A true thing, if poorly expressed, is a lie. – Stephen Fry
In Why Movie Adaptations Of Books Are Lies, the previous blog post, we saw the above words of acclaimed actor and comedian Stephen Fry come true. But there are some things that are so well expressed, with all the truth both in intention and action, that the truth is bound to come through to our hearts.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one such work of expression. Maybe we should allow more writers to direct the movies that are adaptations of their movies. Because the writer (Stephen Chbosky) of the novel, on which this coming of age movie (but is so much more than just that), is based on has also directed the motion picture. Since it was the writer itself involved in deciding what of the novel goes into the picture and how, the truth is kept very much alive during the transformation from a book to movie.
Talking about this story we are not talking about a book or a film, we are forced to talk about the real people involved. They and their stories become more important than the people who are telling the stories. Which is the way it should ideally be. The storyteller, be it the movie maker or the novelist, should lose themselves into the characters of their story. They need to shed their own personality and let the characters be seen for who they are. This is the challenge indeed which makes a story touch hearts and stay there for a long time.
Both the media of storytelling, bring you closer to the beautiful heart of the wallflower, Charlie. He is a teenager with a very unadulterated view to the world. Considering that he has spent a very crucial time of his childhood in a psychiatrist’s office, he has been kept at bay from the regular school life ever since. He has learnt to be ignored by the groups formed at school because they think he is a freak. His only friend commits suicide right before the story begins.This rather unfortunate experience has forced him to be at a distance from the world around him and hang on the wall – silently looking and observing but not participating.
The story begins when he is forced to participate, both by the ones who love him already and the ones he will come to love eventually. His psychiatrist and his family have motivated him to make a new beginning at making friends. And this brings him to the two people that will change his life forever, two beautiful souls by the name of Sam and Patrick.
Perks of being Misfits
All three of them are misfits of the school life. And honestly, as we discover as the story moves on, blessed to be secluded from it all. This is the story of how they each discover their places in the real world, the world beyond high school. That is one of the most wonderful things about being a misfit in any world, you are forced to go beyond it in order to find somewhere you can fit. You get to go beyond what you have known to be true all your life. Maybe being a misfit is a sad way out, but then sadness is the other face of happiness. They are both gifts of this life which make it valuable, like the two opposite faces of a coin.
Patrick is a gay man in a world that is homophobic by default. He is the anomaly amongst the boys who are being brought up by family and the popular culture to be proper. To be a man and an honourable one. But he is a ruthless, carefree boy who wants to be everything inappropriate according to the society. He wants to love another man, to kiss him and make him feel loved. He wants to play music that touches his aching heart and wants to stay close to people who appreciate music and are not in a commercial relationship with it.
Sam is a young woman in the making, who has not felt the protection of a household and been abused by men in her own house as a child. She is used to finding security in men who treat her like shit. She is used to acting dumb with the men in her life, to make herself small, in order for them to feel important and stay with her. So they just continue loving her. The need for love has replaced all the other priorities. She is trying hard to find meaning amongst her loved friends who have accepted her. Her step brother Patrick, who has come to take over the role of a beloved male in her life, has also brought her solace. But she yearns for a deeper togetherness that binds her body and soul to another’s. She is a dreamer who believes in a soul mate, which she found in the most beautiful music. She wants to see her dream come true.
As for Charlie, he is a young boy who has been a wall flower since very early in his life and for way too long now. He has forgotten what it was to participate in life and the ongoings of the room, whose wall he decorates by hanging on to it. The little nuances of each character are being seen through his sensitive eyes in the story. He understands and really sees each one. He is unbiased in his attention and then when he chooses to finally have a major portion of his attention drawn to the most beautiful thing he can find, love, it wells up our eyes. He is a sensitive soul, pure as a dew drop, capable of forming a whole river, but held by his ability to feel the pain of the mud that will wrap around his purity, if he chooses to roll down. He sees this dirt of pain and suffering in all the dew drops around, in all the souls around him. He feels the tears rolling down the face of all those who have come before him and all those who will come after him. He sees that we are all indeed in this together and yet alone in our own special way. And that we are each their for ourselves and we are each our own best bets at making through life.
This is the story of him realising this underlying unity that runs beneath the separated islands of the ocean of life. He makes the people around him realise that as well by making them feel that they are special to him and that he sees them. It often leaves them spell bound or sometimes ashamed at not reciprocating the same feeling back to him or sometimes in complete gratitude for being seen and loved. Sam and Patrick are one of those people, also his parents and siblings, eventually.
One of the most important lessons this story taught me was to take the opportunity of being broken in life, and realising that we are broken in our special ways. And we all have our own shots at being happy again, at being healed again. He is a victim of paedophilia as a young kid and because he is abused by someone he loves, his own aunt, he is forced to never acknowledge it to be an abuse. He never realises the horror of this situation until he is touched once again. but with pure love this time. That is when he realises that the last time someone touched him was not out of love but out of something ugly. It was not lust. It was a hideous grief of a woman who was abused as a kid herself. Knowing her terrible past, Charlie brings himself to forgiving his poor aunt for what she did to him. He chooses love above that grief which she could not help but transfer onto him.
Do watch the movie or read the wonderful story in its long form, to experience this young man coming of age to the deepest of things of the adult world. While some of those things maybe ugly, there are some pearls too, that he discovers in those depths. Take the journey with him atleast once, and be rewarded with what it feels like to be a wallflower!
It was one of the most tranforming experiences for me to know and live the story of Charlie, Sam and Patrick as a teenager myself. I grew up and came of age with them. I listened to their music both in the book and the movie (Heroes by David Bowie and Asleep by The Smiths). I have cried so many times with both the happy and sad parts of their lives. And foremost I have also tried to find the pearls of purity in the depths of my own life, inspired by them.
I hope that this love transfers onto yourself and you too find some value in this story. If you do, I will find my aim of writing this blog fulfilled. In closing I would like to say that another very important lesson I took from this story is that
It is not a mountain full of stone that can hinder our journey to the top, but the tiny pebble in your shoe that will hold you back. So I hope that you too focus on finding the pebble in your own shoe and take it out of your life, instead of being consumed by fear of the whole mountain.
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Here are some wonderful quotes from this story.