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From Literature to Film

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From Literature to Film
Film adaptation is transferring the written work, such as novel, short story comic books and etc., into a film as a whole. The most common form being used to make a film adaptation is the novel. According to George, “between 1994 and 2013, 58% of the top grossing films in the world were adaptations. (Bluestone, George)” According to Linda Cahir, there are three types of adaptations. The first one is “literal”, “which reproduces the plot and all its attending details as closely as possible to the letter of the book. (Linda, Cahir, p16) The second one is traditional, which maintains the overall traits of the book (its plots, settings, and stylistic convention) but revamps particular details in those particular ways that the filmmakers see as necessary and fitting. The third one is radical, which reshapes the book in extreme and revolutionary ways both as a means of interpreting the literature and of making the film a more fully independent work. (Linda Cahir, p17) Traditional adaptation and radical adaptation are considered to be the top two types of film adaptations to discuss since traditional adaptation and radical adaptation are mostly seen in films. In order to examine the effectiveness of both traditional adaptation and radical adaptation in films, Pride and Prejudice (both novel and film), Heart of Darkness (novella) and the film adaptation of this novella Apocalypse Now are going to be discussed here.
According to Linda Cahir, “Traditional adaptation maintains the overall traits of the book (its plots, settings, and stylistic convention) but revamps particular details in those particular ways that the filmmakers see as necessary and fitting. (P16)” Pride and Prejudice (both film and novel) is applied here to examine the nature of the traditional adaptation and evaluate the effectiveness of traditional adaptation in the film.
As far as I am concerned, the first characteristic of traditional adaptation is to remain the overall traits of the novel. Pride and Prejudice is one of the most famous works of Jane Austin. In this novel, Austin shows her own attitudes towards love and marriage by showing the five sisters of Bennetts’ attitudes towards love and marriage. The relationship (not the relationship of love, but the relationship of both love and antipathy) between Elizabeth and Darcy is used as clue of the development of this story in this novel. This novel reveals what is the dream marriage in Elizabeth’s heart by showing how Elizabeth looks upon on her sisters’ marriages. Pride and Prejudice has been adapted into movies for so many times. For me, I think the 2005 version film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice best explains the plots, the characteristics and what Austin wants to tell in the novel.
Generally speaking, the 2005 version film adaptation remains the same plots as in the novel. Both of them are mainly telling a story about how Elizabeth, the second daughter in this family falls in love with a rich young gentleman whose name is Darcy. Also Pride and Prejudice tells the love stories of other four sisters. The 2005 film adaptation chooses some important scenarios from the novel and translated them into film.
The novel concentrates more on the dialogues. Basically how the characters think in their inner hearts, what the status of the characters are in, characters’ personality are all told by conversations among the characters. And the novel directly starts chapter one with the conversation of Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Bennett. For example, the conversation starting by Mrs. Bennett occurring in Chapter 1 starts the story, “My dear Mr. Bennett, said his lady to him one day, have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?” (Austin, p1) Although Austin did not give any introduction about Bennets family, like how rich they are, what’s Mr. Bennett’s job and etc., the starting conversation did give us information about how this story will start. And then conversations are adopted as a main tool to tell the development of the story. When Bennets are invited to the ball, Elizabeth tells her sister that she thinks Mr. Darcy is really rude. And later on, Elizabeth tells her sister that she writes a letter to Darcy, she begins to like him. Sort of dialogues happens in every chapter, in every day and everywhere. So Pride and Prejudice is a dialogue-leading novel.
In the film adaptation, conversation is also very important element in this film. When Pride and Prejudice is adapted in to film, it still adopts the conversation-leading characterization to develop this story. In this film, it still does not give any information about the characters, but we would know these from the conversations. For example, there is a scene in the very beginning of this film, which is the five sisters laughing loudly and repeating, “he is single!” Thus, the audiences know that Mr. Bingley is single and rich. The conversation helps a lot. Later on when Lydia elopes with Wickham, Elizabeth goes to find Darcy and tells him about everything. Even in this film, it does not use narrative. It tries to use the dialogues to tell everything. Also as what has talked above, the 2005 film adaptation remains the basically same plots as it in the novel.
As far as I am concerned, dialogue-leading is the stylistic convention in this novel and it is the most important element in this novel. And it is obviously that Austin really appreciates this story-telling way. Furthermore, 2005 version film adaptation remains the same set up, such as the characters, the background, and etc. Also, 2005 film adaptation remains the same plots as in the novel. The main traits of the story in this novel are all remained when adapted into the film. So this is the first characteristic of traditional adaptation---remaining the overall traits of the novel.
The second characteristic of traditional adaptation is revamping the particular details in those particular ways that the filmmakers see as necessary and fitting. Take the ball where Elizabeth first time meets Darcy as an example. In the novel, Austin describes a ball and a ball and another a ball to make chances for Jane and Bingley, Elizabeth and Darcy. However in the film, the director only picks two balls. And these two balls are choosing by Elizabeth’s changing attitudes towards Darcy. In the first ball, this is the first time that Elizabeth meets Darcy. In the novel, Elizabeth does not invite Darcy to dance. She produces prejudice to Darcy just because she heard something bad about Darcy. However in the film Elizabeth invites Darcy to dance, but Darcy refuses. I think this is the revamping the scenario described in the novel. Film is much shorter than novel, so the director needs to use the least things to describe the most. So I think the revamping of the first ball is to stress Elizabeth’s prejudice, antipathy to Darcy.
Another scenario describing in the novel but revamping in the film is when the ball finishes. When Mrs. Bennett, Jane, Elizabeth, Bingley and Darcy are having a conversation, Elizabeth answers Darcy a question flexibly and then goes away. Darcy looks at Elizabeth’s back and feels he falls in love. Nevertheless, this scenario does not show up during the first ball. This is another adjustment of film adaptation on the basis of the novel. The main purpose of this adjustment is to emphasize the conflict between Darcy’s adore to Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s prejudice to Darcy. It seems like it is hard for these two adults to be together. However, things are changing.
The third scenario in the film adaptation has been revamped is the proposal of marriage. In the novel, Darcy proposed to Elizabeth in the room without any emotional fluctuation. However in the 2005 version film adaptation, Darcy proposed to Elizabeth in a storming rainy day. Here I think the adjustment from quiet background to a rainy day expresses Darcy’s strong love to Elizabeth. And the rainy day makes the audiences feel more the very strong love between them whereas proposed in a room does not make readers feel so strong about their love.
