I'm gearing up for A Dance to the Music of Time, Second Movement, so I rented the first part of the movie version. This was a very good idea. One of the problems that I'm having with the novel is its length, which makes it difficult for me to link things that are said in one volume or chapter with a scene in the next volume or chapter. Those details aren't being linked. The movie made me realize this very clearly. For example: Widmerpool tells Jenkins that he was "very indiscreet" with Gypsy Jones and as a result, he had to pay for her to have an abortion. However, prior to this, Gypsy meets Widmerpool and Jenkins when she and Deacon attend a party with them. At the party, Deacon approaches Nick to ask if he knows a doctor for Gypsy... and he doesn't, "mean the usual general practitioner with the restricted views of his profession." Clearly, Gypsy was in the family way before she met Widmerpool, so her comment later to Nick that "somebody had to pay" makes a lot more sense. When I read about Widmerpool paying for her abortion, I assumed that he had gotten her pregnant, but obviously that wasn't the case: he was just the schmuck that paid.
Also, the quips about Mona: When we find out that she has married Templer (when Nick runs into him while waiting for Members), Mona is at the movies watching a movie that Templer thinks is about lesbians. When Nick tells him that it's not about lesbians, he says that Mona will be disappointed. When Mona was introduced as someone that Nick had already met, I didn't exactly remember. However, the movie made that scene clear. Mona is a friend of Gypsy and she is described by Members: "She really hates men." Is Mona a lesbian? Will this be developed further in subsequent novels?
The movie makes clear how much Widmerpool is the brunt of everyone's jokes...as well as how he always shows up at the right moment. Sometimes it seems as if he is stalking Nick. There he is on the bus after the car accident with Duport; at the ball where he is described as "ploughing his way round the room, as if rowing a dinghy in rough water" (portrayed hilariously in the film); to pick up Stringham when he is drunk after the reunion.
Seeing the movie was like watching a movie about the lives of your friends, showing stories that you have heard them tell of, but that you weren't present for. The scene of Widmerpool dancing made me laugh out loud...it was so characteristically Widmerpool.
My copy of the second movement should arrive early next week. I will try to be more dedicated to it than I was with the first movement. I also purchased An Invitation to the Dance, which will hopefully be a useful resource in navigating this massive novel.