Kiss of the Spider Woman

Manuel Puig

What else is there to do on a Friday evening when you have a dry throat and a stupid cough but watch movies on Netflix? My usual go tos for under-the-weather films are The Princess Bride and Shakespeare in Love, but I thought I should change it up at least this one time.

A film that I have been putting off for so long has been the screen adaptation of Kiss of the Spider Woman. When I was in college, I had finished my required courses early and had my last semester free to take whatever classes I wanted to. One of them was called something along the lines as “Literature and Sexuality” and Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig was included on the reading list. Although, it has been years since I read the novel, I still  remember it passionately. In college, I would be so hard up for cash that I would sell some of my class books once the course was complete. Yet, I held onto this one. I have even included it in my mental list of books that I would reread if I ever had the time.

Like most people, I’m skeptical when books I love have been made into movies (even though I have never read The Princess Bride, the film has always proven to be entertaining). The old complaint is as followed: “The book was much better” (however, I still maintain the opinion that Shutter Island and The Graduate were better as films).

All snuggled in my bed, I began the film. It was okay–Raúl Juliá and William Hurt played the leads–but it was missing that seamless weaving of story telling that made Puig’s novel so captivating. The novel is told in only dialogue and is only distinguished by dashes (-). The prose can get so wrapped up in itself that the reader occasionally loses track of who is speaking. But it doesn’t matter. This technique amplifies the intimacy these two men build together throughout the entirety of the novel.

Because adapted movies are always abridged versions of their sources, many things I loved about the novel were lost. Even though Molina is the main narrator, the story is really shared and about both of them. Also, interwoven in the novel is Molina’s retelling of various films that helps the two men pass the time in their wretched cell. A majority of this is nixed in the movie.

an example of the prose

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6 comments

  1. I also read this novel in college and through many moves, international and domestic, have hung on to it in the hopes of rereading. Actually I remember feeling that, in class, we could have dedicated more time to this novel than we did. It was so dense and such a part of the context in which it was written I felt that a deeper reading would have been appropriate. While the book was engrossing and I have visceral memories of where I was while reading various passages, the movie, for me, was mostly forgettable.

    1. I totally agree. I don’t think the film had any impact on me beyond that it was made from a book I sincerely enjoyed. I hope when the day comes for a reread, it will still live up to my memory.

      Side note>> it seemed really strange to cast William Hurt in the role on a South American.

  2. I’m still waiting for a proper adaptation of Jane Eyre.
    The Last of the Mohicans movie, which I love although some people say that I’m crazy for saying so, was better than the book.
    Lord of the Rings, I hated at first, but after reading the book, I grew to love the movie.

    Yes, because of time, books made into movies always have some missing parts, but then, some parts are added in or changed for the sake of it being “Hollywoodish”.

    Sometimes it’s like an original script that has been rewritten, that in the end becomes a far cry from what it supposed to be.

    Love The Princess Bride.

    1. I haven’t seen any film versions of Jane Eyre, but maybe there is a BBC mini series out there that could come close? I find that a mini series adaptation gives the work more room to be developed, etc.

      To enjoy book-to-film movies, I try to divorce the source material from the film adaptation. I’ve been a fan of the Harry Potter books for awhile but they can be enormous in page length and content. So of course the films leave out a ton, but I still find the films enjoyable and separate entities. 🙂

  3. BBC’s version was one of those that I didn’t like. A Mini series is usually better than a condensed version; that I agree with.

    Thanks to North and South starring Richard Armitage, I agree with your last line.

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