The book: The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God by Etgar Keret
The move: Wristcutters: A Love Story
The song: “Through the Roof ‘n’ Underground” by Gogol Bordello
Wristcutters has been one of my favorite movies since the first time I saw it about a decade or so ago. I think Netflix recommended it to me, one of those movies in the “Quirky yet depressing indies” category that I love so much. Basically, this guy Zia kills himself and ends up in a place that’s just like here “but worse.” When he finds out his ex-girlfriend Desiree also killed herself and ended up there too, he goes on a roadtrip with his Russian buddy Eugene and this random hitchhiker girl, Mikal, to try to reunite with his lost love. Along the way Tom Waits shows up, as does Will Arnett. I’m not gonna give away too much about the plot because it’s weird and awesome and currently free on Prime, so just go watch it. Right now.
Based on the awesomeness of the movie, I got a copy of Etgar Keret’s short story collection The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God, which contains the short story the movie’s based on, “Kneller’s Happy Campers.” There are a bunch of differences between the two – all the names have been changed, for example – and overall I think I like the movie better. I prefer the movie’s tone; Zia (or Mordy) is more likeable in the movie, but maybe that’s just because in Keret’s story, written in first person, we get his asshole thoughts that we don’t get in the movie. I also prefer how the movie adds details to flesh out the story, which makes sense because the story is only about 40 pages – although it does pack in a lot. Another big change is that the movie is made for American audiences, while Etgar Keret’s story is heavily Israeli, so a lot of references and details from the story are left out or changed (except when they’re not and you have a random Arabic suicide bomber show up in the movie with no context).
But the main difference is the ending. I personally like the book’s ending better; you could chop the last 4 minutes off the movie and I think it would be a lot better. But I prefer that with most movies, actually. Again, no spoilers. And there’s nothing wrong with the movie’s ending necessarily; it just seems like they wanted to wrap things up nicely. Which is stupid for a dark comedy, but whatever.
The song is actually from the movie. Eugene was rewritten for the movie so that he was a failed rockstar loser rather than just the failed loser that he was in the story. The difference is mainly just his backstory and method of suicide. I’m pretty sure the only reason they did it was to have a reason to put this song on the soundtrack, but that’s okay because it’s a good song.
If you’ve seen the movie and/or read the story, or any stuff by Keret, what are your thoughts on it? Do you generally prefer the book or the movie? What do you like or not like about adaptations? Share your thoughts below!