The movie, Water for Elephants, is based on the book with the same title written by Sara Gruen. Centered in the era of the Great Depression (1929-39), it is a story recounted by an old man named Jacob Jankowski who looks back on the days when he was a young man and started worked in the Benzini circus. In the close-knit circle of people at the circus, he finds both a lifelong lover and an enemy.
Jacob Jankowski had a number of layers, but overall it can be said that he was an emotional young man who was mostly ruled by his desires and instincts. At the same time however, Jacob was constantly under pressure to prove his masculinity, and it can be pointed out that it was for this reason that he often battled conflict with violence, not unlike his enemy August, also the husband of the woman Jacob falls in love with. However, a major difference between the two of them is that Jacob usually exercised violence to protect the people he loved, whereas August had no qualms about physically taking his anger out on the people around him. Although Jacob becomes devoted to Marlena (also August’s wife at the time), when his older version looks back on his life, he seems to focus more on the trappings of youth than their love. Also, despite his affinity to solve problems with his fists, in the end he is unable to murder August in cold blood.
From the beginning, August is clearly defined as the antagonist of this story with his habit of beating his wife Marlena as well as the animals under his care. August and Jacob’s characters immediately clash, as Jacob comes to care for August’s wife. However, the mistrust goes deeper than that. August is not an ordinary villain; he doesn’t plunder and abuse in the open. Instead, the face he puts on in front of strangers is the epitome of charm and manners. As a result, Jacob often worries that others won’t be able to see August for what he really is; a tyrant and a man capable of cold-blooded murder.
Both characters, although saddled with fixed, defined roles, are not as cut and dry as they seem. August has a strange moment of kindness here and there, and Jacob finds himself gearing up to commit murder. However, in the end, there has to be one winner and one loser.