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Adaptations: Are They Meant To Be?

Film adaptations are the result of taking a story, usually a text, and adapting it to, well, film. Adapting a piece of work for the screen is not easy. A novel, for example, was created with specific detail. Taking a 300-page novel and condensing it into a 120-minute film is challenging. You are forced to remove or adjust certain characteristics to fit concerns, like financing. Otherwise, you may have a short story with hopes to create a full feature. That’s just the beginning. Imagine if there is a verbal story carried on through generations. What does a screenwriter do then?

Can something that was created for another medium successfully "work" as a film, narratively and stylistically?

  • Optimally, art should be as protean as possible, and the borders between the various art media should be as porous, permeable, and flexible as possible, so as to foster dialogue (meta and otherwise) between media. Film adaptations at their best are a great reflection of this ideal, but it begs the question: why are the inverses--film novelizations, say--not nearly as prominent? Novelizations do not have nearly as great a critical reputation as adaptations; they are usually hastily written cheap paperbacks, sold as tie-ins and/or for franchise-building, out of print quickly. If filmmakers have frequently been able to distill novels into films--into effective unions of image and sound derived from text--then why can't (or don't) authors expand images and sounds into text that can interact meaningfully and/or provocatively with the film by addition, subtraction and/or alteration, as film adaptations do with their source texts? If novels are used as source material for other media but films aren't, what does that say about how our culture values (or not) those media in terms of art and entertainment? Of course films can expand upon novels, so could novels not expand upon films by, for instance, coloring in the characters' psychological states? Novelizations, qua adaptations, provide (I believe) a ripe opportunity for artistic renaissance, if there are any authors out there willing to consider it and take the plunge! – Alec Johnsson 4 years ago
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  • Coincidentally I have recently watched 'Ten Canoes' (2006), an Australian film entirely in the Aboriginal languages used by those who appear in it. It's a morality tale told during a hunting expedition, which attempts to address the verbal story carried on across generations theme you suggested. Well worth watching. I'd recommend it to anyone who is looking for something a little different. – Amyus 4 years ago
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  • I think the worst decision you can make is to try to copy and paste a book scene for scene and make it a movie. With a completely different medium, screenwriters and directors need to make conscious cuts and changes because the books were never intended as a blueprint for a film. Changes have to be made. To see successful adaptions, I suggest you look at how screenwriters and directors make conscious changes to the source material. Example: Both Godfather book and film are successful but Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola make decisions about cutting material from the book and changing some things. L.A. confidential by James Ellroy was another successful adaption in 1997 by Curtis Hanson (with Russel Crowe, Kim Bassinger, Kevin Spacey, and Guy Pearce. In order to adapt the 500-600 page book, clear changes were made to the source material, entire storylines were cut, but the movie captured the essence of the book and it was an impressive creation on its own right. Another fascinating adaption is Blade Runner, which is vastly different than its book counterpart (Do Androids Dream...By Philip K. Dick) yet was a huge influence on many films and books and has surpassed the popularity of the film. – Sean Gadus 4 years ago
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