God’s Crooked Lines: A Novel and Two Film Adaptations Compared

God's Crooked Lines: A Novel and Two Film Adaptations Compared

Background Information on God's Crooked Lines

God's Crooked Lines (Los renglones torcidos de Dios) is a novel by Spanish writer Torcuato Luca de Tena, published in 1979. It tells the story of Alice Gould, a detective who infiltrates a mental hospital to investigate a murder. The novel is based on the author's own experience of being admitted to a psychiatric clinic under a false identity, as part of a journalistic research. The novel was a bestseller in Spain and was translated into several languages, including English, French, German, and Italian.

The novel was adapted into two films: a Mexican version in 1983, directed by Tulio Demicheli and starring Lucía Méndez as Alice Gould, and a Spanish version in 2022, directed by Oriol Paulo and starring Bárbara Lennie as Alicia Gould. The Mexican film was titled Los renglones torcidos de Dios, while the Spanish film was titled La línea invisible (The Invisible Line). Both films received positive reviews from critics and audiences, and were nominated for several awards .

In this post, we will compare and contrast the novel and the film versions of God's Crooked Lines, and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. We will analyze how the novel and the films tell the story, create the mood and the atmosphere, portray the main characters, convey the meaning and the message, and resolve the mystery. We will also discuss the historical and cultural context of the novel and the films, and how they reflect the social and political issues of their time. Finally, we will give our opinion on which one is the best adaptation of this intriguing story, and why.

Narrative Structure: How the Novel and the Films Tell the Story

One of the main aspects to compare and contrast the novel and the film versions of God's Crooked Lines is the narrative structure, or how the story is organized and presented. The novel and the films have different ways of arranging the events, revealing the information, and creating the suspense. In this section, we will examine how the novel and the films use the elements of narrative structure, such as the point of view, the chronology, the flashbacks, the twists, and the ending.

The novel is written in the first-person point of view, from the perspective of Alice Gould, the protagonist and the narrator. The novel follows Alice's journey as she enters the mental hospital, meets the other patients and the staff, investigates the murder, and discovers the truth about herself and her past. The novel is divided into four parts, each corresponding to a stage of Alice's investigation and transformation. The novel uses a linear chronology, with the exception of some flashbacks that Alice experiences or recounts. The novel also has several twists and surprises, such as the identity of the murderer, the role of Dr. Ballesteros, and the final revelation about Alice's condition. The novel ends with an ambiguous and open-ended note, leaving the reader to wonder about Alice's fate and the meaning of her story.

The Mexican film is also told from the point of view of Alice Gould, played by Lucía Méndez. The film follows the same plot as the novel, with some minor changes and omissions. The film is divided into three parts, each marked by a title card that indicates the date and the place. The film uses a non-linear chronology, alternating between the present and the past. The film shows more flashbacks than the novel, especially those related to Alice's childhood and her relationship with her father. The film also has some twists and surprises, similar to the novel, but with some variations. For example, the film reveals the identity of the murderer earlier than the novel, and adds a new twist involving Alice's husband. The film ends with a more conclusive and dramatic resolution, showing Alice's escape and confrontation with the murderer.

The Spanish film is told from the point of view of Alicia Gould, played by Bárbara Lennie. The film follows a different plot from the novel and the Mexican film, with some major changes and additions. The film is divided into two parts, each corresponding to a different time period. The film uses a parallel chronology, showing the events of 1979 and 1980 simultaneously. The film shows fewer flashbacks than the novel and the Mexican film, focusing more on the present. The film also has some twists and surprises, different from the novel and the Mexican film. For example, the film introduces a new character, Inspector Vidal, who is investigating the murder and has a connection with Alicia. The film also changes the identity of the murderer, the role of Dr. Ballesteros, and the final revelation about Alicia's condition. The film ends with a more ambiguous and open-ended resolution, showing Alicia's departure and leaving the mystery unsolved.

As we can see, the novel and the films have different ways of telling the story of God's Crooked Lines, using different elements of narrative structure. The novel and the films have different points of view, chronologies, flashbacks, twists, and endings. These differences affect how the reader or the viewer perceives the story, the characters, and the message. In the next section, we will compare and contrast the style and the tone of the novel and the films, and how they create the mood and the atmosphere of the story.

Style and Tone: How the Novel and the Films Create the Mood and the Atmosphere

Another aspect to compare and contrast the novel and the film versions of God's Crooked Lines is the style and the tone, or how the story is written and delivered. The novel and the films have different ways of creating the mood and the atmosphere of the story, using different elements of style and tone, such as the language, the imagery, the dialogue, the music, and the cinematography. In this section, we will examine how the novel and the films use the elements of style and tone, and how they affect the reader's or the viewer's emotions and expectations.

