Book versus movie: ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

The book is by far superior.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Okay, I know I should probably go into a little bit more detail than that. So, I was visiting family in my delightful (note the slight sarcasm) hometown of Lincoln the other week and while having a wander around the city centre, I decided to pop into Waterstones. Now, I love horror and one of my gripes with this particular Waterstones when I used to live in Lincoln was that their horror section was appalling. For most of my teenage years and twenties, the horror section in this Waterstones consisted of a single bookcase. So when I saw that the horror section had been expanded to approximately four or five bookcases, I was ecstatic. I rushed over, determined to buy something. I scanned the spines and the titles printed on them, but nothing was grabbing my attention…

…until my eyes came to rest on Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby. It’s a book that I’ve been meaning to read for years, but have just never gotten round to. I first watched the movie about 10 years ago when I was at university. I bought it on DVD and my housemate and I watched it one night. I literally remembered nothing about the movie other than a scene in which Rosemary’s roaming around her seemingly empty apartment and two men sneak across the hallway behind her in a really exaggerated and unnerving manner. I remember that one scene solely because my housemate said, “Eugh, that’s horrible.”

I have loads of DVDs stored in a DVD/CD wallet (my late teens and very early twenties happened in the pre-video streaming/very early video streaming era) and I suspected that Rosemary’s Baby was in it. When I finished the book (the review for which you can find here), I thought it would be interesting to watch the movie and compare the two. I needed to find the DVD wallet first, though. After two days of searching my flat and asking my boyfriend “Where’s Rosemary’s Baby?” like I’d lost a literal baby, I finally found the wallet at the bottom of a box at the bottom of a wardrobe. Rosemary’s Baby had pride of place in the first sleeve, which I took to be a good sign. Perhaps my 20 year old self had deemed it so good that it needed to be the first option on display when I was looking for something to watch? I’d momentarily forgotten that despite owning the DVD, I’d only actually watched the movie once, which clearly indicates that I wasn’t that enamoured of it.

We cooked dinner, inserted the DVD into the Playstation and settled down in front of the TV for the evening.

I say evening. It was pushing midnight by the time the movie ended (IMDB says it’s 2 hours 17 minutes long, but it honestly felt much longer). I think the reason why it’s so long (and probably the reason why it felt even longer) is that the movie script is literally the book’s dialogue verbatim. I found this a bit odd because I’d always assumed (and granted, I perhaps assumed this wrongly) that directors and script writers adapt books for the big screen? There were points when it didn’t even feel like the actors were reading from a script. It felt as though they’d just been given a copy of the book and told to get their lines from there. As well as making the movie painfully long, it also meant that some scenes just didn’t make sense. The book’s written from Rosemary’s perspective, meaning that when she says something, readers also know what she’s thinking. Without the accompanying thoughts, some of what she says in the movie sounds odd and doesn’t always make sense. I feel as though the director (I’m not even gonna write his name because he’s a disgusting man) tried to get around this by having movie Rosemary vocalise what had been her thoughts in the book. These vocalised thoughts were a bit jarring as they just sounded so unnatural. For me, the movie would have been better if at least some effort had been injected into adapting the book’s dialogue into an actual movie script.

There were also parts of the movie that I felt would have been confusing if I hadn’t recently read the book. In the book, Rosemary has several weird dreams and it also becomes apparent that there’s a secret doorway linking her and Guy’s apartment with the Castevets’. My boyfriend didn’t actually realise that there was a secret door until the end of the movie, when Rosemary entered the Castevets’ apartment through it, and he also wouldn’t have known that the dream sequences were, well, dream sequences unless I’d told him. If I hadn’t have read the book, I think I wouldn’t have realised either. These were things that were apparent in the book, but didn’t translate onto the big screen.

Sure, the movie’s good, but it doesn’t even come close to the masterpiece that the book is in my opinion. What I love about the book is that every page, every sentence, every word is infused with this sense of dread and anxiety that becomes almost physically unbearable in the final few chapters. This was completely and utterly lost in the movie. By the time Rosemary crept into the Castevets’ apartment in the movie, I was thinking, “Oh god, just let it end already.”

Me trying to summon the energy to make it to the end of the movie

In summary, the movie is good in its own right, but it pales in comparison to the book.

Have you read and/or watched Rosemary’s Baby? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

To read my review of Rosemary’s Baby, click here.

2 thoughts on “Book versus movie: ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

    1. I highly recommend the book! It’s a relatively short read, but it packs one hell of a punch. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it!
      Old Lincoln – Steep Hill, the castle, the cathedral etc – is great, but it’s just everywhere else πŸ˜‚ I think my main issue is the small town mentality a lot of the Lincoln natives have. It’s always struck me as a very xenophobic place, but I guess the same can be said for a lot of small cities and towns, unfortunately!

      Liked by 1 person

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