The Commitments Book Review

“The Commitments” by Roddy Doyle, being written in 1987, produced a significant impact on the cultural life and became a significant novel in Irish literature. The work became even more popular when Alan Parker created a film “The Commitments” based on this novel and soon this film gained public recognition and was so successful that it still remains quite popular. At the same time, it is worthy of mention that the reason for such a popularity of both the book and the film may be found in its theme since, basically, “The Commitments” both the book and the film are focused on the theme of hope which is extremely important for practically all individuals, especially in the modern extremely materialistic world where there is little room for hope.

On analyzing and comparing the book and the film, it is primarily necessary to underline that they cannot be the same. This is why when one speaks about “The Commitments” as the novel it does not necessarily mean that this person will have the same opinion “The Commitments” as the film. In fact, it is quite natural that there is some difference between the book and the film. In my opinion, it is quite interesting to watch a film based on the story you have once read and, in the case of “The Commitments” the screen version of Doyle’s work seems to be even more noteworthy and interesting.

At first, it may seem to be a bit paradoxical that the film or the book which are actually based on the same story and have similar, if not to say identical, plot produce different effects. In this respect, it should be said that “The Commitments” by Alan Parker is more interesting for me and is different from the novel because the director as well as the whole crew that worked on this film brought in their own vision of the story that has been told by Roddy Doyle a few years before the release of the film in 1991.

At the same time, it is necessary to underline that my view on the film may be quite subjective. Nonetheless, I would like to emphasize that the film is initially in an advantageous position because its impact on viewr’s senses is more profound due to the visualization of the story which was initially written by Roddy Doyle. The film provokes stronger emotions because it effects viewers’ audio-visual senses and, unlike the book, it provides the opportunity not only to see but also to listen to the story of the great hopes of young Dubliners, originating from the working class, who naively hoped to bring soul to the modern city and its citizens. In this respect, the film seems to be richer and makes the characters and their problems more realistic and closer to the audience.

However, there is also a significant drawback in the film since its creators actually create the characters of their own and deprive viewers of a possibility to fully create the images of the main characters in their own imagination. In other words, the characters seems to be imposed to viewers while the book leaves the opportunity to fancy and interpret the main characters in a particular way as readers understand it.

Nonetheless, on reading the book and watching the film, I turned to be in an advantageous position since I have formed my own opinion about the book, its characters and the story the writer tells. On the other hand, I watched the film expecting to see a slightly different story that would be not exactly the simple adaptation of Doyle’s novel but it would be rather the interpretation of this story by Alan Parker. Fortunately, my hopes did not fail since I really watched a film that incorporated a particular view of the director, as well as the whole crew working on the film, on the story written by Roddy Doyle.

Basically, I liked the film more because it was quite different from the book that made me think in different way about what I have read. It means that I have got a possibility to have an alternative view on “The Commitments” and reveal some details that I have missed while reading the novel. The film was also more interesting because it was a bit more complicated than the book and, what is more, it was closer to real life, though it seems to be a bit more pessimistic than the novel.

Anyway, what is really good in the film is its differences from the book. First of all, it should be said that the book mainly consists of dialogues and the author pays a little attention to the physical description of the characters while the film, in contrast, is rather focused on the physical description of the characters and, obviously, the director attempts to look even further into the internal world of the characters. In this respect, the music, costumes and design of the film is very useful and helps the director to meet this goal.

Furthermore, the film is much more concentrated on the collapse of Dublin’s backstreets, while the book provides a larger depiction and reveals a wider panorama of Dublin’s life and its people. At the same time, it does not make the film any worse than the book because it makes the story even more problematic and is more concentrated on really important social problems as well as problems of each individual.

Not surprisingly that some critics () comparing the film and the book estimate that the film may be categorized as comedy-drama with tragic elements, while the book is basically comedic. In fact, it is really true that the film is characterized by the higher level of dramatism not in the last turn due to its focus on such a bringing problem as the collapse of Dublin’s backstreets. Moreover, some details, which seem to be absolutely insignificant, bring in additional dramatic mood to the story. For instance, in the book Pickett, being actually the last hope of the band, does not show at all that leads to the break up of the band, while in the film he is just running late. Such a slight difference obviously add some tragic tones to the whole story since the viewer inevitably feels that if Pickett arrive a little bit earlier the outcome could be totally different.

However, the film is not too dramatic and it cannot be labeled as a drama in its proper sense since there are quite optimistic motives in the story. For instance, I think that probably important thing the main characters learned from the whole story is their new experience which actually is very important and even their break up is rather positive since as the protagonist and band manager is told moments after the band breaks up “you raised their expectations of life – you lifted their horizons!”

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, I would like to conclude that I liked the film more because it seems to be more problematic and thought provoking. At the same time, unlike the book where the author left up to readers the physical depiction of characters that is not bad though, but the film provides an opportunity to look deeper within the characters due to their thorough physical depiction and director’s attempts to reveal their internal world. Nonetheless, I would not say that the book is totally bad compared to the film. In stark contrast, I would rather treat the novel by Roddy Doyle and the film by Alan Parker as two separate works of art based on the same story but realized in different genres.

Bordwell, D. and K. Thompson. Film Art. New York: New Publishers, 2004.
Doyle, R. The Commitments. London: ROutledge, 1994.
Lewis, G. Cinematography. LA: McGraw Hill, 2001.
The Commitments, 1991.