When each installment of the
Harry Potter series arrived to theaters, it seemed a contingent of militant fans would sit in the last row, taking copious notes on discrepancies between the books and the movies. Each detail left out of the film stung like a miniature arrow; by the movie’s end, fans would leave the theater bleeding for their favorite detail neglected by Hollywood. I know, because I was one of those fans.
My days of fact-checking are over, and I won’t be approaching the differences between the book and
movie versions of with such bitterness. Rather, this article is just to sate simple curiosity. What differences are there between the Call Me By Your Name gorgeous, two hour-long movie version of Call Me By Your Name, and the gorgeous, 256-page novel version of Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman? Quite a few, actually. Here’s a spoiler: Novel Elio is far, far more neurotic than movie Elio.
So, if you’re not going to read the book — which you should! — these are the big differences between the two works you should know.
The book is set in a small seaside town. Aciman’s novel is set in the village of Bordighera, a town in the Northern Italian region of Liguria. Elio’s family villa was “the closest to the water,” and a stairway led down to the rocky Mediterranean coast. Elio and Oliver’s days are equally sun-drenched and lazy in both works — just in the novel, their destination is the seaside, not an icy-cold river. The movie’s director, Luca Guadagnino, ended up finding the perfect filming location close to home – literally. Guadagnino decided to film the movie a sprawling, run-down 17th-century villa in Crema, Italy, a small town near Milan, where he also happens to live.
Correctly explaining the etymology of the word “apricot” is not some big test in the book. Each year, Elio’s father invites a doctoral student to serve as his research assistant for five weeks. Part of his ritual, in the movie, is to trick his assistants into correcting the etymology of the word “apricot.” After falsely pronouncing that the word has origins in Arabic, Elio’s father waits for the research assistant to prove “apricot” is actually a Latin word. After Oliver delivers the long-winded linguistic explanation, Elio and his mother laugh – “He does this every year.” In the book, there’s no suggestion that this is a “test” on Elio’s father’s part. Instead, Oliver just corrects his Elio’s father. "'He is right, there is no denying it,’ said my father under his breath, as though mimicking the part of a cowered Galileo forced to mutter the truth to himself,” the book reads.
The peach scene goes a whole lot further in the book. In the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T. S. Eliot inquires, “Do I dare eat a peach?” In the movie version of Call Me By Your Name, Oliver does not dare to eat the Elio's peach. But in the book version, Oliver certainly does. Oliver eats the peach that Elio had just ejaculated into. “I watched him put the peach in his mouth and slowly begin to eat it, staring at me so intensely that I thought even lovemaking didn’t go so far,” Elio narrates. Later he writes, “I could tell he was tasting it at that very instant. Something that was mine was in his mouth, more his than mine now.”
The book is essentially one elongated memory. The novel version of Call Me By Your Name begins with an older Elio recalling what he first noticed about Oliver: His flippant use of the word "Later." Elio writes, "It is the first thing I remember about him, and I can hear it still today. Later! I shut my eyes, say the word, and I'm back in Italy, so many years ago..." Twenty years after the fact, Elio reexamines each moment of his 17th summer with intensity, and realizes just how formative those days were. One part of Elio still hasn't changed in those past two decades: He still thinks and thinks and overthinks. Since Elio is narrating the novel, his neuroticism about deciding whether or not to act on his feelings for Oliver are even more pronounced.
The book ends with a reunion between Oliver and Elio. The movie concludes on an elongated shot of Elio's face, after he's heard that Oliver is getting married. The book's action, however, extends long beyond the family's discovery of Oliver's wedding. At one point, when Elio is in the United States, Oliver stays at the Italian villa with his own wife and two sons. At the end of the novel, Elio decides to drop by one of Oliver's lectures at a college in New England. They get drinks together at a hotel. "Seeing you here is like waking from a twenty-year coma," Oliver tells Elio. Long story short: Two decades have past, and they still remember every single moment.
Oliver and Elio visit Rome at the book's end. When, at the end of the novel, Oliver and Elio recall their happiest moments together, it's Rome for them both. They travel to Rome after Oliver's five-week tenure is up, and hang out with the Italian intelligentsia. It's all very glamorous — and, as screenwriter James Ivory told Indiewire, would have been expensive to recreate. “In terms of length, we really cannot have this elaborate trip to Rome, with all these book parties and bookstores and all the rest of it, it would just be an unwieldy thing. They wouldn’t have the money to shoot it, and they’ll throw it all away, because you’ll have a three-hour movie. You can’t help but think like that.” Instead, Oliver and Elio travel to a nearby town before Oliver leaves.
There's an entire character arc not included in the movie. Over the course of the summer, Oliver ends up befriending a young girl named Vimini, Elio's next-door neighbor. Vimini is extremely precocious; she's also upfront about the fact that she's dying of leukemia. Vimini extends an invitation to Oliver: "Maybe you can come over one day and read to me. I'm really very nice – and you look very nice too." As Elio describes it, "Never had I seen a friendship so beautiful or more intense." Oliver and Vimini used to spend mornings on the rocks together. Later on, long after the summer's end, Elio writes to Oliver to tell him of Vimini's death.
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