WEIRDLAND: November Criminals: novel vs film

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

November Criminals: novel vs film

Why the Aeneid? It’s exciting but also difficult to understand. The stories in it are kind of incomprehensible. Aeneas returning from the underworld through the Gate of Ivory, the gate through which Virgil says false dreams arrive in the world. And the way it ends: in a single instant, just like a human life. It all appears at first to be nonsensical, but that’s because it belongs to a world that no longer exists. In the centuries between us and Virgil, we kind of lost interest in things that are hard to understand. I don’t know why this has happened. Everyone, though, seems sort of bricked into his own life. Not in “quiet desperation”—the phrase comes from a terrible author my teachers forced me to read, Henry David Thoreau—but just by the fact of living in the small, boring modern world. And this explains why all my teachers have been so terrible. I mean because they, like Thoreau, see their own selves not as prisons but as subjects of thunderous interest. I don’t want to sound harsh, but holy fuck! No one who admires Thoreau should be permitted anywhere near a school.

Stupidity can be a form of strong character. The pain was an affront to my honor! It was this testimony about the shameful and emotional side of our relations, which we tried to ignore. She was being consistent. Without sentiment, without remorse. She was following the terms. I spent my birthday with Digger. Before she gave me my present, we didn’t do anything. Just kind of wandered around smoking cigarettes. We drove past Kevin’s house. The heavy, glazed-looking green curtains shone out of the front windows, and swayed a little. I love her. I don’t love her in some stupid way. If it were stupid, trivial, the rest of this would be easy. It’s hard and frightening, so I must love her for real. How else would you know? I love Digger. You’re thinking: Love? He’s using the word love? What a fucking joke. He’s too young to understand. If you think that, fuck you. I don’t tell lies. Not about Digger. I may be guilty of a long list of petty and secret enormities. 

Not, however, lying about loving Digger. When Digger blew out my birthday candle, as she bent her head, a summer-colored moon of light rested on her face. I saw its pinpoints dance in her deep eyes. She was clenching her turquoise-beaded bag. Lips parted for speech. She’d put a crimson streak in her hair, above her brow. She had on a black T-shirt with a picture of this musician she admires, Lou Reed. And she was wearing makeup, which she never does. I know I told you she’s not hot. But I swear to fucking God: at that moment some beauty was in her or shone through her, a beauty that demands respect and even fear. I had never seen anyone or anything so infused with such beauty. Even in the dead light of my room you could see it.

Everything comes at a price. Sometimes you can put the price in signs or symbols, words, an amount of money. But I can’t even tell you what I owe. I know that it exceeds the value of my entire life, simply by geometrical principles. People cut you slack if you’re in the hospital. They get off on indulging you. Now everyone would just think I’m crazy, or trying to get attention. They’d think I was jealous of Alex getting in the paper. I’d never be able to convince anyone that this wasn’t the case, that I don’t give a shit about fame, that if I wanted fame I’d want Virgil’s fame, eternal fame. I love to help people, and that’s my best quality, but sometimes I have trouble thinking of my own needs, and that’s my worst quality.

The one person who might understand this is Digger. You can’t exert your will over life. If there’s one thing the study of Latin should teach you, it’s that human beings cannot direct reality. They can do a great many things, yes, even incredible things, going down to the realm of the dead. Or founding Rome. But with permission. They have to have the blessing and assistance of a god. This is gained through loyalty. I’m not even talking about suicide. Suicide would be too orderly and too self-respecting. I don’t even deserve that. That would make me seem too important, you know? I only have one triumph: my outburst at Alex Faustner’s lecture. Faustner and Vanderleun and Karlstadt and the whole disgusting system, the whole intolerable wreck and mockery of life, created and preserved as lip service to the highest progressive principles, and dedicated in actuality to the perpetuation of hatred. Hidden, covert hatred, yes. But hatred all the same.

You’d think that with how fragile everything is, it would be the same as a lie. It’s not. Not at all. I don’t believe that. I’m not a nihilist. Death is the consummate falsehood. Maybe that’s the real meaning of the Gate of Ivory. That perfection arrives through it, which is basically the same as death. Because life—where’s the perfection there? Lacrimae rerum, right? The sign of life. Perfection would kill it. Extinguish it. I’m going to leave the melted gun here while I’m out, to hold down the unruly pile of torn-out notebook paper I’ve been scrawling on. As proof. In case anyone finds my essay and thinks it’s all fiction. —November Criminals (2015) by Sam Munson

November Criminals (2017) follows the story of Addison (Ansel Elgort), a high school senior in Washington, D.C. who just recently lost his mother and is preparing for life after graduating. He has recently started going out with Phoebe (Chloe Grace Moretz) and they are beginning to build a good relationship together. Things change when Addison gets word that his friend Kevin was murdered just hours after having an interaction with him. The media and police claim that the murder happened because of gang involvement but Addison doesn’t believe it. With the help of Phoebe he starts his own investigation into the death of his friend to find the truth. November Criminals gives the viewer a unique look of life in the D.C. area and how one young man refuses to simply accept "the easy way out". 

Addison (Elgort) is an awkward teen with no friends. Phoebe (Moretz) is her only/best friend. As Addison and Phoebe become physically and emotionally closer, his single-mindedness to solve Kevin's murder alienates everyone around him. He learns things about Kevin that seem hard for Addison to reconcile with the jazz musician, the intellectual friend he knew. Addison spirals out of control but when a new lead appears he finds himself in a world of drugs and violence. Although, his true underlying motivation is to try and deal with the grief and helplessness he feels over his mother's death.

Elgort is certainly talented, so his portrayal of the distraught Addison is solid and very well done. He gives the character a certain naiveté that helps make his performance believable. He does a great job at making sense of the apparent leaps in logic his character was assigned. I felt like Addison might be a real person, if slightly insane, and Elgort's "human touches" made him a likable character when he could have just been annoying. Chloe Moretz is also a strong actor and the two of them have a chemistry that can't be faked. Overall it is certainly the performances and the pacing of the story that make November Criminals a worthwhile film. It’s hard to get past the fact that the filmmakers don’t want to focus their full attention to the main, more interesting part of the novel and that’s what makes this somewhat of a disappointment. This is definitely worth seeking out but it had the potential to be so much better. Source:

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