Combined these three scenarios together, it is easy to find the second characteristic of the traditional adaptation is revamping the particular details in those particular ways that the filmmakers see as necessary and fitting. The director does make some changes for the film adaptation. Making these changes does improve the quality of the film. It shortens the time to describe less important scenarios. And these adjustments are really helpful on accurately depicts those particular details important for the development of the story. To sum up, the two characteristics of traditional adaptation are firstly to remain the overall traits of the novel (such as plots, set up, structure and etc.), and the secondly to revamp the particular details in particular way to depicts the development faster and more accurate.
When talking about the traditional adaptation, radical adaptation is considered to be discussed next. Radical adaptation is another form of adapting a novel into a film. According to Linda Cahir, “radical adaptation reshapes the book in extreme and revolutionary ways both as a means of interpreting the literature and of making the film a more fully independent work (p17).” Apocalypse Now (film adaptation) and Heart of Darkness (novella of Apocalypse Now) are applied here to examine the characteristics of radical adaptation and evaluate the effectiveness of radical adaptation.
Apocalypse Now is a radical adaptation of Heart of Darkness. Both Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness are telling about a guy is assigned a mission to kill Kurtz and he confronted horrors and his fear on his way to carry out his mission. On his way to finish his mission, he witnesses the poor life of the local people and his own fear. When he carries out his mission killing Kurtz, Kurtz leaves “the horror, the horror” and then dies.
The first characteristic of radical adaptation and the most characteristic is that the film adaptation is extremely different from the novel and as being a new way to interpret the literature. Let’s compare the Heart to Darkness with Apocalypse Now. First, the name of the novella and the name of the film are totally different. From my perspective, Heart to Darkness is more like telling the story. Heart of Darkness means Marlow (Willard in the film adaptation) finds the darkness of Africa and he gradually becomes greedy. Apocalypse Now is more like an indication of the whole story. It wishes the audiences learn something after watching this movie. So the names of both novella and the film adaptation are totally presented in different ways.
Taking set up of this story into account, the set up of Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now is totally different. The background of Heart of Darkness is in Africa during the late nineteenth century whereas the background of Apocalypse Now is during the Vietnam War (1970s). The hero in Heart of Darkness is a boat captain whose name is Marlow while the hero in Apocalypse is a soldier whose name is Willard.
The basic plot of this story is different between two works. In Heart of Darkness, Marlow tells about his voyage up the Congo River into the Congo Free State. He is going to find a guy who is an ivory trade named Kurtz. And during his voyage to find Kurtz, Marlow witnesses the poor life of African. Apocalypse Now makes an adjustment on the basis of the original set up of the story. Apocalypse Now pulls the story from the history to the modern history. Apocalypse Now is basically telling Willard, U.S Army Special operations officer Captain, is going to assassinate the renegade and presumed insane U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel, Kurtz. On his trip to find Kurtz, Willard witnesses the absurdities of the war.
In terms of the themes of both works trying to demonstrate, I think Apocalypse Now demonstrate it in a new way and better explain the theme. The main theme of both works trying to express is imperialism. In Heart of Darkness, I think one of the themes it is trying to explain is racism because we know that the set up of this story is in Africa. The powerful nation is trying to civilize the uncivilized land. People from civilized countries treat African people as slavers. Africa people have really poor life, they do not get treated fairly and they always in hunger. They do not have comfy clothes. They even cannot control their own country. However, people from the powerful countries could do it. They do not consider the African people as “human beings”. Compared with Heart of Darkness, I think Apocalypse Now deletes racism in the film adaptation. Apocalypse Now interprets the literature in a new way because it does not have racism included. Racism has been a very sensitive topic for recent years. Also war is really a good topic to talk about imperialism. Compared to take over an uncivilized land, war is not only getting the natural resources and getting labor forces, but also take over a civilized country. Leaders spent tons of time to run this country and make it better and better. However all of their efforts destroyed because of the war. So war better explains the ambition behind imperialism.
Although both of works are trying to express the same thing, which is a guy is assigned to kill Kurtz and then he witnesses the horror of the life on his way to carry out his mission, Apocalypse Now reshapes Heart of Darkness is a new way to interpret this story. 1970 Vietnam War is history related to America. Probably it is hard for folks to understand how the ivory trade affects Africa and what was happened in the late nineteenth century. So Apocalypse Now is adapted into an era, which is close to us and then better explains the essence of this novel. Recalling the different set up, characters, plots discussed above, this is the reason for I think the first characteristic of radical adaptation is that film adaptation is extremely different from the novel and as being a new way to interpret the literature
The second characteristic of radical adaptation is making the film a fully independent work. “A movie based on a literary source is often seen as a secondary work and, consequently, of secondary value. Literature, generally, still occupies a more privileged position in the cultural hierarchy than movies do; and readers often have a proprietary attitude toward the book, an attitude that influences their reception of a film based upon it. (Cahir, P13)” Although both Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now are revealing imperialism and colonist, Apocalypse Now is an extremely new version of Heart of Darkness. I think one of the reasons that the director adapts Heart of Darkness into a totally new version is that he wants to show a fully independent work to the audiences. He does not want the audiences compare the film adaptation to the novella because they are totally different. And the film adaptation better fits the flavor of the audiences.
As for my personal opinion about which adaptation is more effective when translate the literature into film; I prefer traditional adaptation rather than radical adaptation. First we need to consider the unity of novel and the film adaptation. What is film adaptation? The novel is the prototype, and the director uses most of the things in this prototype to create another form to show up on the screen and then help those audiences who have read this novel before but do not understand yet to figure out what the story is or let those audiences who have not read the novel before to know what is going on in this novel without reading. In this way, novel and the film adaptation should be kept as a unity. So the first reason that traditional adaptation is more effective is it helps audiences easily understand what’s happened in the novel.
The second reason I think traditional adaptation is more effective is fact. I did a web research. The data shows that more movies (adapted from literature) are using traditional adaptation. Think about the movies that you have watched. Most of them are adapted traditionally, such as Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter, Twilight, Jane Eyre and etc. If the traditional adaptation is not more effective than radical adaptation, I do no think the directors would adopt traditional adaptation.
Film adaptation is a really important form of filmmaking. There are two forms of film adaptation are discussed here, one is traditional adaptation, and the other one is radical adaptation. Both of two adaptations appeal the audiences in their own special way. How amazing they are!

