I’ve been reading Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and try as I might, every time I read ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ Dick Van Dyke and the two children from the movie pop into my head singing ‘Oh you Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Chitty Chitty Bang Bang we love you’. I really want to be reading the book as a separate work (or at least the original work) from the movie, but it is hard to distance the two. The movie, actually, hardly follows the book at all! Caractacus Potts is there, inventing things, and his two children, Jemima and Jeremy, but there is no Truly Scrumptious, No Grandfather, no imaginary land, and no dreaded child catcher!There is, in fact, a Mrs Potts, who is referred to fondly as Mimsie, and the family of four go off on the adventure together, across the English Channel, to France, where they discover a nasty group of gangsters that they manage to thwart.
I am not saying that either version, the book or the film, is better, since they could almost read as two completely different stories. It is interesting, however, that the movie strays so completely from the book. That is the fault (I say fondly) of Roald Dahl, who wrote the screenplay for the film. He essentially takes the bare minimum from the book to make it recognisable as coming from the book (basically only the names of the characters), and creates his own fantastic world around them. When the movie came out, there was a book published which was the dramatisation of the film – a book based on the film which was based on a book! Crazy.
I did enjoy the book, but I think that some people might be disappointed reading it now, as so many people’s first encounter with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would be through the movie. Do you think that seeing the movie-version of something changes the way you think about a book? Does it matter if you have seen the film before reading the book? I can’t see the movie of a book I really enjoy, because I find it difficult to distance the images and voices from the movie from the book, and they replace the images and voices that I have conjured in my head. Not that this happened so much with this book – the characters in the book was too different from that of the movie to marry them up. But that theme song! ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang we love you…’