The biggest change between the film and the print text is the chronology and how the flashbacks are worked in. Rather than Gabriel, Florence, and Elizabeth each having their own distinct flashback sections interspersed with what’s happening at the church, their flashbacks are interwoven and occur all throughout the present-day timeline. At first, I found this a bit confusing since there were flashback scenes by alternating characters when I wasn’t expecting it, but I think the order provides the viewer with a lot more context as to what’s going on. For instance, in the book you have to wait over a hundred pages to find out that Gabriel’s response to Roy getting hurt in the knife fight is informed by his son Royal being stabbed and dying. In the film, however, there’s a flashback to Gabriel looking at Royal’s body right after he beats Roy. I felt this structure more clearly showed how the characters were impacted by their past and provided helpful background information upfront. I was also a surprised at certain parts of the film that I feel made Gabriel out to be a better person or less blameless than he was in the book. One example I noticed is that the film makes Esther seem like the person most responsible for she and Gabriel’s affair. In the film she is shown actively seducing him and convincing him to have sex with her whereas in the book Gabriel is equally responsible as he invites her to his sermon and intentionally seeks her out.
“The silence in the church ended when Brother Elisha, kneeling near the piano, cried out and fell backward under the power of the Lord. Immediately, two or three others cried out also, and a wind, a foretaste of that great downpouring they awaited, swept the church. With this cry, and the echoing cries, the tarry service moved from its first stage of steady murmuring, broken by moans and now and again an isolated cry, into that stage of tears and groaning, of calling aloud and singing, which was like the labor of a woman about to be delivered of her child. On this threshing floor the child was the church that struggled to the light, and it was the church that was in labor, that did not cease to push and pull, calling on the name of Jesus.” (pg. 110)
My group on Tuesday discussed the definition of threshing in an environmental context and the ways in which what happens on the threshing floor in the church might relate to it. In close reading the larger passage I also think it’s interesting that there’s a lot of nature imagery to go along with the idea of threshing. The metaphorical wind and great downpour that is described as sweeping through the church is very agricultural, as are labor and birth, and it makes what’s going on in the scene feel connected to the larger natural world. Outside of an agricultural context, a Google search informed me that the word thresh can also be an alternate spelling for thrash, meaning to hit something repeatedly or move in a convulsive way. This matches the sort of frenetic method of worship described in this passage and shown in the film.