April is the month with midterm exams. Students spend long days studying for exams. Sometimes they get tired of preparing for the exams and ask themselves questions about why they should study. In the end, they come to the conclusion that the present efforts are for a happy future. Furthermore, we sometimes fall into pondering what happiness is. There is a book and a movie that question yourself, “What is happiness?” It is Hector and the Search for Happiness. This book caught readers’ eyes from all over the world, and made into a movie. Both the book and the movie deal similarly with the theme of happiness, but there are many differences in the contents’ composition. The Argus looks at the difference between the book and the movie and the message that the writer and the director intended to convey through the notable changes.
Hector, a psychiatrist, lives in a given frame and spends a calm life without big events. His life looks perfect at first glance. However, Hector one day realizes that he is not happy and he cannot help patients find happiness anymore. Therefore, he quits his jobs and goes on a trip to find out what real happiness is. Hector makes his own definition of happiness through meeting people while traveling.
Travel to China
Hector is impressed by a storybook about a Chinese old man who knew the secret of happiness, so he chooses China as his first destination. Hector meets Edward, who works in the financial industry, on the plane. Hector goes to a club in Shanghai at his invitation. There, he meets a woman named Yingli and spends the night with her. Unlike Hector who is open and honest, she approaches him as a prostitute. After realizing the truth, Hector thinks his first key to happiness.
“Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story.”
-Happiness Memo 1
Hector, who moved from Shanghai to Tibet, hears about the second tenet of happiness from an old monk whom he met at a temple. The monk who lost his family argues that we should not avoid anything by saying that we can be happy because we have suffered a lot.
“Avoiding misfortune is not the way to happiness.”
- Happiness Memo 2
Travel to South Africa
Hector goes to South Africa to meet his friend Michael. He finds the third definition of happiness in a conversation with Michael. Michael, who volunteers at a free clinic in South Africa, says that he finds it pleasant to work there because he is loved as he is.
“Happiness is we are loved as we are.”
- Happiness Memo 3
Hector, who visited a lodging, meets Diego Baresco who makes drugs and has the highest authority in South Africa. After finding out that Diego’s wife is sick, Hector introduces a competent doctor to him.
The next day, Hector enjoys a party at the invitation of a woman whom he met accidentally in South Africa. On his way to going back to his lodging, he encounters robbers and is taken by them. However, when it turns out that he is acquainted with Diego Baresco, he is released from the robbers and Hector recalls his fourth happiness precept.
“Happiness comes when you feel truly alive.”
- Happiness memo 4
Travel to Los Angeles
Hector moves to Los Angeles to see his first love, Agnes. On the airplane, Hector helps Zamilla, a passenger who has an emergency. Hector cares for her and listens to her story until the airplane lands. Then he notes his fifth realization about happiness.
“Love is listening carefully.”
- Happiness Memo 5
Hector meets Professor Corman through Agnes and takes a brain test. This is a test that shows a person’s emotions by giving the color to the brain area to distinguish the emotions. Hector initially looks like a child who suppresses emotions. However, after he receives a phone call from his girlfriend, Clara, he turns into a grown-up that recognizes all of his feelings. Then he says to Clara on the phone, “My biggest misfortune is to lose you. My greatest happiness is to be with you for a lifetime.”
On his way home, Hector has a video call with the old monk. Hector talks to him about the final definition of happiness, “We all have the right to be happy.” At that time, the monk tells him that he should think higher and Hector gets great enlightenment from him.
“We have a duty to be happy.”
- Happiness memo 6
A 19-year-old, a high school student, Kim Hyun-ji:
“Avoiding misfortune is not the way to happiness.”
People often seek all kinds of ways to avoid misfortune. I think this can be a way to be happy. However, if we do not accept the misfortunes and we just avoid them, we will be able to save ourselves from misfortune for the moment, but we may face greater misery over time. In the long run, if we acknowledge and overcome negative situations, we will grow to be a better person, and that will lead to greater happiness.
A 21-year-old, a college student, Jung Ji-hyeon:
“Happiness is we are loved as we are.”
If I love myself the way I am and I am loved by others the way I am, great happiness will come to me. Rather than comparing myself with others and envying their happiness, if I accept what I have, I will find my own happiness.
A 22-year-old, a college student, Choi Hye-ji:
“Love is listening carefully.”
I agree with this happiness memo. People usually want to talk about themselves and want others to listen to their stories. Whereas, listening carefully means that I close my mouth and focus on the other person’s story. I think wondering more about others’ stories rather than talking about my stories indicates interest and love for others.
Reviewer Kim Do-you: The scene where Hector tells his girlfriend Clara that he will go on a trip
The scene where Hector shows courage and tells Clara that he will travel overseas was impressive to me. It is not as easy as you might think to get away from your everyday life. Especially when you do not even know when you will be back, it is hard to decide to do so. While this scene is not a big part of the book and movie, Hector’s courage strucked me in this scene.
Reviewer Lim Cha-hee: The scene where Hector and Edward talk to each other
I did a double take when I saw the scene where Hector notices that many people think happiness is in the future during a conversation with Edward.
While studying design, I was recently afraid I could not get a job. However, after watching this scene, I took a moment to think about why I am currently designing, and I realized that I’m doing my favorite work to be happy in the present. Since then, I have been enjoying my work. I hope someone else can find a solution to his or her troubles through Hector’s story like me.
