Yesterday I watched Mrs. Miniver on DVD. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’d known that a successful film adaptation had been made, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge on the topic. Having read Jan Struther’s novel – more a series of vignettes – and loved it, I was intrigued by the prospect of a film version, especially since I’m discovering an affinity with older films. Harder to track down than older books, but worth the investigation.
So. Mrs. Miniver the book – many, very short snapshots of upper-middle-class domesticity in the late 1930s. Humour and kindliness soak through every page, real Salt of the Earth stuff, but vastly enjoyable too. Quite Diary of a Provincial Ladyesque, and if there’s anyone reading this blog who still hasn’t read DoaPL, then sign off straight away and get yourself to abebooks.com. Mrs. Miniver the film… same characters, more or less, but more German parachuters thrusting guns around. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything except the characters, and Mr. M’s new car, which was in the novel – what was a carefree picture of domestic life became a vehicle for war propaganda. That sounds like I hated the film, which is not the case at all – I thought it excellently acted, often emotional, and an amusing look at the way villages live. Yes, the world is at war, but that won’t stop the annual Flower and Produce Show from taking place. I attended one of these only the other day, in the village adjacent to my own in Somerset. In the film, the competition over roses was given almost equal weight as the war, and more than such trivialities as Dunkirk. And that must have been the way wartime was experienced by many people.
The most striking thing about Mrs. Miniver is that it was in cinemas in 1942. The outcome of the war was not known, was far from certain. In fact, many credit the film with helping convince the American public that becoming an Allied force was a good idea.
So, great good, great film. They just don’t have much in common. I’ve probably rambled about adaptation before, so I shan’t again, but I do think that I can best appreciate both book and adaptation when they are so disparate as to make comparison farcical. I threw in today’s sketch because it would be a perfect, controversy-free adaptation – after all, nobody’s read the book.