The 1997 version of The Hunchback is in someways is very faithful to the book but in more ways it diverges so much. Overall, it has a great mood that feels like the original book. It knows when to be bright and knows when to be somber. But in what ways does the plot massively diverge, oh let me count the ways.
First, the big one, The Printing Press. The Printing Press was briefly discussed in the novel and was a major subplot in the 1939 version but the in 1997 version, it’s a big part of the plot, in fact it’s the first thing Frollo does. In the opening scene, Frollo commandeers a Printing Press and then find baby Quasimodo.
The Printing Press is also a big part in Esmeralda’s trial. Since Phoebus is not in this, he can’t get stab instead Frollo is at odds with a minster who wants to legalizes the printing press. Frollo isn’t against knowledge, he is against keeping it from being easy because if it easy to attain it’s worthless. So Frollo is at odds with this minster and his obsession for Esmeralda. After his run in with minster and getting turned down by the King, Frollo seeks out Esmeralda and confesses his obsession to her. She runs off but drops her knife which Frollo then uses to kill the minister and Esmeralda is blamed.
Quasimodo also uses the old commandeer Printing Press to make a pamphlet to help free Esmeralda which he gives to Gringoire to distribute. On the some note Quasimodo in this version love learning and books.
Speaking of Gringoire and Esmeralda, unlike other versions where if the fall in love it’s over time usually at the point where Esmeralda gets in trouble. In this version it’s pretty quick. She kisses him the scene after they get married. Not a big change just worth a mention.
A big change that is worth mentioning is the attack on Notre Dame and and the climax. Much like the Disney movie the attack on Notre Dame occurs right after Quasimodo saves Esmeralda. Unlike the Disney movie it’s not at the end but like novel in the middle. So the climax is Quasimodo goes to the court of Miracles to give Gringoire the pamphlets and to get Djali for Esmeralda. He returns and finds Esmeralda gone. It turns out Frollo handed her back to executioner and she is going to be hanged. Frollo tells Quasimodo everything and as Esmeralda is about to be hanged the Court of Miracle show up and saves her. Quasimodo threaten to throw Frollo off Notre Dame until he confess before all of Paris that he is murder. As Frollo and Quasimodo walk off, Esmeralda runs into the Cathedral, Frollo in a rage tries to stab her but stabs Quasimodo by accident. In their fight they go over the edge of Notre Dame and Frollo dies. Quasimodo hangs on and Esmeralda and Gringoire save him from the ledge but dies of his wounds under his bells.
Another big change is Frollo doesn’t send Quasimodo to capture Esmeralda. Frollo hires some thugs and Quasimodo follows and tries to help but gets arrested.
I won’t pretend that these big changes are not weird. It was practically jarring to see the attack on Notre Dame scene in the middle of the story. It really loses the drama. And Quasimodo not trying to capture Frollo lacks a punch too. The version makes up for these it other areas but still it’s a weird.
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