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Relationship Between Literature And Film Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 5473 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Movies based on original novels are reproductions of novels with a new point of view and values. Films are also rediscovering the writers in a modern way by reproducing the novels. Novels have become a main source of movies since the beginning of the history of film. Among many movie genres, the most successful movies in artistic and commercial ways were based on original novels.

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The middle of 1990 was the period that Jane Austen movies met the Austen Boom. It began with Persuasion on BBC in April 1995, and then a modern version of Clueless with a Beverly Hills setting directed by Amy Heckerling, which was produced and screened by Paramount Pictures in July. That same year in September, the miniseries Pride and Prejudice directed by Simon Langton and adapted by Andrew Davies was broadcasted in the United Kingdom by BBC and broadcasted in the United States in the next year by Arts and Entertainment. Also that same year, Emma Thomson adapted and played the role of the heroine Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, which was produced and screened by Columbia Pictures in December. The very next year, in 1996, ITV’s television drama Emma, the movie Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow by Miramax Films and Emma collaborated by Meridian Films and A&E were produced at the same time. Also, in 1999 Miramax Films produced Mansfield Park as a movie.

Movies based on Austen’s original novels have continued their popularity into the 21st century. The serial novel on newspaper Bridgit Jones’ Diary [1] , the modern work of Pride and Prejudice, was adapted to a movie by Working Title Films in 2001. In 2003, a contemporary Pride and Prejudice was aired with a United States university setting. Moreover, in 2004, a Bollywood style musical movie Bride and Prejudice was screened in India. In 2005, Working Title Film produced and distributed Pride and Prejudice directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley. Also, in 2007, ITV in the United Kingdom selected Jane Austen Season and produced several dramas based on three novels, Mansfield Park, Persuasion and Nothanger Abbey. The director of Miramax Films, Julian Jerrold, made a film in 2007 about Austen’s middle life, Becoming Jane, based on Becoming Jane Austen by Son Spence.

Since the beginning of movies, it is amazing that one writer’s novels have been adapted to films so many times, and it is hard to find other cases from other countries. Austen movies have been screened many times not only in the United Kingdom or the United States, but also have gained popularity in many other countries. The BBC miniseries especially brought great sensation in society and amplified interest in both Austen’s novels and movies. Every time movies and dramas based on her novels screened on cinema and television, it became an object of discussion and trend. Continued visualization of Austen’s novels increased the interest and criticism of her and she gained more popularity. As a result, her novels met their second heyday as visual materials.

The transforming of novel to film, which started early in the history of film, was made a new opportunity to develop a new genre of film in the 1980s. Most famous 19th century writers, such as Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, and so on, had works adapted to films. The novels of Henry James and E. M. Forster, famous writers of the 20th century, were also adapted to films. Especially, the films of James and Forster made a new film genre called ‘heritage films’ because they inspire people’s pride of cultural heritage and introduce the tradition of England to other countries. The film director James Ivory, the producer Ismail Merchant, and the scenario writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who played pivotal roles in this genre, made films based on The Europeans (1979) and The Bostonians (1984) by Henry James; also A Room with a View (1985), Maurice (1987) and Howards End (1992) by E. M. Forster. These films worked as a catalyst to make a unique film genre called Merchant-Ivory film. This genre describes the value of life and ethics of English aristocrats and high society. At the same time, it shows visual aesthetics and elegance to the audiences with idyllic rural life, antique buildings, fancy costumes and decorum on the screen. These visual attractive films led to the birth of another new genre, the costume drama.

The flow of trend that making movies based on novels of the 19th and early 20th century was a foundation stone of the Austen movies’ heyday. As a result, movies based on Austen’s novels reached their peak as heritage films, Merchant-Ivory films and the costume dramas. Austen became a symbol of these kinds of movies. Austen movies became recognized as representative movies that show pride in their cultural heritage, introducing tradition and value of England to other countries and emphasizing Englishness.

