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“Early film industry sought [legitimacy] through adaptation, that is, by turning to …the older and

more ‘respectable’ art of (canonical) literature” (Aragay 2005: 12).

“Auteur was conceived as endowing his work with organic unity and meaning quite
independently from industrial, technological, generic and other cultural factors – a conception not
far removed from the literary Author-God” (Aragay 2005: 15). Auteurs like Jean Cocteau, in
adapting literary works add something of their own to the film, therefore the adaptation becomes
an expression of their own vision which would be in harmony with today’s point of view, but was
not at that time when fidelity was expected of the authors of the films.

According to Geoffrey Wagner there are three types of adaptation: transposition, commentary
and analogy. (Wagner)

“Adaptations need to be approached as acts of discourse partaking of a particular era’s cultural

and aesthetic needs and pressures (Aragay 2005: 19).

Aragay believes that the concept of “successful adaptation” is far more lucrative than the
“narrow, formalistic concept of fidelity” (Aragay 2005: 20).

“Adaptation […] negotiates the past/present divide by re-creating the source text – as well as its
author, historical context and, as emphasized below, a series of intertexts” (Aragay 2005: 23).

Adaptations are “exciting and intriguing artistic works themselves, employing intertextuality and
blending the commercial and the literary into a composite creative vision encompassing rich
visual and aural experiences” (Macdonald 3)

Macdonald invokes Hugh Selby Jr., novelist and screenwriter “putting the goal of making a good
film and forgetting about being “true” to a literary text. Being true to the heart of the work, its
essence, is, to him, of far more importance and value” (Macdonald 6). The ‘essence’ or more
commonly known as ‘the spirit of the novel’ is a rather fuzzy expression. On one hand, it
suggests that a novel has only one essence, meaning intended by the Author-God, an idea which
was rejected by Barthes and his followers. On the other hand, seen from the perspective of
reader-response theory one might ask ‘who perceives the spirit?’ since A’s perception of what the
spirit of the novel is different from B’s due to the different experiences they have had. Despite
these logical assumptions, considering some of the successful Austen adaptations of recent years
in which screenwriters professedly tried to catch “the spirit of the book” – both Andrew Davies
and Deborah Moggach, the screenwriters for the 1995 and 2005 respectively, Pride and
Prejudice adaptations, stated in the short films on the making of the adaptations that their
intention was to catch this “spirit,” we must ask ‘who is right then?’ Admittedly, the “spirit of the
book” is a hazy term, but considering the success of the adaptations mentioned above, we may
presume that the screenwriters did manage to catch it, therefore it does exist. CONTINUE

“recognize some of the practical realities involved in producing a commercially successful film –
such as pruning culturally anachronistic features, trimming sophisticated narrative strategies into
a recognizable film genre which is, in turn, an adaptation of other films, with intertextual links
with its contemporary filmic counterparts” (Whelehan 1999: 4). The intertextuality she refers to
here is rather a generic one. For instance, when viewing a romance, viewers have certain
expectations as to what a romance should be like.

Filmmakers are “tempted to portray a scene from a late twentieth-century perspective in order to
sustain the adapter’s sense of what is authentic to the text” (Whelehan 1999: 13). Her statement
makes perfect sense if by “text” we understand the film.

“’Metacinematic’ refers to films or aspects of films which reflect on cinematic language” (Stam,
Burgoyne and Flitterman-Lewis 2005: 17).

Film and novel cannot be compared. According to Bluestone it is like comparing Swan Lake and
Wax Building, since “changes are inevitable the moment one abandons the linguistic for the
visual medium” (in Connor Persistence).

“The adaptations can create stars (in the contemporary UK context, Colin Firth, Pride and
Prejudice, 1995 […]), or stars become associated with that “type” of role (Emma Thompson
[…]), whereas the novel creates above all characters we remember and associate with a particular
type of behaviour (e.g. Mrs Bennett, Darcy in Pride and Prejudice)” (Hayward 2001: 4).

Hayward accounts for the latest views on the importance of economic considerations in making a
film, on the choice of stars, on the deletion of un-cinematographic sections and explains that
“there is always a motivation behind the choices made” (2001: 5).
“Adaptations are a synergy between the desire for sameness and reproduction on the one hand,
and, on the other, the acknowledgment of difference” (Hayward 2001: 6).

Film adaptations are both more and less than the original. More not just because they are in excess
of the written word (through having both image and sound). But more also because they are a mise-
en-abîme of authorial texts and therefore of productions of meaning. To explain: there is the
original text (T1), the adapted text (T2), the film text (T3), the director text(s) (T4n), the star text(s)
(T5n), the production (con)texts (T6n), and finally the various texts’ own intertexts (T7n). Such a
chain of signifiers makes it clear that the notion of authorship becomes very dispersed. Thus, quite
evidentially, the film is less because the original author is only one among many (we hear
complaints from the audience: ‘it’s not what the author wrote’). But it is also more because of the
density of new texts (and textual meanings, purposes and motivations) clustered around the original
(again audiences complain: ‘it’s not at all like the book’). Imagine, finally within this context, the
effects of modernizing a classic literary text. (Hayward 2001: 6)

