Novel to Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation

Novel to Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation

Novel to Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation

Novel to Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation

Synopsis

"It wasn't as good as the book;" this is the response to many a film adaptation, and even the starting point of many film reviews. This book offers the first systematic theoretical account of the process by which the great (and not so great) works of literature are transformed into the good, bad (sometimes ugly), but always distinctive medium of cinema. Drawing on recent literary and film theory, Mcfarlane provides careful analysis of the theory and practice of metamorphosis. The Scarlet Letter, Random Harvest, Great Expectations, Daisy Miller, and Cape Fear provide case studies for a range of fictional and cinematic practices.

Excerpt

The choice of five texts which exist as novels and as films obviously cannot in any exhaustive sense be regarded as seriously representative. My aim has been to look closely at what has happened to five sufficiently diverse literary texts (four novels and one novella) in the process of transposition to film. Further, the choice was governed by the films' showing sufficiently diverse approaches to this process and by their deriving from different contexts.

All five novels may be broadly categorized as 'realist' but with that range they display some clearly divergent responses to problems of narrative and enunciation. They exhibit important differences in length, in narrational modes, and in cultural status: the novella-length Daisy Miller poses different challenges from those offered by a long Victorian novel such as Great Expectations; the narrating 'voices' are variously omniscient, first-person, and the product of a restricted consciousness; and Random Harvest, a once-popular fiction, and Cape Fear are clearly of a cultural order remote from that of the other three. That is, they offer enough variety to test whether the proposed agenda for examining the processes of adaptation might be profitably applied across a certain literary range. In a study of this length, it has not been possible to include every kind of novelistic procedure. A further volume might well focus on the extent to which modernist or post-modernist texts have shown themselves susceptible to film adaptation. Novels such as Ulysses, Orlando, Lolita, and A Clockwork Orange come to mind in such a connection; they are, however, outside the range of the present study, in which the focus is on the processes of transposition rather than on the enormous range of fiction available for adaptation. So long as novels are concerned--in any degree--with a series of events happening to and/or caused by a continuing set of characters, I believe my methodology will prove efficacious in articulating the inescapable processes at work in any adaptation.

As to the films, they derive from strikingly different contexts. The Scarlet Letter (1926) as a silent film version of a classic American novel enables a historical perspective on the phenomenon of adaptation. The lack of spoken dialogue and other diegetic sound (musical accompaniment of silent films was, we know, standard practice) makes demands on other means of presenting a narrative; as my analysis will show, the classical Hollywood narrative was very firmly established by the end of the silent era, to which . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.