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Films based on written texts are almost always judged according to their faithfulness to the original. The issue of fidelity has been a battle-ground for film theorists since the beginning of film theory as an established discipline, that is, when film became worthy of being studied by specialists. The debate is still active and some suggest that adaptation and film, in general, is an art-form inferior to literature. However, film and literature, are two different mediums of story-telling and thus, extremely difficult to decide if one is better than the other although criticism still has supporters of this criterion as essential for judging the value of a film adaptation. Many criticisms complain the lack of embodiment of the critic‟s ideal of “fundamental narrative, thematic and aesthetic features of its literary source” (54). However, Robert Stam, in his “Beyond Fidelity: The Dialogics of Adaptation”, affirms that a more pertinent criticism should be based in “contextual and intertextual history,” and not on „fidelity‟. “Criticism,” he continues, should pay more attention to “readings, critiques, interpretations, and rewritings of prior material,” (76). He also thinks that a total fidelity is impossible because we have two different ways of narrating and the intertextuality between novels and films. Also bored with the discussion of „fidelity‟ in film adaptation, Linda Hutcheon states: “Of more interest to me is the fact that the morally loaded discourse of fidelity is based on the implied assumption that adapters aim simply to reproduce the adapted text” (7). A novel tells the story through written language whereas the film, through images and sounds, and that is why changes from one medium to another are inevitable. What the book describes in general terms, the film gives it a specific appearance. Also, filmmakers possess more instruments to convey a story than a writer does; music accompanying the action and the audience‟s view on the actors are some of them. Filmmakers use these means as assets to improve the experience of the story but at the same time they change it precisely by those very means. Film adaptations have evolved from Stroheim‟s first of attempt to adapt McTeague, a film that initially that had sixteen hours, to present day adaptations equally long, that have a range of two hours, such as, Lolita, Don Quixote, A Cock and Bull Story or Pride and Prejudice. 1
that she is an outsider in her own world.Stroheim‟s first intent was to do a literal adaptation of Frank Norris‟s novel using transposition (a technique that proved impossible). For example. Furthermore. with the first scene of the film that does not appear in the book. Some of them choose to be faithful to the plot believing that this is the key to a successful adaptation. the director had the advantage of the simultaneity of the film. that is. any reader of Pride and Prejudice will notice various important changes in this adaptation.she likes to read and the fact that she is alone outside the house suggests the discrepancy between her and the rest of the typical characters of the 19th century England. While Jane Austen had a more difficult task alternating dialogue with narrative description to communicate the same thing. Ideally. where Elizabeth is seen walking home while reading a book. in Joe Wright‟s adaptation of Jane Austen‟s Pride and Prejudice. As far as the music is concerned. the relationships between the characters are rendered in terms of dance relationships. Ball-dance steps and traditional English music are both designed to convey a faithful depiction of the 19th century English society and the tension between Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy. interpreting the text by contracting the message to the most important and letting the camera tell the story. within the spectrum of fidelity there is also the matter of what the director and scriptwriter/s are faithful to. Moreover. the tension and excitement is enhanced by the original score of Dario Marianelli which takes the sound and style of the 19th century and transfers it to piano music alluding to the romantic character of the protagonists‟ relationship and announcing the tensioned scenes they will participate later in the film. an adaptation would concentrates on both the plot and the „spirit‟ of the novel and the majority renounce the idea of focusing exclusively the plot because they need to compress a several hours/days read in only two hours of film and they resort to condensing plotlines or 2 . This scene is used as an interpretation of various references of the book‟s author which communicates some of Elizabeth‟s important characteristics . the director finds himself in the almost impossible position of transposing from a very well-known book to screen meanings and ideas through image and sound. for instance. In the film sequence of the Assembly Ball. while recent directors use interpretation.
Similarly. creating a catalogue that coincides with Woolf‟s narrative techniques . It is obvious that Wright intended to convey this conflict throughout the film. 142). On the other hand. in Pride and Prejudice. that was both director and scriptwriter. After her visit to Longbourn to convince Lizzy not to continue her presumed liaison with Darcy she disappears completely from the film. why not show it in the film? In addition. however he failed to see the necessity of showing Lady Catherine. there are films that put aside the plot in order to focus exclusively on conveying the atmosphere and the true spirit of the original story which seems to be an 3 . The „American ending‟ shows Darcy and Elizabeth after the wedding. accepting the marriage at the end of the story. in a typical „in your face‟ happy-ending. However. Sally Potter. for commercial reasons this time. By adding the final scene she makes the story closer to the audience. enjoying each other‟s company away from the prejudices of the 19th century society. not only chronologically structured the plotline. Joe Wright and Deborah Moggach. it is told that “Lady Catherine comes to a grudging acceptance of the marriage” (Bluestone. critics use „the spirit of the novel‟ criterion to value an adaptation if the filmmakers‟ evident intention was to depict a relatively close-to-the-truth version of the book. in Orlando. however. make two endings: a standard ending and one for American audience.change them as the directors of Orlando and Pride and Prejudice did with the endings of both films.she brings the protagonist in the 20th century society continuing Orlando‟s odyssey through time. That is. Since the author saw fit to highlight this aspect. In the epilogue of the book. they fail to understand that there is not a singular vision of a text that can be taken and translated into film. This detail might be of great importance for the understanding of the social conflict that the author so eagerly tries to reveal in the novel. regardless of their position on the „fidelity‟ issue. to what extent have the filmmakers achieved rendering a view according to what viewers think about the topic they are trying to tackle? Although most of them should have in mind the fact that there are different readings of the same work of literature. his treatment of Lady Catherine is changed in the book‟s ending.class. making the film to reach the contemporary public giving them a chance to relate with the themes circulating the book. as a representative of the loosing high. On the one hand. but also added various scenes that were not in the book .
