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Medium Specificity and Film Adaptation

Medium Specificity and Film Adaptation

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Christopher Cosgrove. Originally submitted for Media Studies - Film Adaptation at National University of Ireland Galway, with lecturer Liam Burke in the category of English Language & Literature
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Christopher Cosgrove. Originally submitted for Media Studies - Film Adaptation at National University of Ireland Galway, with lecturer Liam Burke in the category of English Language & Literature

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
Cinema and Media Studies: Film Adaptation
Final Assignment
Assignment Topic:
 
“In order that the film artist may create a work of art it is important that he consciously
stress the peculia
rities of his medium” (Rudolph Arnheim).
 
In the genre of film adaptation it is always important that a filmmaker utilise the specificaspects and methods available to them in the media of cinema. This is the message which
Rudolph Arnheim is trying to suggest when he states that a filmmaker should “stress thepeculiarities of his medium”
(35). It is important in the adaptation process for filmmakers todevelop or find equivalent methods of portraying the certain devices which are used in theirsource material. This notion of medium specificity is an important aspect of film adaptationand leads into other discussions such as the idea of fidelity to a source and understandingwhat can and cannot be portrayed on the big screen. Filmmakers throughout the ages havelooked to novels, plays and even graphic novels for inspiration and foundation to theirmovies. Since the early years of cinema, adaptation has played a huge part in the filmindustry and was a very important part of what made cinema popular also. Within the genreof adaptation there arose this issue of how to adapt these sources in a way whichcompliments and heightens their story for a wider audience. This initial idea of how toportray various novels and sources for cinema audiences is what led filmmakers tocomprehend the differences between their mediums and the concept of medium specificitywas born.Cinema provided for an audience a completely new way to experience a particular story or
narrative. Films were sometimes seen as “condensed versions” or “digests” (André Bazin 21)
of novels and plays for the average person to enjoy the story without the need for a longwinded approach to understanding diverse characters or settings. However, cinema wasmuch more than this as it could effectively give life to characters that before this onlyexisted in the minds of the individual reader. Along with this universal portrayal of 
 
characters and plots, cinema also found specific devices to depict to the audience theequivalence of the literary devices used by their source. For example, in a novel like
Harry Potter 
readers are given long descriptions of various settings and characters in order to get a
‘feel’ or image o
f what it is the author is trying to portray. However, in cinema because theexperience is essentially all visual and aural, viewers are given in an instant the descriptionsof a particular character or person as they can see them directly in front of their eyes on thescreen. This unique way of portraying many aspects in a particularly short space of time is alldown to the way in which a filmmaker uses the various shots available at their disposal.Cinematic shots give to the viewer what could take paragraphs or pages of descriptionalternatively an instant vision of what a particular person or place is like. This can be seen in
Harry Potter 
when Harry first enters the Grand Hall we are given a description of the settingand intricate parts which make up the hall. In cinema, however, a large scale shot orextreme long shot gives the viewer all the detail of the grand room and also allows them torealise the scale and wonder of the setting which before would have been all up to thereader to decipher.Another example of a cinematic specific device is the use of parallel editing. This device isused particularly in suspense sequences and helps build a sense of tension as the twoscenes start coming together. This is a very unique style which allows filmmakers to producea two part narrative in such a way that would not be as appealing to read in a novel. A greatexample of this is the sequence in
The Dark Knight 
where Batman is trying to save Racheland there is parallel or cross cutting from seeing Rachel in a room and Harvey Dent inanother to also seeing Batman travelling to the scene. The suspense rises as the viewer

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