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The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart: 05/03/15

cover art

The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu was published originally in French as La Mécanique du coeur and later turned into a 3D animated film, Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart. As I saw the film (also translated to English) before reading the book, I will be comparing the two.

Both versions begin with a warning:

FIRSTLY: don't touch the hands of your cuckoo-clock heart
SECONDLY: master your anger
THIRDLY: never, ever fall in love. For if you do, the hour hand will poke through your skin, your bones will shatter, and your heart will break once more.

Both begin with a birth during the coldest winter day in Edinburgh's history. Both have a child with a poor APGAR score given a second chance of life with the help of a wind-up heart. Both have a horrendous school experience with a bully named Joe. Both have a brief encounter with a flamenco dancing singer named Miss Acacia. Both have a trip to Andulusia and the help of Méliès.

But the journeys through those way stations are completely different and the final destination is a 180 degrees different between book and film. This different destination in the film, though, isn't a bad thing.

And here's why:

The written word — even one that's translated — has the freedom of word play. Within the bounds of multiple definitions, idiomatic phrasing, double entendre, and so forth, is the magic of the metaphor and the simile. There's no reason to push things beyond the word play to tell the story.

The photoplay — to use the word popular when Georges Méliès was making his fantasy and science fiction films, is an art-form that thrives on special effects. The animated film has a long tradition of being a favorite for the fantasy genre.

So when given a choice between metaphor or reality, the book chose metaphor and the film chose reality.

Which one do I prefer? I like them both.

Five Stars

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