using his own narrative techniques. (378. Since the book is probably unfilmable. hence. society in general. in the first scene of the film. to the impossibility of capturing a life in one narrative be it written or filmed. Point of view is also a requirement for the faithfulness when making an adaptation. This occurs in Michael Winterbottom‟s adaptation of Laurence Sterne‟s metafictional novel "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. doesn‟t adjust to the traditional concept of narrative. as the Woolf/Potter endeavour. although he started from a source-text that apparently is narrated by the protagonist. This is one of the aspects of the project that attracted me most. To be exact. along the novel.. the fruitless efforts of knowing the absolute truth about a person. and interpolating passages connected tangentially with the central story. Similarly. in general. Gentleman. Jane Austen‟s characterisation of Elizabeth as “lively. Here is what the director says about the adaptation of Tristram Shandy in an interview for the Spanish newspaper El País: The book. It disperses in various directions. which attaches another “within the film to the already existing “film within-the-film”. the film about the book seems to be the same. Here. this is a film how about a group of filmmakers trying to film the unfilmable novel.indispensable element when adapting a novel. Films. and Joe Wright does it outstandingly in Pride and Prejudice. He does that by making a film-within-a-film.88) the director. sportive. manner of talking” towards the end of the book. without following a straight line. are incredibly conservative inasmuch the structure and form. it is a film about the making of a film based on a novel about the writing of a novel. This is usually rendered by the camera focus and movement. I deliberately avoid the lineal structure. as it is generally known using the behind-the-scenes process of making the film as a metaphor for the actual book and the book‟s digressive nature. In fact." Winterbottom deliberately compresses the plot to only a few scenes of the actual story in order to render the essential ideas that Sterne wanted to pass on and that the novel is unfilmable. (2007) The director also alludes.. gives us hints of that liveliness and sportive manner 4 . the director is trying to suggest that Elizabeth is a Romantic character by showing her being alone and happy during a walk in the middle of nature and participator / observer role in regard to her family and implicitly. For example.
with more fluid movements. when the camera is at the Bennetts‟ it seems as if it moves freely. „fidelity‟ in adapting a book should not stand in how similar to the 5 .modernized versions of early 19th century England costumes and physical appearances but not obvious enough to track the audience off from following the story. These are over. especially in a Period film. scenes with which the director tries to render the stiff and impersonal atmosphere imposed by the English high society of the time. whatever the source may be. Wright transfers Austen‟s omniscient narrative voice. When endeavouring to a realistic representation of a story. In Gaspar Noè‟s Enter the Void. for example: Bingly and Darcy‟s hair. Consequently. the camera moves slowly and we can rarely see close-ups. that throughout the book makes assessments and shares opinions unknown by most of the characters apart from the ones she chooses and the reader. It is an innovation that can surely help a director to be faithful to any first person narration. and how criticism has evolved at the same time. by using the camera. including literature. Joe Wright‟s job to make the camera‟s point of view coincide with the novels omniscient narrative is not an easy one. Some changes are brought but mostly on the important characters. as Wright states when he is quoted by Anne-Marie PaquetDeyris‟s. Thus. However. Furthermore. whereas.by the rapid moves of the camera. though. he remains faithful to the book‟s point of view. it is believed that the subjective narrator is the most difficult to be transferred onto image. especially nowadays when literature is more and more influenced by film. At Rosings. It is obvious the contrast he is trying to make between the gentry (embodied by Lady Catherine and her surroundings) and the laymen (the Bennetts‟). if we are to consider how written texts have been adapted into films throughout the history of cinema. Although this film is not a book adaptation. suggesting the less charged atmosphere that surrounds people of lower status. there are scenes where the director is outstandingly using the first person narrative by placing the camera „in the protagonist‟s head‟. costumes and appearances of the actors should be faithful. I think that it is possibly one of the best samples of rendering the subjective narrator of a story. it is safe to say that film (adaptation) is as an important an art-form as any other. the matter of the costumes and decors are of equal importance in an adaptation. women‟s dresses. He doesn‟t stop at Elizabeth. however.
there are two types of story -telling mediums in discussion.book the adaptation is. 6 . one person‟s idea of how a novel should look like on screen may differ completely from another‟s. it is part of a larger cycle of related works and it is constantly growing. Besides. hence. there cannot be a unanimously accepted version of a text but better adaptations. film adaptation is not just a unique linear translation of one original novel. To put it differently. In change. As Robert Stam states in his book. and a literal translation from book to film would hinder the creative freedom of the filmmakers.
Potter.elpais. http://www. A Theory of Adaptation.php 28. Linda. George.edu/cgiacomi/courses/english497/abstracts/Abstract_J. Lourdes. 31. Baby Cow Productions. Pride and Prejudice. Sally. 2005. Noé.References: -Bluestone. Greed. Fidélité Films Stroheim. 1957.com/articulo/cine/Adaptar/inadaptable/elpepucin/20070323elpepicin_ 5/Tes 28 Jan. Novels into Film. 2009. Enter the Void.org. http://journal. Adaptar lo inadaptable. BBC Film. 2011 -Hutcheon. 2011 http://staff. Adventure Pictures Winterbottom. Michael. Erich von. Universal Pictures.au/0705/15connor. Gaspar.html. 2011 Filmography: Wright. -Gómez. A Cock and Bull Story. Orlando. 1992. Joe. Dir. Dir. Dir. Jan. Jan. Dir. 7 . 2005.washington.media-culture. 1924. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Dir.
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