Director Stephen Spielberg has rightly highlighted the context of the novel in a subtle way by focusing on how Celie explores herself through different experiences instead of letting the audience baffled and disgusted by showing that the black men are made of pure evil. In a way, he has tried to present this slave narrative by taking the focus off black men and putting the focus on black women's struggle against society's injustices. as in the case of Shug taken by everyone has a corrupt beautiful singer and Sofia who defiantly stood against white women and thus as a result was thrown into it. The novel gives graphic details of the exploits by her father which while adapting could have instigated many reactions among the critics and the black community but Spielberg made it a PG-13 movie in order to avert any controversy. Spielberg has emphasized upon the theme of love and how this love binds humanity together instead of gory details of the atrocities committed by black men on black women or by white people on black slaves.
Spielberg seems to be interested in the universally accepted smile that shy Celie gives in the start, that smile continues till the very end but the authority of Celie and her smile changes at the end of the movie. Her smile in the end is empowering for her African children that came to meet her. Celie's stepfather comments on Celie's smile by saying, "Celie, you've got the ugliest smile made out of creation" which we as audience know that it is incorrect. Celie, played by Whopi Goldberg, gives a sweet child like smile that gives a refreshing feeling whenever the movie gets tense. Her smile provides relief in the movie.
The Color Purple is an epistolary novel which revolves around the life of Celie who writes letters to God. Spielberg does take into account the importance of letters in the novel by starting the movie with a letter that is being read by Celie but he leaves out the vivid description of Celie's abuse by her step father. The letter lays bear the absurd situation Celie and Nettie were in: the incestuous relation with their father and its consequences in the form of illegitimate children. The movie tries to start as raw as the novel but fails to capture the sexual exposition as the novel suggests. The impression of male members of Black community from the beginning comes as brutish and unsympathetic. Celie, Nettie, Sofia, Shug Avery comes out as women of great importance. Celie and Nettie love each other but in a community where black men treat black women ruthlessly they are not able to flourish their love. They suffer at the hands of Mr.___ who forces Nettie to leave his house when she came to meet Celie. Mr.___ tried to exploit Nettie but Nettie fought against Mr.___ advances and thus as punishment she was separated from Celie.
The aspect of Women as an inanimate object is revealed in the movie when Mr.____ comes to take the hand of Nettie for marriage but her stepfather says only Celie is available. Mr.____ says he wants to see Celie if Nettie is not available for marriage. Celie's stepfather calls her and asks her to move herself in circle for Mr._____. Celie's stepfather's boy comments on it by saying "What's she doing that for", stepfather to this gives a smile and replies "your sister thinking about marriage". This act makes Celie a mere object of meat that is being showcased by his step father. Mr.____ doesn't even want Celie in marriage but his desperation and lust overlooks his preferences. This is the reason why later in the movie Mr.____ tries to rape Nettie.
When Shug Avery first meets Celie, she says: "You as ugly as sin." But when Shug comes to witness how Celie is maltreated by her husband she changes her perception and becomes softer towards Celie. She even becomes Celie's protector against the atrocities committed by her family. Shug provides the confidence to Celie by saying that her smile is beautiful and from that moment onwards Celie begins to generate the power to fight her abusers. Shug kisses Celie and we realize in this scene that it is the first time Celie has been willingly involved herself in something intimate. This relation becomes evident in the movie when Celie tells Shug that she does not tell her that she used to go into the purple color fields. Shug replies by saying, "I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it." The color purple here symbolizes their lesbian relationship and to emphasize on it Spielberg begins the movie by showing us lavender.
Sophia (Oprah Winfrey), wife of Harpo, was also amazed by how Celie was treated by Mr.____ in her own home. Sophia was of the marginalized black community but she was not afraid of anything. But this does not go in her favor when she hit a white woman in the face and was sentenced to ten years in jail. Celie became confident like Sophia when she sits on the table for the last time with the whole family and starts her reaction towards everything unjust that has been going on in her life. This part is adapted in the movie where Sophia is ironically sitting opposite to her and she starts smiling. From this point onwards the curse of black women suffering as slave inside their own home is broken and Celie sees her luck shine, as she comes to know that her share of property that was given by her late aunt still exists. The last scene in the movie is when Celie's African children come to meet her and call her "mama" and at the same time Mr.____ is seen around the house, as he comes to apologize for everything he had done.
The context of the novel Spielberg presents is interesting take on the novel as he has willingly cut the horrific incidents mentioned in the novel meted out to Celie but at the same time, he manages to portray the injustices black men and black woman in particular had to suffer.