Film adaptation leaves out bits from novel and the story suffers
“The Snowman”, the film which released about two weeks ago, is also a murder mystery novel Norwegian Jo Nesbo wrote a decade ago.
The trailer’s tease about live snowmen has tickled hearts to the point some have made fun of the movie, and after seeing it, it is understandably so. This is a case you cannot judge the book if you haven’t read it, even if you’ve watched the movie in theaters first.
“The Snowman” had its moments when suspense grabbed you when Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) receives a note from the killer who calls himself the snowman. Soon after, the first woman disappears when the first snow falls. Along the way, Hole realizes commodities of the women who go missing are unhappy in their marriages and have children—children who do not know who their true dad is.
In the book, Hole tunes into a radio talk show that discusses seals mating and that the males will kill the females after they have babies because they only want their genes to populate the world.
This concept plays a key part in who the killer is and explains his motives for why he goes after the women he does, but the seals were not addressed in the movie.
There’s so much more that could be said about the book but generally, the character development plays a key part in the film, especially in visual attributes. In a film a director should create a sharp focus on those few most important details that especially the main character and the set-up orchestrate the movie’s flow and trap the audience’s attention. The audience does not understand who the good guys or the bad guys are and what made them who they are if the audience hasn’t read the book. The director should also slip cues along the way that will play into the plot and generate the scare factor this kind of movie requires.
For example, in one of the first scenes a white nightgown swings just out of sight when Hole is interrogating a little girl and her mom’s boyfriend.
Side note: it was also confusing to keep track of minor character names because not only were they changed, but for instance, the little girl was a little boy named Jonas in the book.
When you’ve read the novel, you believe you know what the nightgown foreshadows and you wait for the follow-up in the movie but it never quite happens. Instead, much like how “The Snowman” teases Hole and his detective, you feel like you’re blindfolded and stumbling along in some of the scenes in the dark without knowing where the plot is going.
A few minutes after the nightgown scene, the mom is sitting in bed and reading, and a snowball is flung at the glass window startling her. She gets up and looks outside from her window but only notices a snowman down below who appears to be staring right back at her. Again, it adds an eerie factor and the snowman appearance becomes a constant pattern before women disappear.
In spite of the terrible filmmaking, a mystery of a snowman as a killer is an intriguing concept. A snowman symbolizes an age of innocence and playfulness, a time where all of us wish we could return to. The plot in both the book and movie twists those implications of past memories playing in the snow into a nightmare but also reveals how cold human nature has a tendency of becoming, and the lengths it will stretch so that others suffer.
And that thought is a scare.
In all, my critique is that if you have thought about attending the movie and haven’t read the book, read the book first. The movie will make some sense. If you’re looking for a winter-themed movie and enjoy this kind of genre, it’s not a bad watch but I don’t know if I would again after the first time.