Reviewer Joy: The scene in which Hector sheds tears in the middle of his brain scan
I remember the scene where at first Hector hides his emotions but after a call from Clara, his emotions explode. In that scene, Hector realizes that happiness is not merely good emotions; it is what results from having enough feelings and acknowledging the emotions.
As for myself, I was not a very emotional person before. I was usually apathetic about everything. Therefore, I had been living my life without anything particularly good or bad and I thought I was not happy. However, while watching this scene, I realized that there is no answer to happiness and that I can enjoy life as much as I choose to on a daily basis. We all live with a duty to be happy.
Top 1. Different weight of role of Clara
Hector’s girlfriend Clara changes the play’s flow by the difference in her weight in the plot of the book and movie.
The book barely touches on the love story of Hector and Clara. Although they like each other, Hector describes Clara as being unsympathetic and sometimes finds conversation with her exhausting. Therefore, in the original, Hector rarely thinks of Clara while traveling, and Clara’s role in making Hector realize his happiness is not great.
Meanwhile, in the movie, Hector and Clara are drawn to love each other very much. Hector, however, has a good feeling about a woman he met for the first time in China and becomes lazy in his relationship with Clara for a while. Then in the last scene of his brain scan with Professor Coman, Hector realizes what the most important element of happiness is for him: true love. This is the decisive moment for Hector to come back from his journey with enlightenment. This emphasizes the importance of loving and caring in the movie and allows the audience to think about the precious things they should not overlook to live a happy life.
While Hector finishes his trip without any big event in the book, he returns from his trip with a dramatic realization in the movie. It maximizes the ending of movie and gives a more lasting impression on viewers.
Top 2. Difference between Vincent and Edward’s attitude toward money and honor
In the movie, Vincent, who works in the bank in the book, is portrayed as Edward who works in the financial industry. They both appear to be people who value money and honor, but at the end of the movie and the book, differences stand out in their values.
In the book, Vincent says that earning $3 million is his goal in life and he expects to lead a happier life if he earns all of it. However, one day, he realizes that he is only interested in making money for his work. After talking a lot about happiness with Hector, he decides that a life helping others is more valuable than a life aimed only at making money.
In the end, Vincent quits his job before making $3 million and helps people living in poor countries make money. He also lends people money without interest until they find a job.
This really makes him happy and changes his happiness philosophy from “many people think it is happiness to be a richer and more important person” to “happiness is being a useful person to others.”
Meanwhile, in the movie, Edward says the goal of life is to get a lot of money and a high position, just like Vincent. He has won wealth and fame but appears skeptical about his life by introducing himself as a “workaholic divorced man.” However, he refuses to express his thinking by saying that how much money he gives to his opponent is important when living in the tough world. Edward has a conflict between his loneliness and his ostensibly splendid appearance and ends up without an answer.
In this way, the book directly conveys to readers a lesson about true happiness by changing the values that the Vincent already had. In contrast, the movie indirectly explains the value of happiness that Edward is concerned about, allowing the public to think about it by themselves.
Top 3. Diego Baresco’s attitude toward benevolence
Diego Baresco, the drug maker, has a consistent attitude in the original book, but in the film, he appears as a character who goes through values changes.
In the book, Diego Baresco is portrayed as a person who shows a favorable attitude to Hector from the start. Diego does not have misgivings about Hector, who tries to help his wife. He even tries to start a conversation with Hector after finding out that he is a psychiatrist.
On the other hand, Diego Baresco appearing in the movie has changed his life’s values since his meeting with Hector. Diego’s wife has become more unstable after taking the new medicine she received from the psychiatrist, and Hector shows a willingness to help her. Diego doubts Hector, saying that no one helps others for no reason. However, as Hector helps his wife without making any demands, Diego decides to donate anonymously to a free clinic. When Hector asked him, “What do you get from it?” Diego replied, “Nothing,” showing that his way of thinking has changed.
The book and the movie commonly convey the message that helping others while asking for nothing in return is happiness. In the movie, however, Diego dramatically shows the process of finding enlightenment, demonstrating that helping others for nothing can lead to a happy life.
Reviewer Lee A-ra: Additional realistic elements in the scene
In comparison with the book, the movie seems to be more realistic. For example, in the book, when Hector meets his first love, Agnes, he thinks, ‘What if I hadn’t broken up with her?’ But in the movie, fupthermore, Agnes says, “Live the reality!” to Hector. Moreover, there are scenes where he Skypes with an old priest. I think these details in the movie reflect reality better.
Reviewer Daramji: Description of Hector’s brain scan scene
I think Hector’s complex emotions in the scene of the brain scan are better expressed in the movie than in the book. In the movie, various colors such as blue, pink, orange, and green are used to show the brain’s reactions depending on emotions such as sadness, joy, and fear. I think the visual effects of the movie make it more dramatic in expressing various emotions.
“We all deserve to be happy.” This is what the book and movie both eventually want to get across. Although the way in which happiness was revealed was changed little by little, the distinctions in the book and movie made the point of view of happiness richer.
As Hector met many people and wrote several happiness memos, there is no fixed answer to the definition of happiness. The process of finding happiness for each person will also be very different. The Argus hopes that readers go on a “happy trip” in their own way and have time to think about happiness for themselves and find true happiness.
By Jang Yu-jin and Kim Min-ji
Associate Editor and Staff Reporter of Culture Section