-aged years as a semi-delinquent, and Barbara, who would end up much like her mother. And the third is as an abductee on...Written by
Kurt Vonnegut Jr., author of the book this film was adapted from, was a prisoner of war in World War II. He was captured during the Battle of the Bulge while a battalion scout with the 106 Infantry Division on December 22, 1944, and used these experiences in his novel when Billy Pilgrim is captured by the Germans and sent to a POW camp. Vonnegut also lived through the bombing of Dresden and used that experience in the book. See more »
An aerial shot of the aeroplane in which Pilgrim is flying is reversed to make it appear to be flying left-right. The registration is reversed as it's actually a shot of the left side of the aircraft. See more »
That corporal. He'll get back home after the war. He'll be a big hero. Dames'll be climbin' all over him. Couple of years go by, and one day there's gonna be a knock on his door and there'll be this stranger. "Paul Lazzaro sent me," the stranger will say and then he'll pull out a gun and shoot his pecker off. Stranger will give him a couple of seconds to think about who Paul Lazzaro is and what life's gonna be like without a pecker. Then he'll shoot him once in the guts and walk away. Yes.
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Chances are you may have heard of Slaughterhouse-Five; it's one of the highly-tutted classics of science fiction, penned by the ever-eccentric Kurt Vonnegut. As of this writing, I've never actually read the book, but this movie seems to capture the gist of things. It's a very strange, surrealist story that chronicles a man's life and death through a series of random time-jumps. The man was a prisoner in WWII (and the actual slaughterhouse was his residence), before raising a dysfunctional family afterwards, and then being abducted by aliens. Yep, strange stuff indeed.
The film will be most memorable for the rough and dirty war scenes, the sporadic family outbursts, and the scenes on Tralfamadore. Parts of it drag a little, but there's enough interesting scenes to pull the film together and maintain interest, especially for fans of sci-fi, war movies, or bizarre cinema in general.
I have no idea how close of an adaptation this movie is to the book, but on its own merits, the film does an interesting job of using its random narrative structure to show the character at the different phases of his life; really, it shows somewhere between three to five different narrative strings at once. Some scenes run into each other, with characters in one timeline finishing off dialogue from another, or scenes mirroring each other so that they're intercut together. It makes the film run as one long and smooth stream of consciousness, while exploring the character's life, memories, and psyche in full. In a way, you probably could interpret this whole film as the memories, memoirs, and dreams of a man who's either mentally insane or dead.
If there's anything to complain about, it's just the sheer randomness of the story, for even with its constant focus on the main character, it never settles on any specific plot structure or tangible form.
The film has quality photography and really excellent editing. Acting is a bit over-the-top, but it gets the job done really well, and the writing is not bad. This production has fine-looking sets, props, and costumes. Music is not bad either.
For bringing a literary classic to life, the film is worthwhile seeing. As random and strange as it is, I'd recommended some caution: rent it and see what you think for yourself.
4/5 (Entertainment: Pretty Good | Story: Good | Film: Good)
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