The influence that the Austen movies brought in the mid-90s is the gained interest in both novels and films. Discussions and criticism of the novels and the movies continued through the whole of England, and people visited film locations on weekends. Moreover, popularity of Austen spread out to the world via internet websites by fans of Austen. For example, members of the Jane Austen Society of North America website increased 50 percent over * (Troost 2001, 2) and fans who are not able to visit the locations are able to fulfill their curiosity by getting some pictures and information via a website called The Republic of Pemberly. The Austen lovers also brought on discussions and social trends by expanding their interest in not only sharing information on movies but also the 18th century’s customs, costumes, music and so on. We can easily guess that the Austen’s popularity, which increased by the success of movies, led to the high sales of Austen’s novels. Moreover, the films and the novels increased people’s interest on Austen herself and provided a chance to rediscover the author in the contemporary period.

The increased interest in the customs, cultural heritages and traditions of England that were newly magnified by the success of Austen movies and novels raised the necessity to expand the range of research from novels to films. The criticism on literary film contains both the criticism on artistic value of film itself and literary artistry fulfillment of films. The most important strategy of literary film research is to find whether the film makers are catching the essential features of literature which is implicit in literature. Another important strategy is to find whether the makers have inventive ideas on the original novels. However, in order to make artistic and popular success as a film, the movie makers should find deeper materials which cover the artistic success of the original novels. This means that critics of literary films are researching how well film makers visually embody the featured elements of original work with their own point of view. Therefore, finding the distinctive core of the films is the most important work of film criticism. To do this work well, knowledge of film so that one can understand the common structure of film and trained eyes to discern the aesthetic elements are needed.

The writer on film needs an understanding of the common, constituent code of cinematic structure. However, the writer also needs a strong, well-trained eye that discerns the distinctive elements of a given movie. Without these two qualities, the writer’s analysis of a film is, at best, arbitrary, and any assessment of the film becomes a perfunctory judgment, a subjective response where nothing in particular except perhaps the writer’s personal preference, informs the appraisal. (Cahir 2006, 235)

In this context, the criticism of Austen movies can be divided in two ways broadly. First, there is a point of view of how the film perfectly reenacted the contents and artistic value of the original novel. The other point of view is one that considers the film as an independent art or view with different interpretation and criticism. The audiences, who have read the original novels already, can be more critical than those who have no knowledge about the novels or the writer. They tend to criticize the films of how they exactly reproduced their interpretations, which were already formed by the novels. So, if the film preserved the original interpretation and critical view, they tend to welcome the film. However, if not, they tend to dislike it.

Their complaint vary, but a common theme is that “It is not as good as the book.” Fidelity to the story, the characters, the ideas, and the language is their main criterion. Some of them feel that since the film is not exactly the same as the book, it is not only inferior, but amounts to criminal trespass. Often readers have formed such strong visual conceptions of Elizabeth Bennet or Emma that no actress can live up to their expectations. They may object to new dialogue that the screenwriter has concocted, or to the moving of a drawing room scene outdoors, or to the possibility that Elizabeth Bennet seems not to be wearing underwear. (Parrill 2002, 7)

These complaints are based on the respect of authors and novels and the editing, deleting and adding can be regarded as a violent action that ruins the artistic value of the original novels. From a point of view that films cannot reproduce novels properly, Deborah Cartmell suggests that they should get more respect and accuracy than other novels of the contemporary period when they adapt the canons like Austen (Cartmell 1999, 27). Parril claims that the stance of film makers for the enthusiastic Austen fans is making the best films and being indifferent to the group (Parril 2003, 8). The phenomenon that many people participated in discussions with praises and criticism on the Austen movies in its heydays reflects the critical tendency on the novels and films. Since the critics on the movie’s fidelity to the original novel could be a very subjective point which is not accepting the differences of media between novels and films, it is necessary to research the independent criticism methods on films.

