The latest adaptation of The Devil in the White City is currently playing in theaters across the country. Though based on a true story, this latest film adaptation somehow feels more fictitious than reality.

The 1924 book by Erik Larson is a non-fiction account of the real-life hunt for serial killer Andrew Cunanan. Since its publication, the book has spawned two motion pictures: one in 2003 directed by John Gulager starring Thomas Gucciardi and William Petersen, the other in 2019 directed by Jon Avon starring Robert Pattinson and Bryan Cranston.

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the book and film and how they influence your experience (and the reviews):

Devil In The White City Book

The Devil in the White City is a 1924 non-fiction horror story about serial killer Andrew Cunanan. It was first published by Riverdale Press and was written by author William Lindsay (pen name William Lindsay Gresham). The novel was inspired by true events and follows the efforts of private investigators to track down serial killer Cunanan. One of the investigators, Emile Caplan, partners with John Gunther, a former NYPD detective. Together, they pursue the “career criminal” who murders wealthy men and women as a thrill-seeking exercise.

Based on the real-life incidents described in the book, The Devil in the White City is an interesting and worthwhile read for anyone who enjoys true crime stories. Unfortunately, the book is somewhat lacking in modern sensibilities as it was published over 90 years ago and was written during a time when many people still believed in the cliche “devil in the details.”

Devil In The White City Movie

The film adaptation of The Devil in the White City is set in 2019 and stars an unrecognizable Robert Pattinson as Andrew Cunanan. In the words of one critic, Pattinson’s Cunanan is the “anti-hero for our times.” While the book describes Cunanan as “just a common career criminal,” the film adaptation changes his story a bit. According to the film’s adaptation, Cunanan was born and raised in Ohio and became obsessed with murder after his sister’s death. He was influenced by his father, who killed animals for money (a habit which Cunanan subsequently followed). After serving a year in prison for involuntary manslaughter, Cunanan moved to New York City where he became a security guard at the Drake Hotel. Eventually, he killed for money and developed a taste for expensive items. This version of events leads to an interesting dichotomy: on the one hand, it makes Cunanan a bit more sympathetic as he was clearly influenced by his environment, but, on the other hand, it also makes him a little bit more understandable as a serial killer. This is a common complaint among reviewers that the movie simplifies or alters the story. According to the film’s adapted events, Cunanan is not a career criminal but rather a serial killer who killed for money and developed a taste for wealthy men. This version of events is closer to the events described in the bestselling book The Devil in the White City than the one described in the 2003 movie. Most importantly, it changes the ending of the story. In the movie, Caplan and Gunther capture Cunanan after a high-speed car chase. However, in the book, Caplan is killed during the chase (an event that, according to the film, does not happen). This is a rather significant alteration as it changes the entire tone and feel of the novel. Though most reviewers have complained about this change, it is also what makes the adaptation closer to the spirit of the original work. If you’ve read or heard anything about the real-life events that inspired this story, then you know that they don’t always end in a clear-cut victory for good over evil. Sometimes, the “devil” is hidden in plain sight and you have to piece things together in order to expose and catch him. In other cases, the “devil” is so shrouded in secrecy that it takes some time before you even realize he’s there.

The Artistry Of John Gulager

The 2003 movie adaptation of The Devil in the White City was directed by John Gulager and starred William Petersen as detective John Gunther and Thomas Gucciardi as detective Emile Caplan. While the adaptation was fairly accurate in general, there were some changes made that were either for better or worse. One example that stands out is the character of Emile Caplan. In the book, he is described as a “husky French-Canadian” who speaks with a thick French accent. In the movie, Caplan is played by Bryan Cranston, who doesn’t have a French accent and, in fact, has a Southern drawl. The role was originally auditioned for an English actor but, for some reason, Cranston was given a try out. Perhaps they thought he’d give the role an Irish or Scotty McCreery-type accent and make it more authentic. In any case, while the change wasn’t terrible, it was still noticeable. In general, the performances by both Cranston and Gucciardi were quite good, however, the scene where they confront Cunanan was a little weak as it relied too heavily on cliches and didn’t match the gritty tone of the rest of the story. In the end, it’s really a matter of opinion as to whether these changes were for the better or the worse. What’s important is that the film stays true to the spirit of the novel while still being an adaptation.

A Closer Look At The Adaptations

In order to make an honest comparison between the book and film, it’s important to take a closer look at what the adaptations are trying to achieve. Generally speaking, the books and movies have taken opposite approaches. The books are set in the past while the movies are set in the present. Thus, the purpose of the books is to educate and horrify the reader, while the films’ purpose is to entertain the audience. Each adaptation is trying to accomplish something different and serve as a bit of history and a warning for the modern reader/viewer. In this sense, although they are both based on the same source material, the books and movies are polar opposites in terms of how they want the reader/viewer to feel about the events described. One could even say that one is meant to be informative and the other is meant to be entertaining.

Comparison Of The Book And Film

To date, the best comparison of the book and film would have to be Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This is because, in addition to being the basis for the 2019 film, the book was also the inspiration for the very first episode of the popular Star Wars TV series. Essentially, the book and film have the same setting (1924 and 2019, respectively) and many of the situations are quite similar. The biggest difference between the two is the way the story is told. The book is much more detailed and goes into great length describing Cunanan’s murders. The TV show, however, only gives you a quick description of the crimes before moving on to other storylines. For this reason, one could say that, despite being more or less the same story, Rogue One is really the closest comparison to this article. What it comes down to is that the TV show’s purpose is to entertain while the books’ and movies’ purposes are to educate and horrify, respectively.

Overall, the comparison between the book and film is quite interesting as the former is a classic example of a “show don’t tell” narrative, while the latter is an example of a “tell don’t show” story. This, in turn, makes the former more effective as an adaptation and the latter less effective. One could even say that, in this case, the “devil” wasn’t in the details but rather in the telling. In most cases, the “devil” is either hidden in plain sight or so well-concealed that it takes a bit of time before you notice him. In the end, however, it’s really a matter of opinion as to whether these changes were for the better or the worse. What’s important is that both the book and film stay true to the original story while still feeling like something new. In this way, both the book and film are effective as adaptations and, for this reason, they both have a place in the literary world as well as in film history. Who knows? Maybe one day, we’ll even be able to have a devil-themed trivia game at a bar or restaurant. Until then, both The Devil in the White City and its 2019 film adaptation will have to do.