This terrible adaptation turns a richly ironic story with an unreliable narrator into a simplistic struggle between a "good" girl and a mad scientist. Ann and Loomis are flat caricatures, often strangely unemotional and uncommunicative--staring blankly, speaking in a monotone, seldom even looking at each other. The absence of a narrative voice or monologues showing thoughts makes the movie dull to watch, robs Ann of complexity and reduces Loomis to a creepy maniac with no merits. Background music is similarly unsubtle—melancholy or lyrical for Ann, ominous for Loomis. A military drumbeat reminds us he's a threat in case we don't notice his shifty eyes, arrogance, and lies.
The filmmakers changed or omitted numerous details of the novel which show either Ann's selfishness and folly or Loomis's composure, sense, and humanity. Below are just a few examples.
After a nuclear war apparently left no other survivors, the film version does not show Ann curling her hair nightly, thinking of wearing a dress while hiding from a stranger, or, after meeting him, asking to use his prototype suit to get novels (probably romances) from a radioactive town. In place of Ann's vanity and escapist love of fiction, we see her love of sketching realistic pictures, which suggests she is patient and sensitive.
In the story, Ann's fear of an approaching stranger is paranoid, and she suppresses a strong urge to run to him when he calls out excitedly with the clear hope of finding another survivor. His voice is like a cheer. In the film, his call sounds harsh, and he seems wary rather than hopeful.
In the story, though the stranger appears no threat, Ann decides she can't risk her safety to warn him of a poisoned stream. She tells herself she isn't sure the stream is harmful though she actually knows it's dead. Later, she expresses regret 3 times. In the film it's unclear if Ann could warn Loomis, there's no hypocritical self-justification, and she shows regret only once out of kindness.
In the story, Loomis explains matter-of-factly his perhaps lethal exposure to radiation and the stages of sickness he'll undergo. Ann, impressed by his calmness and practicality, thinks, "I would have been hysterical." In the film, however, Loomis is fearful in this scene, he usually looks anxious or tense, and Ann seems the calm one.
In the story, Ann is attracted to Loomis, thinks of marrying him and having children, and hopes they can save the human race. Loomis's distress when he remembers Edward suggests guilt and remorse. The drama hints at none of this. Instead, Ann only expresses interest in romance by wishing Faro were a man and Loomis a dog!
During his recovery, the movie Loomis rudely refuses Ann's offer of help after a fall, saying, "Just don't stand and watch!" In the story, Ann first watches him struggle to his feet and fall again while she thinks amusedly how clownish he looks. Perhaps she smiles and stifles a giggle as he falls the second time.
Because events at the end are very condensed, Loomis can't be viewed as growing desperate from Ann's long denial of friendship, as she herself suspects in the story. He locks the store and hunts her right away, not after waiting two weeks for her to be reasonable. She then steals the suit directly--rather than after a month of hiding and planning.
It's omitted how Ann tricks Loomis by offering to talk if he meets her unarmed. To her amazement, he leaves his rifle and accepts her offer in good faith. But Ann takes advantage of this chance for a truce only to steal his safe-suit and leave the valley. With typical pettiness and unreason, she views this as her revenge—NOT for his trying to rape her (supposedly) or force her return, but for burning her favorite book!
In the story, Ann also restrains affection for the dog Faro because of fearing he'll betray her, then later leads him into the same dead stream to kill him. In the film, Faro's death is not a planned "trap" but just an upsetting accident while Ann is fleeing a madman.
To protect herself, Ann allows both Loomis and Faro to become poisoned; yet she hypocritically condemns Loomis as a murderer for killing a man in self-defense. So at the end, her words seem ironic and petty when she reproaches him, "You didn't even thank me for taking care of you when you were sick." She even admits these words were childish. In the film, however, Ann seems only righteous and dignified.
In my view, the BBC adaptation is mainly interesting for showing how a dramatization can ignore and distort a story's details. It also suggests how misinterpretation of this story occurs when readers sympathize with the narrator uncritically.
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