Being There: The Book Vs. The Movie
Being There by Jerzy Kosinksi is a unique novel about a man named Chauncey Gardiner, also known as Chance, who is forced to move out of the only environment he’s ever known in his life, the “Old Man’s” house. The book was successful enough to have a screenplay for the movie written by the author as well. Since Chance is very mentally slow, his perception of the world outside his house is unlike any other. When he comes into contact with other people, they find him brilliant and charming, although he isn’t trying to be. One word to describe Chauncey Gardiner is natural. Chance puts no effort into deceiving anyone or impressing anyone and for that, his personality makes him socially successful. Between the book and the film, the book better portrays Chance’s feelings and thoughts while the movie only portrays his actions, therefore the novel gives the reader a deeper insight into the mind of Chauncey Gardiner while the movie gets up close and personal in his life and daily activities.
To begin with, the movie is set in Washington D.C. The “Old Man,” whom Kosinski doesn’t go into detail about, is the wealthy owner of the house Chance grew up in. Louise is the maid that takes care of Chance. The movie does not offer much background information on Chance, viewers are led to assume that he hasn’t had much of a childhood or life in general because he says he can’t read or write and his life revolves around television. Chance is taken into the Rand’s mansion when his leg is injured by one of their cars. When Eve mistakes his introduction as Chance the gardener for Chauncey Gardiner he just accepts it. Many of the scenes in the movie are directly pulled from the book. When the book describes that Chance can change himself by changing the channels on a television it is portrayed exactly like that in the movie. When Chance is in the office with Ben’s secretary and is on the phone while simultaneously mimicking the exercise instructor on the television. Although in the movie, you cannot tell what Chance is thinking when he is absorbed in the television, only what he is physically doing. The movie offers a lot of humor as well, for instance all of the sexual innuendos that Chance is unfamiliar with as well as Chance being completely oblivious to Eve’s advances.
Chance represents a God-like character in the movie, especially at the end when he walks away on water, which suggests that he was God the whole time. The characters that came in contact with Chance portrayed feelings of confidence and showed they felt that Chance had good intentions. As Ben was dying he even described how he accepted the fact that his death was nearing and felt better about it since Chance was around, giving another God-like quality to Chance. Since we can only view Chance’s actions in the movie with our eyes, he appears to be excessively innocent and oblivious. In the movie, the President was adamant on obtaining more information on him as well as others, which exemplifies society’s need for knowledge about things that can be personal or irrelevant to them. The movie also has some added scenes that were not included in the book, for example when Chance is kicked out of the house he runs into a group of black people who threaten him and mistake him for someone named Raphael. Another added scene is when Chance is in the elevator and is asking a servant why he is in such a small room which the servant mistakes as a joke, as many other characters do of Chance’s odd diction. Chance’s facial expressions rarely change in the movie, which makes it difficult to distinguish whether he is happy, sad, surprised, etc. In the book, Louise was a Jamaican maid that was around when Chance was little but has since returned to Jamaica. The book gives a little background information on Chance’s past, such as him being an orphan and that the owner of the house took care of Chance throughout his life up until he died. He was named Chance because he was born by chance. Chance wakes up in the Rand house after blacking out upon their limousine stopping short, but the book doesn’t quite explain what happened exactly. When Eve, called EE in the book, and other people call him Chauncey, he accepts it because he knows from television that actors have different names than they do in real life so he assumes that was just another name for him.
The book seems to emphasize the power of innocence in society. The novel is written in third person although it is obvious that it’s told from Chance’s point of view. The book allows the reader to see the world through Chance’s inexperienced eyes. The book describes how Chance feels as he lets television take over his mind and body, and surrenders himself to it. Just by Chance speaking what he feels and sees, other people take it as a wise and innocent metaphor and see chance a brilliant man. Society values his input so much that Ben was confident enough to ask him to take his business position when he passes. In conclusion, Kosinski’s novel and Hal Ashby’s film Being There both portray society as being obsessed with the media and needing to know everything about anything. The need to know everything about everyone often causes the process of thinking to become mixed up so when Chance comes along with his easy-going and simplistic personality he throws a wrench in the works. Suddenly Chance is a brilliant insightful man from merely speaking on what little knowledge he possesses. Viewers of the movie could easily be confused by Chance’s character since the movie provides little background information, therefore the reading the book proves helpful when watching the movie. Between the book and the film, the book better portrays Chance’s feelings and thoughts while the movie only portrays his actions, therefore the novel gives the reader a deeper insight into the mind of Chauncey Gardiner while the movie gets up close and personal in his life and daily activities.