The novel is written in a formal and elegant language, with a rich and varied vocabulary. The novel uses a lot of imagery and metaphors, especially related to the theme of God's crooked lines, or the unpredictable and mysterious ways of fate. The novel also uses some literary devices, such as irony, sarcasm, and humor, to create contrast and tension. The novel has a serious and somber tone, with a touch of mystery and suspense. The novel conveys a sense of realism and authenticity, as well as a sense of uncertainty and doubt. The novel creates a mood of curiosity and intrigue, as well as a mood of sadness and sympathy.

The Mexican film is written in a colloquial and simple language, with a limited and repetitive vocabulary. The film uses some imagery and metaphors, but less than the novel. The film also uses some literary devices, such as irony, sarcasm, and humor, but more sparingly and subtly. The film has a dramatic and emotional tone, with a touch of romance and adventure. The film conveys a sense of fantasy and exaggeration, as well as a sense of optimism and hope. The film creates a mood of excitement and thrill, as well as a mood of love and compassion.

The Spanish film is written in a neutral and clear language, with a moderate and balanced vocabulary. The film uses some imagery and metaphors, but more subtly and implicitly. The film also uses some literary devices, such as irony, sarcasm, and humor, but more moderately and cautiously. The film has a tense and suspenseful tone, with a touch of mystery and thriller. The film conveys a sense of complexity and ambiguity, as well as a sense of confusion and frustration. The film creates a mood of anxiety and fear, as well as a mood of curiosity and intrigue.

As we can see, the novel and the films have different ways of creating the mood and the atmosphere of the story, using different elements of style and tone. The novel and the films have different languages, imagery, dialogue, music, and cinematography. These differences affect how the reader or the viewer feels and reacts to the story, the characters, and the message. In the next section, we will compare and contrast the characterization of the novel and the films, and how they portray the main characters.

Characterization: How the Novel and the Films Portray the Main Characters

A third aspect to compare and contrast the novel and the film versions of God's Crooked Lines is the characterization, or how the story depicts the main characters. The novel and the films have different ways of portraying the main characters, such as Alice/Alicia Gould, Dr. Ballesteros, the murderer, and the other patients. In this section, we will examine how the novel and the films use the elements of characterization, such as the appearance, the personality, the motivation, the development, and the relationship of the main characters.

The novel portrays Alice Gould as a beautiful and intelligent woman, with blonde hair and blue eyes. She is a professional detective, who is hired by a mysterious client to investigate a murder in a mental hospital. She is confident and courageous, but also curious and compassionate. She is motivated by her sense of duty and justice, but also by her personal interest in the case. She develops throughout the story, as she learns more about the hospital, the murder, and herself. She has a complex relationship with Dr. Ballesteros, the director of the hospital, who is her ally and her enemy, her friend and her lover, her doctor and her patient. She also has a relationship with the murderer, who is her target and her mirror, her adversary and her partner, her victim and her savior. She also has a relationship with the other patients, who are her companions and her witnesses, her helpers and her obstacles, her friends and her foes.

The Mexican film portrays Alice Gould as a glamorous and charming woman, with dark hair and brown eyes. She is a wealthy socialite, who is bored with her life and her husband. She is adventurous and romantic, but also naive and impulsive. She is motivated by her curiosity and her thrill, but also by her love for Dr. Ballesteros. She develops throughout the story, as she discovers the secrets of the hospital, the murder, and her past. She has a passionate relationship with Dr. Ballesteros, the director of the hospital, who is her lover and her protector, her teacher and her student, her hero and her villain. She also has a relationship with the murderer, who is her enemy and her admirer, her stalker and her follower, her threat and her salvation. She also has a relationship with the other patients, who are her friends and her rivals, her supporters and her detractors, her allies and her enemies.

The Spanish film portrays Alicia Gould as a plain and troubled woman, with light hair and green eyes. She is a former journalist, who is accused of a murder in a mental hospital. She is skeptical and cynical, but also determined and resilient. She is motivated by her desire to prove her innocence and to find the truth, but also by her guilt and her fear. She develops throughout the story, as she unravels the mystery of the hospital, the murder, and her identity. She has a tense relationship with Dr. Ballesteros, the director of the hospital, who is her interrogator and her defender, her manipulator and her helper, her captor and her liberator. She also has a relationship with the murderer, who is her accomplice and her rival, her colleague and her nemesis, her witness and her judge. She also has a relationship with the other patients, who are her informants and her suspects, her sources and her clues, her confidants and her liars.

