Tara M. Borella

A Bit More Like Chance

While watching the movie Being There, the viewer begins to notice just how different the book and the movie are. While the book appeals more to the reader's emotions, the movie gives a comical outlook on the problems faced in both the book and the movie. The contrast between the two places them into separate categories--a touching story about a man trapped in a world of which he knows nothing about and a satirical comedy about the very same man. The book interests its audience, making them hungry to know more; the movie involves its audience, feeding that hunger for more details.

Jerzy Kosinski's short novel, also titled Being There, is a bit more serious than his movie version of the same story . Here, the President is shown as a dignified individual and only on a professional basis. After speaking with Chance and quoting him in his speech, the President has his staff work diligently to find out more about Chauncey Gardiner. The movie, however, actually shows, quite humorously, how Chance's mysterious past affects the President and his personal life, a subject not touched in the book. Many scenes show the President and his wife in their bedroom a nd his wife wanting more than just casual conversation. The President is so preoccupied with the lack of information he is receiving about Chance that he cannot oblige his wife.

Kosinski suggests in the book that Chance is something of an exceptional individual. Cha nce sees things on an entirely different, perhaps higher, level than most people. Before his television appearance, Chance thinks to himself, "Television reflected only people's surfaces; it also kept peeling away their images from their bodies un til they were sucked into the caverns of their viewers' eyes, forever beyond retrieval, to disappear" (p. 54). Even the most intelligent people do not think of television in this way. In the movie,however, Chance is portrayed as so mething of an air head. He misinterprets even the simplest things. As he steps out of the Rand's house, one of the servants asks Chance if he would like a car. Chance answers, "Yes," in amazement. So a car is called to the front of the h ouse. Chance goes back inside the house shortly after, mistaking the offer of a ride in the car for being offered to own the car.

Kosinski's written ideas do not express as much humor as the movie does. In fact, the book is able to arouse more of a sense of pity for Chance. Being able to hear Chance's thoughts makes it easier for the reader to become involved in his feelings. Chance's simple ideas about everyday living are so childlike that not f eeling sorry for him seems nearly impossible. The movie, however, cannot convey Chance's thoughts to the viewer, therefore making the same situations almost comical. Well along in the book, EE does her best to seduce Chance. He doe s not know at all how to react to this kind of behavior. Chance's childlike qualities shine through as the reader is able to sense Chance's confusion. "EE should no more have wanted to be touched by him than should the TV screen h ave wanted it" (p. 94). While watching the same situation in the movie, the viewer sees that Chance is not in the least bit fazed by Eve's advances. While she tries to arouse Chance sexually, he begins to ignore her, and imitating the exerci se program he is watching on television, he stands on his head.

Although the two conclusions are clearly very different by far, both leave the reader/vie wer with the same feelings of confusion. What becomes of Chance? The book leads its readers to wonder if Chance perhaps becomes the Vice President of the United States. Is he at the Inaugural Ball in the final scene? Chance has a moment of bew ilderment followed by a sense of peace. What brings this about? While the movie leads its viewers to wonder if Chance may someday become President of the United States, it ultimately leads its viewers to think about much larger issue s. The final scene in this instance is almost biblical. Is this the feeling that Kosinski intends? What exactly is he trying to say? Both the book and the movie leave their audiences with many unanswered questions.

Although the book and the movie are two versions of the same story, it seems, in the end, that Kosinski intends almost the opposite effect. The book leaves its readers to believe that the story is about a confused man trying to make it in a new world, by telling of both his struggles and triumphs. The movie leaves its viewers with the notion that the story is a lighthearted comedy about a man who is so aloof that he does not even sense the new world aroun d him. So it seems, in a sense, that both of Kosinski's versions of Being There leave the audience with an opinion that is bit more innocent, a bit more inquisitive, a bit more confused -- a bit more like Chance.