Citation: 1. Cahir, L. C. (2006). Literature into film: Theory and practical approaches. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.

2. Austen, J., & Kinsley, J. (1990). Pride and prejudice.

3. Bluestone, George (1957, 2003). Novels into Film: The Metamorphosis of Fiction into Cinema. The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-7386-X.…...

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...INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE, LITERATURE Int.J.Eng.Lang.Lit&Trans.StudiesVol.2.Issue.(IJELR) (Oct-Dec) AND TRANSLATION STUDIES 4.2015 A QUARTERLY, INDEXED, REFEREED AND PEER REVIEWED OPEN ACCESS INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL http://www.ijelr.in KY PUBLICATIONS RESEARCH ARTICLE Vol.2.Issue 4.,2015 (Oct.-Dec.) A ROLE OF ENGLISH TEACHER IN STRENGTHENING THE VOCABULARY OF THE STUDENTS Dr.S.PADMA PRIYA Assistant Professor, Department of English, Adaikalamatha College, Vallam, Thanjavur, Tamilnadu. Dr.S.PADMA PRIYA ABSTRACT This research article examines the various methods in teaching vocabulary. Vocabulary learning is an essential part in language learning process. Memorizing is a traditional and boring method for students. An English teacher should use creative techniques to imbibe new words with interactive activities. Good communication skills and basic writing skills are needed to shine better in career. Students from rural side, find very difficult to make their own sentences in English. It is an ultimate job of an English teacher to create an unstoppable enthusiasm to learn new words. A well-versed vocabulary will enable a student to perform well in class discussions, to read general books faster and to shine in various fields. An English teacher should insist a student to develop a habit of reading for pleasure. Reading beyond text books make a student versatile in all fields. Our words show our attitude. Others judge us not only......

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