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Friday, July 24, 2009

  • Limitations of a film adaptation
  • Work place experience versus schoolroom education
  • Social Networking
  • The constructs of family...
  • Mythology
  • How we perceive crime...
  • Potential of the horror genre in a TV environment
  • What defines art..
  • Heroes and Villians (some even of the 'super' nature)
How far can we really go with an adaptation from book to film? I obviously bring this up with the Half-Blood Prince just released and tensions building until the two parts of Deathly Hallows planned for next November/July 2011. How much are we reasonably to expect? Is it wrong for us, as fans, to have high expectations of our screened translation?

It is undeniable that the move from written text to the silver screen is a heavy price to pay for any story's heart and soul. Sure, we get the general storyline, but we rarely get the full meaning behind the story or the motivation behind the characters' actions. It's a flawed system at best and it's a process best avoided in far too many situations. I think the bottom line is the motivation of the creative heads behind the separate works...for a novel, it's generally about telling an intriguing story, whereas a movie's sole purpose is to make money. In order for a film to make money, it needs to appeal to the greatest percent of the population, whereas for a book to be successful - just resonating with any readers could generally be defined as a plus.

Next, when reading a book, we are able to construct a vague concept of how the characters we are reading about appear. When they appear in a movie, their appearence is concrete and almost certainly not the face we had in our heads. This isn't the fault of the moviemakers, of course, they needed to cast someone to play the part - the fact is, your Aslan doesn't look like my Aslan. Even though we read the same words, from the same page, from the same book...our mind interprets them differently. After this, as the story progresses, our mental image of characters, or the setting, or a given object slowly evolve into a thought that we can see as concrete. On repeated readings of most of my favorite books, I barely absorb the physical descriptions of things because, by word association, I'm already able to conceive their appearance in my head based on my previous readings through the story. This is an intriguing problem for the filmmakers because, not only does my Aslan not match your Aslan, my Aslan may no longer even match the description from the book as I have altered him to match my concept of the story's reality.

For instance, in the very expensive Lord of the Rings trilogy, I had the Ents pictured a very specific way. The movie was way...way off-base, but that was my perception of the movie, it was Peter Jackson's (or whoever designed them, but we'll assume Jackson had to sign off on them) perception of them. It's not his fault my image of them didn't match, nor is it mine, it's the nature of the beast.

So based on these shortcomings of the silver screen versus novels, how much potential do these screen adaptations really have? How much can we honestly expect from them? The complaint that the book is 'better' is almost irrelevant as they are two separate entities, like comparing apples and oranges. The motivation for us, as consumers, for reading or for watching a film are quite different - for reading, it is almost completely motivated by a sense of escapism brought on by this alternative reality than our own, whereas the film does invoke some concept of escapism, it's more about pure entertainment - it's fun. When you complain that you enjoyed the book more than the movie - what did you enjoy more about it? The only legitimate complaint I think we are warranted is if Hollywood decides to add, subtract, or rearrange the storyline (destroying the burrow in HBP, excluding the ending in the Golden Compass). If you are going to recreate a story - at least keep the story! If you're only going to use the story or characters as a basis for your own story, do that...don't ruin a perfectly good story.

The bottom line is, in this society, the motivation of making these movies is to make money whereas they should be to point viewers to the books for a deeper meaning. This is almost always lost in the moviemaking process. They are too concerned with giving a complete package to the moviegoing public that they avoid leaving them with any questions that may direct them to the book. Reading is a one of a kind cultural experience, and it's being phased out. How soon after reading goes, does writing as well? Can society survive the loss of one of our major cultural contributions?

There are, of course, excellent examples of novel to movie adaptation...unfortunately, they are far and few between.

I could probably keep going, but I feel as if I'm talking myself into a circle so I'd best walk away now. Nathan out - ta.

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