“literary classics have high production values and the aim is for an authentic re-creation of the
past through appropriate setting, quality mise-en-scène, minute attention to décor and costume,
and for star vehicles to embody the main roles” (Hayward 2001: 7)
“Part of this pleasure […] comes simply from repetition with variation, from the comfort of
ritual combined with the piquancy of surprise” (Hutcheon 2006: 4). It reminds us of Iser’s
concept that we seek involvement with books that we like. The question is however, what
happens when an adaptation is successful despite the fact that the majority of the viewers have
not read the book previously. Even Hutcheon claims that we “desire the repetition as much as the
change” (2006: 9).
“never simple reproductions” (Hutcheon 2006: 4).
“obvious financial appeal to adaptation as well” (Hutcheon 2006: 5). If the novel was successful,
its adaptation is likely to be too. Hutcheon however, adds to this that an adaptation is likely to
reach more people than the book only or a Broadway play.
“adaptations are inherently ‘palimpsestuous’ works, haunted at all times by their adapted texts”
(Hutcheon 2006: 6). She borrows the phrase from Scottish poet and scholar Michael Alexander.
The prior text always hovers over the adaptation, if we know the work of course, Hutcheon
admits. “doubled pleasure of palimpsest” (Hutcheon 2006: 117).
Hutcheon defines the phenomenon of adaptation from three different perspectives: adaptations as
“formal entity or product,” as a “process of creation” and from the perspective of reception (7-8).
formal entity or product – it involves “transcoding,” and since it changes its frame, therefore its
context it “can create a manifestly different interpretation” (Hutcheon 2006: 8).
“Transposition to another medium, or even moving within the same one, always means change,
or in the language of the new media, ‘reformatting’” (2006: 16).
“In many cases, because adaptations are to a different medium, they are re-mediations, that is,
specifically translations in the form of intersemiotic transpositions from one sign system to
another” (2006: 16). Hutcheon quotes visual art critic Clement Greenberg who stated that “each
art has its own formal and material specificity” (2006: 34).
“A novel, in order to be dramatized, has to be distilled, reduced in size, and thus, inevitably,
complexity” (Hutcheon 2006: 36). Reducing the plot is not seen as a tragedy by Hutcheon,
according to her this may have a “powerful dramatic effect” (2006: 45). She laments that in most
cases criticism of adaptations perceives only the losses.
“In the move from telling to showing, a performance adaptation must dramatize: description,
narration, and represented thoughts must be transcoded into speech, actions, sounds, and visual
images. Conflicts and ideological differences between characters must be made visible and
audible.” (Hutcheon 40 based on Lodge)
“Soundtracks in movies […] enhance and direct audience response to characters and actions”
(Hutcheon 2006: 41).
“Adaptations must use what Charles Sanders Pierce called indexical and iconic signs – that is,
precise people, places and things – whereas literature uses symbolic and conventional signs”
(Hutcheon 2006: 43) (Giddings, Selby and Wensley 1990: 6)
process of creation – “the act of adaptation always involves both (re-)interpretation and then (re-
)creation” (Hutcheon 2006: 8).
“Adapters are first interpreters and then creators” (2006: 18). They have to subtract and contract.
from the perspective of reception – “adaptation is a form of intertextuality: we experience
adaptations […] as palimpsests through our memory of other works that resonate through
repetition with variation” (Hutcheon 2006: 8).
“Therefore, an adaptation is a derivation that is not derivative - a work that is second without
being secondary. It is own palimpsestic thing” (Hutcheon 2006: 9).
“equivalences arte sought in different sign systems for the various elements of the story: its
themes, events, world, characters, motivations, points of view, consequences, contexts, symbols,
imagery, and so on” Hutcheon 2006: 10).
“One of the central beliefs of film adaptation theory is that audiences are more demanding of
fidelity when dealing with classics, such as the works of Dickens or Austen” (Hutcheon 2006:
29). But it is not so.
“The more popular and beloved the novel, the more likely the discontent” (Hutcheon 2006: 127).
Fidelity discourse does not take into account convergence among arts or production determinants
according to Brian McFarlane (1996: 10).

The adaptation offers an opportunity for filmmakers to reread a narrative from another age
through the lens of their own time and to project unto the narrative their own sense of the world.
(Belton 195)

The message that is, the interpretation of the filmmakers holds the adaptation together. The
interpretation is the governing thought of the film, the backbone upon which every other element
in the adaptation is built. In Andrew Davies’s view when adapting a novel to film an
interpretation is essential, otherwise “what is the justification of spending money if you’re just
going to produce a series of pictures alongside the dialogue of the novel?” (Davies 1995: 2-3).
Fidelity in his reading, is a mere production of images beside the dialogue. Total fidelity would
be unattainable even in this case since the images produced also would depend on choices. A
filmic adaptation according to him has to reflect a reading of the novel. He claims, therefore, that
filmmakers need to be as original as the author of the novel they are adapting. The final product
will be different from its source especially since readers already adapt the novel in their mind and
imagine the novel when they read it. According to Davies the process of adapting the novel can
only be validated if the final product will be different – even if to a small extent – from the novel,
especially because “the novel is still there for anybody to read” (Davies 1995: 3).

Sue Birtwistle highlights some of the difficulties adapting a novel has. When rendering a literary
text to the film the main point of view is that the final product should ‘work’ on the screen and it
becomes “too literary and undramatic” (1995: 2). Another fear point to have in mind is that time-
jumps cause the film to be fragmented and “memorable dialogue on the page turns to lead in the
actor’s mouth” (1995: 2). In a novel the central narrator holds the text together, which in a film
may be substituted by voiceover, but usually it is employed if the novel had been written in first
person. In the case of a third-person narration, however, “the camera can tell you a great deal that
a narrator would, but in a different and quicker way” (1995: 2).