As we can see, the novel and the films have different ways of portraying the main characters of God's Crooked Lines, using different elements of characterization. The novel and the films have different appearances, personalities, motivations, developments, and relationships of the main characters. These differences affect how the reader or the viewer understands and empathizes with the main characters, and how they relate to the story, the themes, and the message. In the next section, we will compare and contrast the symbolism and the themes of the novel and the films, and how they convey the meaning and the message of the story.

Symbolism and Themes: How the Novel and the Films Convey the Meaning and the Message

A fourth aspect to compare and contrast the novel and the film versions of God's Crooked Lines is the symbolism and the themes, or how the story conveys the meaning and the message. The novel and the films have different ways of using symbols and themes to express the ideas and the values of the story, such as the nature of reality, the role of fate, the meaning of madness, and the power of love. In this section, we will examine how the novel and the films use the elements of symbolism and themes, and how they affect the reader's or the viewer's interpretation and appreciation of the story.

The novel uses a lot of symbols and themes to convey the meaning and the message of the story. The most prominent symbol is the title itself, God's Crooked Lines, which refers to the proverb "God writes straight with crooked lines". This means that God has a plan for everyone, even if it seems chaotic and incomprehensible. The novel explores this theme through the plot, the characters, and the setting. The plot is full of twists and turns, surprises and coincidences, that challenge the reader's expectations and logic. The characters are complex and contradictory, with hidden motives and secrets, that reveal the human condition and the divine intervention. The setting is a mental hospital, a place where reality and illusion, sanity and madness, are blurred and questioned. The novel suggests that there is a higher purpose and a deeper meaning behind everything, even if it is not obvious or understandable.

The Mexican film uses some symbols and themes to convey the meaning and the message of the story, but less than the novel. The film also uses the title God's Crooked Lines, but it does not explain or explore it as much as the novel. The film focuses more on the theme of love, rather than the theme of fate. The film shows how love can overcome obstacles, heal wounds, and inspire courage. The film also shows how love can be dangerous, obsessive, and destructive. The film uses some symbols to represent love, such as the rose, the ring, and the cross. The film suggests that love is the most powerful and the most unpredictable force in life, and that it can change everything, for better or for worse.

The Spanish film uses some symbols and themes to convey the meaning and the message of the story, but differently from the novel and the Mexican film. The film uses the title The Invisible Line, which refers to the thin line between reality and fiction, truth and lies, sanity and madness. The film explores this theme through the plot, the characters, and the setting. The plot is full of ambiguity and uncertainty, mystery and suspense, that keep the viewer guessing and doubting. The characters are unreliable and deceptive, with hidden agendas and identities, that reveal the human weakness and the human manipulation. The setting is a mental hospital, a place where reality and fiction, truth and lies, sanity and madness, are manipulated and distorted. The film suggests that there is no clear or objective reality, but only subjective and constructed versions of it, and that it is hard to know what is real and what is not.

As we can see, the novel and the films have different ways of using symbols and themes to convey the meaning and the message of the story. The novel and the films have different symbols and themes, such as God's crooked lines, love, and the invisible line. These differences affect how the reader or the viewer interprets and appreciates the story, the ideas, and the values. In the next section, we will compare and contrast the evaluation and the conclusion of the novel and the films, and which one is the best adaptation of God's Crooked Lines.

Evaluation and Conclusion: Which One is the Best Adaptation of God's Crooked Lines?

A final aspect to compare and contrast the novel and the film versions of God's Crooked Lines is the evaluation and the conclusion, or how the story ends and what it means. The novel and the films have different ways of ending the story and delivering the message, using different elements of evaluation and conclusion, such as the resolution, the impact, the recommendation, and the opinion. In this section, we will examine how the novel and the films use the elements of evaluation and conclusion, and which one is the best adaptation of God's Crooked Lines.

The novel ends with an ambiguous and open-ended resolution, leaving the reader to wonder about Alice's fate and the meaning of her story. The novel has a strong and lasting impact, as it challenges the reader's perception and understanding of reality, fate, madness, and love. The novel is a masterpiece of literature, that combines a captivating plot, a complex character, a rich style, and a profound message. The novel is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a psychological and philosophical thriller, that explores the human condition and the divine intervention. The novel is the original and the most faithful version of God's Crooked Lines, as it reflects the author's vision and experience.

