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Adaptations: Bringing Classic Novels to the Big Screen

Essay 2010 5 Seiten

Didaktik - Englisch - Literatur, Werke


1 Adaptations: Bringing Classic Novels to the Big Screen Doreen Klahold

Adaptation s: Bringing Classic Novels to the Big Screen

Since film has become a widespread medium of entertainment, drawing a larger audience than books, the film industry has begun to adapt many successful novels. As a consequence of this development, the adaptation of novels into films has lately been a common topic among art scholars who try to analyse this transformation “from one medium to another” (Seger 2). It is a general cliché that both mediums are “so different that they cannot be compared” (Larsson 70), but in reality there is a way, although a difficult one, to achieve a satisfying end product. This paper shall now provide an overview of story adaptation, transfer of narrative elements, style and mood of the novel especially concerning historical features, as well as character transformation; and thus underline that adaptation is “a creative process in itself” (Macdonald 2).

Cinema and novel are “essentially different mediums that resist each other as often as they cooperate” (Seger 27). Therefore, adapting a novel means shifting it into another sign system (cf. Andrew 97), employing the “cinematic sign”, which works more “directly, sensuously, perceptually ” (McFarlane 27) than novels. With this in mind, McFarlane distinguishes four “ extra-cinematic codes” (McFarlane 29): language codes , like accents or voices, visual codes , non-linguistic sound codes , e.g. music or background noises and cultural codes , referring to information about how people lived at particular times. As it better depicts what is “external and visible, physical and material” (Beja 57), film is not very appropriate to present thoughts and imagination (cf. Beja 57). Although these differences between novel and film actually cause several problems during the process of adaptation, there are still ways to cope with them.

What every adaptor must consider carefully is the relation established between film and text. Andrew, professor of Film and Comparative Literature, has subdivided these three categories: “borrowing, intersection, and fidelity of transformation” (98ff.). The most frequently used mode, borrowing , means employing the general idea of a successful text with the hope of winning an audience due to the prestige of the novel. Intersection , on the other hand, implies that the original text is not altered at all during adaptation, whereas fidelity of transformation refers to the reproduction of its essential aspects. In this case, Andrew distinguishes between letter , including characters and basic narrative aspects, and spirit , which refers to the original’s tone and values (cf. 100). With regard to these possible relationships between film and text, it is a contentious issue whether the novel should be translated faithfully or whether directors should just intend to capture its spirit by imitation (cf. Harris 44).



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
513 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Universität Paderborn – Anglistik/Amerikanistik
Adaptations Bringing Classic Novels Screen



Titel: Adaptations: Bringing Classic Novels to the Big Screen