After reading Paulo Coelho’s “Veronika Decides To Die,” I found out that it was adapted into a film starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. The movie was released in either 2009, 2012 or 2015. It’s unclear to me as different sources state different release dates. Anyway, let me talk about the book first.
THE BOOK (Goodreads synopsis)
Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything she could wish for: youth and beauty, pleny of attractive boyfriends, a fulfilling job, and a loving family. Yet something is lacking in her life. Inside her is a void so deep that nothing could possibly ever fill it. So, on the morning of November 11, 1997, Veronika decides to die. She takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up.
Naturally Veronika is stunned when she does wake up at Villete, a local mental hospital, where the staff informs her that she has, in fact, partially succeeded in achieving her goal. While the overdose didn’t kill Veronika immediately, the medication has damaged her heart so severely that she has only days to live.
The story follows Veronika through the intense week of self-discovery that ensues. To her surprise, Veronika finds herself drawn to the confinement of Villete and its patients, who, each in his or her individual way, reflect the heart of human experience. In the heightened state of life’s final moments, Veronika discovers things she has never really allowed herself to feel before: hatred, fear, curiosity, love, and sexual awakening. She finds that every second of her existence is a choice between living and dying, and at the eleventh hour emerges more open to life than ever before.
In Veronika Decides to Die, Paulo Coelho takes the reader on a distinctly modern quest to find meaning in a culture overshadowed by angst, soulless routine, and pervasive conformity. Based on events in Coelho’s own life, Veronika Decides to Die questions the meaning of madness and celebrates individuals who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal. Poignant and illuminating, it is a dazzling portrait of a young woman at the crossroads of despair and liberation, and a poetic, exuberant appreciation of each day as a renewed opportunity.
Being a book based on Paulo Coelho’s own experiences with being admitted to a mental facility, the readers are catered with various characters whose lives and circumstances vary yet they find themselves in one place – Villete, a mental facility in Slovenia. The book is able to establish that people experiencing different kinds of issues psychologically/mentally are not necessarily “crazy,” it’s just that they have a different perception of what the world deems is the norm.
Having read the book opened my mind to the possibility of us believing something because that is “normal” when in reality, we might be mistaken. Just because the majority of the population regards one thing as normal, it does not mean it’s true. We, as people, tend to conform to the status quo that sometimes we neglect to think critically for ourselves in fear of being ostracized for having a different opinion. I understand completely why Veronika felt free and liberated to show her true feelings inside Villete, no matter how insane or irrational it may be. Inside Villete, no one would judge you for doing something out of the ordinary. Inside, nothing is ordinary.
The main take away from the book is to find one’s purpose and to appreciate the miracle, that is life, everyday. It’s such a waste to throw your life away, no matter how difficult and pointless it may all seem.
NinthMelody rating: 8/10
I wasn’t even expecting for the book to have a film version so imagine my surprise to find out that it stars Sarah Michelle Gellar. The movie steps away from the Slovenian setting and the original background story of Veronika but other than that, the events appear to be pretty similar.
What I didn’t like about the movie is how the internal monologues of the characters (in the book) didn’t translate well on film. The other characters in the book had a solid background story which makes readers empathize with them more rather than just random people inside a mental hospital like how they seemed in the movie. Just because it was mentioned in passing that this character’s occupation was this before she was admitted to Villete, it doesn’t mean that we already get her life story. There’s more to it than that. Okay, maybe because they wanted to focus the story on Veronika. However, even Veronika’s life didn’t seem very concrete to me. Alright, she was an Accounts Executive, she was a frustrated piano prodigy, then what? If one watched the movie without reading the book, it would have felt very superficial.
The point of the book in creating awareness about different mental issues and dispelling the taboo surrounding it, is lost in the movie. It simply became a love story when it is more than just that. As a standalone movie, it’s not worth much but as a companion to the book, it may hold more value. At least you can put a face on the characters in your head.
NinthMelody rating: 6/10