The Mexican film ends with a conclusive and dramatic resolution, showing Alice's escape and confrontation with the murderer. The film has a moderate and emotional impact, as it entertains and moves the viewer with a romantic and adventurous story. The film is a decent adaptation, that preserves some of the elements of the novel, but also adds some of its own. The film is recommended for anyone who enjoys a melodramatic and sensational movie, that mixes love and mystery. The film is a loose and creative version of God's Crooked Lines, as it changes some of the aspects of the novel.

The Spanish film ends with an ambiguous and open-ended resolution, showing Alicia's departure and leaving the mystery unsolved. The film has a weak and frustrating impact, as it confuses and disappoints the viewer with a complex and unclear story. The film is a poor adaptation, that alters most of the elements of the novel, and also introduces some new ones. The film is not recommended for anyone who expects a faithful and coherent movie, that respects the original source. The film is a different and inconsistent version of God's Crooked Lines, as it deviates from the novel.

As we can see, the novel and the films have different ways of ending the story and delivering the message, using different elements of evaluation and conclusion. The novel and the films have different resolutions, impacts, recommendations, and opinions. These differences affect how the reader or the viewer evaluates and concludes the story, the quality, and the value. In my opinion, the best adaptation of God's Crooked Lines is the novel, as it is the most original, faithful, complex, and profound version of the story. The novel is a literary gem, that deserves to be read and appreciated by everyone.

One Last Thought: Similarity to Shutter Island by Martin Scorsese

Before we conclude our comparison and contrast of the novel and the film versions of God's Crooked Lines, there is one last thought that we would like to share with you. It is about the similarity between God's Crooked Lines and another famous psychological thriller: Shutter Island by Martin Scorsese. Shutter Island is a 2010 film, based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels, a U.S. marshal who investigates a psychiatric facility on a remote island, where he uncovers a shocking truth about himself and the place. If you have seen or read Shutter Island, you might have noticed some striking resemblances with God's Crooked Lines, such as the plot, the characters, the setting, the themes, and the twist. In this section, we will briefly explore the similarity between God's Crooked Lines and Shutter Island, and what it means for our understanding and appreciation of both stories.

The plot of God's Crooked Lines and Shutter Island are very similar, as they both involve a detective who goes to a mental hospital on an island to investigate a case, and who discovers that he is actually a patient of the hospital, suffering from a delusional disorder. Both stories have a complex and nonlinear narrative structure, with flashbacks, twists, and surprises, that challenge the reader's or the viewer's perception and logic. Both stories have a mysterious and ambiguous ending, that leaves the reader or the viewer to wonder about the protagonist's fate and the meaning of his story.

The characters of God's Crooked Lines and Shutter Island are also very similar, as they both have a protagonist who is a detective and a patient, a doctor who is his ally and his enemy, a murderer who is his target and his mirror, and a wife who is his love and his trauma. Both stories have complex and contradictory characters, with hidden motives and secrets, that reveal the human condition and the divine intervention. Both stories have a tense and complex relationship between the protagonist and the doctor, who is trying to help him recover from his delusion, but also manipulating him for his own agenda.

The setting of God's Crooked Lines and Shutter Island are also very similar, as they both take place in a mental hospital on an isolated island, where reality and illusion, sanity and madness, are blurred and questioned. Both stories have a dark and gloomy atmosphere, with a sense of claustrophobia and paranoia, that creates a mood of anxiety and fear, as well as a mood of curiosity and intrigue. Both stories have a historical and cultural context, that reflects the social and political issues of their time, such as the Cold War, the nuclear threat, the psychiatric experiments, and the Holocaust.

The themes of God's Crooked Lines and Shutter Island are also very similar, as they both explore the nature of reality, the role of fate, the meaning of madness, and the power of love. Both stories use symbols and metaphors, such as the crooked lines and the lighthouse, to express the ideas and the values of the story. Both stories suggest that there is a higher purpose and a deeper meaning behind everything, even if it is not obvious or understandable. Both stories also suggest that there is no clear or objective reality, but only subjective and constructed versions of it, and that it is hard to know what is real and what is not.

As we can see, God's Crooked Lines and Shutter Island have a lot of similarity, in terms of the plot, the characters, the setting, the themes, and the twist. This similarity might be a coincidence, or it might be a homage, or it might be a plagiarism. We do not know for sure, and we do not want to judge or accuse anyone. We only want to point out the similarity, and to appreciate the differences. Both stories are great psychological thrillers, that offer a captivating and challenging experience for the reader or the viewer. Both stories are worth reading and watching, and comparing and contrasting.

Sherif M. Awad
Sherif M. Awad
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