The Pledge Comparing the Film and the Novel

  • Uncategorized

ThePledge: Comparing the Film and the Novel


ThePledge: Comparing the Film and the Novel

Writtenin 1958, ThePledgeis a crime novel done by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, a Swiss author. Itwas later published in 1958 after the author felt that the previousscript to his movie, Es geschah am hellichten Tag (&quotIt happenedin broad daylight&quot) lacked a realistic ending. The story, whichwas destined to be aired on the screen demanded a more realisticdetective movie ending. This novel draws a lot of comparison from oneof the movies inspired by the story in the novel, ThePledgethat was directed by Sean Penn and released on January 19, 2001.These two artworks have many similarities in their plots, havingobeyed the realistic plot of a disgraced police detective. Sean Penand Friedrich Dürrenmatt use similar styles to show the cost ofdetermination in detective work. This essay is an attempt to analyzethe comparisons of these two pieces of work with special emphasis puton how their different approaches affect their interpretation.

Thereis a lot of comparison between the novel and the movie, which involvethe life of a detective almost leaving their regular job as policedetectives to take other quests in life, only to be dogged by a casethat spells the end of their illustrious career. These two pieces area portrayal of two officers who are dedicated to their work to thepoint that they selflessly sacrifice what they have to help solve amurder case. In the novel, Matthai, a Swiss police detective, decidesto take an attractive offer to serve as an official advisor toforeign government’s constabulary. However, before embarking onthis new job, the murder of a young girl is reported. The detectivedecides to put his new job on hold, allowing the pilot of the planeto leave without him, in an effort to solve this case before startingthe new job. This is similar to the story of Jerry Black, a policedetective who decides to take a murder case just before hisretirement is officiated. He decides to leave his retirement partyorganized by his boss, believing that pursuing this case will be hislast successful assignment.

Anotheraspect common to these two materials is that both detectives seebeyond what everyone sees regarding the murder cases. Although theleads to the two cases seem blurry after the two alleged murderers inboth cases confess to committing the respective crimes, but thencommit suicide, the detectives in both cases believe that there ismore to these cases than what meets the eye. Both detectives decideto pursue these cases, although their bosses insist that they areclosed cases, and the detectives should not play hero. Both DetectiveMatthai and Detective Black decide to continue pursuing the caseagainst the advice of their peers and bosses, much to thedeterioration of the relations between them and their colleagues.They hardly receive any help in unraveling the case, something thatstill does not stop them.

Thesetwo characters are a true depiction of people entirely dedicated totheir work to the point of giving pledges. In the novel, DetectiveMatthai pledges to the mother of the slain victim that he will dowhatever he can to find the killer. This same thing happens in themovie when Jerry swears to the mother that he will find the killer. Both of them employ the same method of trying to capture the killer.While Matthai buys a gas station by the roadside to use as his baseand proceeds to hire a housekeeper who has a daughter namedAnnemarie, Jerry also buys a gas station as his base, which issituated close to his neighbor, a local pastor with a daughter namedChrissy. The two detectives use these two young girls, Annemarie andChrissy as bait for the killer after obsessively and closelymonitoring the characteristics of the murder and drawing conclusionsand possibilities regarding the possible identity of the killers. Intheir investigation, these two detectives realize that there wereprevious murder cases, which went down the same way as the ones theyare dealing with, both with unclear conclusions and results. Thisnewfound information makes them believe that the killer is not yetdead despite, having the alleged killers commit suicide.

Anotherelement seen in both characters is the willingness to use all theresources they have, including people close to them to solve theircase, despite the fact that they risk losing them. It is this kind ofdetermination that makes both characters fall victim of allegeduntrustworthiness and insincerity. The same way Jerry works closelywith the local pastor and her daughter to become one of their closestfriends and earn a lot of trust from them to the point that he isconsidered a father figure, is the same way Matthai is treated by hishousekeeper and her daughter. These two detectives exploit theirrelationships with these young girls to help them build their caseand facilitating arresting of the culprit. They decide to use thesecharacters as bait. In the novel, Chrissy is shown meeting a man whodrives a black car that has a hedgehog hanging on its rear mirror.This draws attention from Jerry, as he knows the Hedgehog is one ofthe clues to finding the killer. Chrissy then explains to Jerry thatshe met a wizard who offered her candy in the shape of hedgehogs,making her promise that she will never tell her parents this.However, since Jerry is not her parent, she decides to tell him. Thismakes Jerry even more suspicious and continues to pursue this wizard.This is similar to Matthai’s case. Matthai lays Annemarie as baitfor the killer. She then gives the detective a description closelymatching the one Matthai has been building on the possible killer.The description matches correctly. This makes Matthai ask for back upfrom the department. They wait for the killer to show up, all invain. The exact thing happened to Jerry, who, after matching thedescription of the wizard and that of his supposed killer, decides toinvolve his colleagues, who offer to support him during the lastminute. However, the quest becomes unsuccessful after hours ofwaiting for the killer in vain. The colleagues of the two detectivesthen decide to leave the cases, concluding that these two maincharacters were being obsessed with a case that was already closedand could never become successful.

Eventually,these two materials show the cost of pledges and determination. Thetwo detectives slip into mental depression in the end after theirdevastating loss of a case that meant life and death to them. Theyend up being alcoholics, ruing on the losses they have incurred aftertheir failure. Jerry loses the trust of the local pastor who feelsthat he was never genuine and only wanted to use his daughter asbait. The same thing happens to Matthai whose housekeeper accuses himof being insincere and only exploiting her and Annemarie. Bothdetectives end up alone. However, one thing is clear in both stories,their suspicion was right. It turns out that the two detectives wereright, and despite the fact that they fail to apprehend the killers,their suspects’ identities clearly matches that of the killers.This means that the killers in both cases are left to walk free allbecause of a slip up by one dedicated detective and reluctance ofsupport from their colleagues. Both detectives end up not deliveringon their pledges, further aggravating their situation. They end uplosing everything.


Dürrenmatt,F. (1958). The Pledge.

Penn.S. (2001). The Pledge.

Close Menu