I just finished reading Remains of the Day. It was a remarkable book. But even more remarkable perhaps is the fact that now having read it, I am put in the unusual position of finding that experiencing a book deepened my appreciation of its film adaptation.
The book is a moving and intimate portrait of Mr. Stevens. With its narrow beam on Stevens' internal dialog and its brilliant first person narrative, the book breaths precious life into both large scale changes going on in the world and and the introspective twilight of an individual man's life. It is poignant, touching, sad and thought provoking -- compelling literature.
As for the film, which I've seen a couple of times: I knew that it was good, even great, but until now I didn't realize how remarkably true to the story as written by Kazuo Ishiguro, it was. Yes, there are a couple of small details that changed, but the film manages to mirror the amazing subtlety and introspective tone found in the book and follow the plot very closely indeed. It is shocking how some scenes, such as those involving Stevens' elderly father, played out with as much and more heartbreaking poingnancy in the film as in the book.
The central messages of the film/book are equally ambiguous: Stevens' definitions of "dignity" and "greatness" (as it pertains to butlery?), Stevens' priorities which fascinatingly allow him to ignore the real moments of his own life while supporting the work of men he is convinced are great and who dabble in major world events. It is easy to judge Stevens and find great loss in how he has lived, but who is to say that his notions and his service were wholly wrong? Giving of oneself totally in service to others is something few modern people understand. He is nothing if not intelligent and intentional with his choices.
In any case, although I enjoyed the film version very much before, now having read Remains of the Day, I am simply floored by what the movie was able to do.