Having had just recently read Brave New World, there were a lot of small details that were different about the 1980 version of the film adaptation. Overall, it captured the image of their society very well and accurately, but certain plot points were not consistent with the novel, namely the portrayal of the “savages” and the ending of the film. These differences from the original work create different affects to the audience, and changes some key points that Huxley intended to maintain in his novel.
Let’s start with the obvious example of the residents of the Savage Reservation; they speak English in the movie (the first example can be seen in 28:35). In the novel, the people of Malpais speak Zuni which made John’s accomplishment of learning English from Linda and Shakespeare less amazing. It also loses out on the symbolism that the different cultures have a lose of communication between one another and the “it was only in Zuni the Savage could adequately express what he felt” (p.158) can’t even be touched upon when the only language spoken is English.
One last thing to note about the differences of the Savages in the movie adaptation is that from what I observed, they only worship polytheistic/tribal gods, rather than “the Quakerites” (18:20). In the novel, it was a mixture of Native American ritual and Christianity that encompassed their culture. Even John seems to only respect a god known as “Mecatan” (1:18:30) in the film, whereas in the novel John was willing to suffer self-flagellation for the sake of “Pookong and Jesus” (p.111). While the English speaking savages gives the audience something to relate with and know that they are not in fact “savages” in the movie, the lack of religious similarity (especially with Christianity, since it was such a prominent religion in Western society during the publication of the novel) takes that aback and makes the audience confused. The point of the “savages” was to juxtapose the “civilized” society, making the audience question who the real savages were, and yet the movie seems to paint them in a barbaric way that doesn’t help with relating or justifying the actions of the residents of Malpais.
The last thing I want to discuss in more detail is the movie’s rendition of the ending; though similar to the novel, there are a lot of different nuances that paints a different picture. First off, Mustafa Mond and John did not have their long-winded philosophical discussion in his quarters, which encompassed a large majority of chapter 16 and 17. In fact, Mustafa Mond skips that and determines straight away that John would be showcased for everyone to see (2:43:50). (I think this is done in the movie in order to save time, since it’s already a 3 hour movie and their discussion would make the film way too long.) Although in the novel Mustafa Mond refuses to let John go to one of the free-islands (p.217), he does not outright put him up for display for all to see like he does in the movie; John finds the lighthouse on his own and is then gradually discovered by civilized society. This greatly changes Mustafa Mond’s character from the curious former scientist who occasionally breaks the rules for the betterment of civilization, to a man who is cruel for the sake of creating an example for people in his society. The Mustafa Mond of the novel is confident in his ideals and truly believes he’s bettering society, whereas the Mond of the movie seems to think he needs to eliminate opposition while still maintaining his authority; like with the scene where Mustafa Mond is the one who directs Darwin Bonaparte to make a mockery of John (2:50:00), unlike in the book where society itself was the one that chose how to portray John (p. 226). So in the end, Mustafa Mond is portrayed more as a dictator in the movie compared to the book where he seems more like a figure who over-sees everything and more of a guiding hand of regulation; society is already in affect of their conditioning, Mustafa Mond merely monitors that everything goes according to plan (in the novel).
Another huge part of the ending that needs to be addressed if Lenina’s drastic character development and abandonment of Huxley’s idea that she was a product of “civilized” society through and through. First off, Lenina’s character in the movie isn’t portrayed the same way as in the novel; instead of having her brainwashed and acting more like a reflection of the “ideal” person in her society, she’s more portrayed as “innocent” to her conditioning. What I mean by this is that she seems like she’s only doing the things she does because she knows it’s a societal wrong to oppose it, unlike in the novel where she is truly reliant on civilization and that it’s ingrained in her psyche. Like when Lenina and Bernard go to Malpais without soma (1:15:30), she doesn’t freak out about not having her soma like she does in the novel (p.106). Lenina seems more cognizant of herself and of society in the movie compared to the novel, where she is completely just a product of society and her purpose is to be a summation of representing the values of civilized society in Brave New World.
Moreover, Lenina outright betrays the ways of her society; after discovering John’s book when John storms out in the movie, she starts to read it (2:23:40). This was not in the novel at all, and this set the course of the ending of the film where Lenina believes in John and his ways (2:53:45); although it eloquently is able to recreate Romeo and Juliet with John thinking Lenina is dead and thus commits suicide, this does not happen in the novel. John does not passionately fall back in love with Lenina, in fact it’s the opposite in the novel where he sees Lenina as the object of his repentance, with John whipping her and saying “kill it, kill it!” (p. 230). This drastically differs the reason why John kills himself in the end; the movie version makes it seem like he kills himself out of love and thinking that the one he cared about is gone, just like in Romeo and Juliet when in the original text John kills himself because he fell into the trap of being part of the civilized world. The “need” for having a love interest in movies (which seems to be needed in a majority of films in order to gain female audience attention, as determined by Hollywood) ruins the message Huxley tries to make with John killing himself as a form of ultimate escape from “civilized” society.
As a whole, the movie is very enjoyable, did a pretty good job with portraying the world of Brave New World, and kept a lot of the plot points from the original work. One difference that I especially liked was showing more of Thomas Grambell’s beginning, since it was very well done and was a good way to introduce the audience with the “norms” of the society while also keeping things in chronological order (which is easier to digest when watching a film). However, there are a lot more small nitpicks that I have with the film that bothered me, like with Helmholtz not being an Alpha-Plus (p.70-71) or with Linda not calling to Popé (for some reason called Pelé in the film) when having her final conversation with John (2:26:10 in film, p.185 in novel), and all of these aspects can be discussed in greater detail. The ones outlined prior were the major details that eliminated huge themes and plots from the original novel, however, and these changes greatly affect the lessons that can be learned from it. It overall kept the main idea of the novel (how people are manipulated in order to attain happiness/progress) but it misses a lot of reasons why this civilization is wrong in it’s thinking, with the poor portrayal of the “savages” and with the ending that tries to make a completely different message.