Tulip Fever

Tulip Fever is a tragic love
story set in the Netherlands around 1634-36. The film adaptation
deviated from the novel in several major plot and character points
most likely due to the natural time constrains of a film’s run time.

The first key difference is
that Maria is the narrator throughout the film, whereas in the novel
most of the key characters have a viewpoint. The next key difference
relating to the plot is that Sopia is an orphan in the film. In the
novel, she has a family living in another town. The addition of the
abbess to the film, which is another major change. This conflation of
two secondary characters, Sophia’s mother and Claes van Hooghelande
the tulip grower, into one was probably done to cut filming time.
Another major plot change is where in the book Jan goes to talk to
Sophia in her hiding place after he has lost everthing, and tells her
the truth about their situation. In the film, Sophia cannot wait for
Jan’s return, and runs off never to be seen again. This was probably
done to heighten filmic tension and not run on too long, but it cuts
out too much information. It is odd to have her running away in the
film before she even knows what’s really going on. This truncation of
the story is also apparent at the end of the film when the abbess
reveals to Jan what happened to Sophia instead of him spotting her in
town after a gust of wind blows her habit away from her face.

There are also many
important character changes made when adapting the novel to a
screenplay. As I’ve mentioned before, Claes the tulip grower was cut
from the film. But Jacob, Jan’s apprentice is also non-existant in
the film. The next difference is that in the film Sophia finds the
physician through her seamstress. In the novel, Jan is the one who
finds the man and arranges everything. Another interesting character
difference is that in the novel, more especially in the second half
of the book, Cornelis has a crisis of faith. By the end of the book
he stops believing in God altogether. Though this might seem like
minor difference, it’s quite crucial to the plot and helps the reader
understand how he could leave everything to the same maid who
conspired with his wife to decieve him. Another interesting
consequence of Cornelis’ loss of faith is his clear plan to pay to
have Jan murdered on the journey to the colony, something which is
never alluded to in the film.

The last difference I’ll be
pointing out relates to Maria and her children. In the film she and
her husband are shown surrounded by six children in Cornelis’ house,
still looking as grateful about their good fortune as when he first
left everything to them twelve years earlier. But in the book, the
reader is left with a more ambivalant feeling about them. Maria and
her husband have grown accustomed to their new wealth and expect to
be respected because of it. Though they are not ungrateful per se,
they are also not so humble about their new station in life as was
shown in the film.

Moggach, Deborah. Tulip
London: Vintage Books,
2000. Print.

Tulip Fever.
Dir. Justin Chadwick. The Weinstein Company, 2017. Film.

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