Linda Costanzo Cahir suggested four ways of valuation basis in her book Literature into Film: Theory and Practical Approaches to criticize films that originated from literature (Cahir 2006, 99-131). First is examining that the film makers are delivering creative ideas on overall meaning and values of original texts when they interpret literary texts. Successful films should do more than just show it visually or deliver the summaries, not just agree with the meanings and values that the literary texts have. Second is judging that the films are the collaboration of the technique of film construction. The film is a synthetic art cooperating with the actor, scenario writer, director, producer, technicians, costume designer and so on; so it can be a successful work when all techniques and knowledge related to the film are harmonized to complete the visual aesthetic. Third is finding that the film makers are creating the work to make an aesthetic result which has a relationship with literature while it is positioned on a different range with literature. In a point of Cahir who is regarding the reproduction process from literature to movie as translation, when a novel is translated into a different language, the translated novel keeps the independent literary value with the language and also keeps the original text’s totality and beauty. Like this, the films should also keep the totality and beauty of the original texts. Fourth is that the films should be reproduced as independent art pieces but they should not be contradictory independent from the original texts. Even though the films have their own identity because they are film not filmed-book, they should not overset the viewpoint of the original texts by tweaking the key points. The literary film should preserve the intrinsic features while maximize the inherent elements.

The standard of Cahir can be summarized in two ways. Firstly, it is possible to have success as a literary film when delivering the viewpoint and artistic value of the original literature without overturning it, and the movie makers should have creative ideas and artistic sensitivity. Secondly, unlike novels, the films should be appraised on whether they achieve the technical and artistic completeness as a visual media. Films that satisfy these two bases can be successful whether the audiences have experienced the original texts or not. It is impossible for any kinds of adaptation to reproduce all the details of literary work exactly. Even if scenario writers and producers try to reproduce novels exactly the same, the differences of narrative between letter and image will ask a new point of criticism and reinterpretation to the makers. In the process of the reproduction, it has to discard linguistic things for the visual materials and meet the process of selecting, skipping, compression and editing. It is certain that subjective opinions are involved in this process. Therefore it is a reinterpretation from a new point of view not only faithfully modifying the contents and stories of novels. It is necessary to accept the literary film as a creative and independent art piece which uses different materials and techniques even though it is based on novels.

There are many famous writers, but Jane Austen’s novels are being reproduced more actively even after 200 years. We may guess that there is modern value in her works. Her work has the possibility to be adapted more as visual materials. I wish to research the development of the history of literary films and theory of the adaptation in the second chapter. After that, I will analyze the possibility of filmic reproduction and visual realism in the third chapter. From this point of view, I will compare and examine the films of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

By analyzing the miniseries of the BBC drama in 1995 and the movie by Working Title Films in 2005, I will examine the filmic possibility that Austen’s novels have. These two versions have different form. The former one is a drama for television with six parts. Compared to the movie, it has the advantage to show the original novel with visual without skipping, compression and reorganizing because it has plenty of time. However, the point that it was targeted on domestic people may have affected the making process. On the other hand, the movie has a restriction on time and is targeted on the world. I wish to research how these kinds of differences affect two visual materials.

Relationship Between Literature and Film

Literary Film

Since the history of film begun at the end of 19th century, the literature, especially novels, provided most important sources to movies. As a result, the history of literary film is sharing the flow with the history of movies. Early literary film has begun with the film makers’ respect on the writers and desire of artistic achievement to adapt the canons or classic novels to visual films. So they tried reproduce the detail of contents and plots and scenes as accurately as they can. It means that the intention to convert the letter elements of novels to visual element of films was the core of film making. However, after sometime, the development of film production technique brought progressive possibilities of diversification and innovation of film industry. Moreover, the continued supply of television, development of video, revolution of computer and film industry with huge capital made to search the possibility of visualization on everything. And the film started to find its own artistic value. As a result, the film deviated from dependent position on literature that simply convert the original texts to visual materials, and tried to secure the position as a creative art form.

The history of the literary films is begun with the film with the thirteen scenes of the bible in 1897 by Lumière brothers. In the early 20th century, some novels and plays such as Cinderella (1900), Gulliver’s Travels (1902), Robinson Crusoe (1902), The Damnation of Faust (1904) and Frankenstein (1905) were produced as films. However, these early stage films were premodern works which handling 10 minutes short episodes not like contemporary movies with more than one hour long story. We can count David Wark Griffith as the first director who developed the film from preclassic stage to classic by popularizing the aesthetic and technical changes of films (Corrigan 1999, 19). He reproduced a Walt Whitman’s poem Leaves of Grass and an Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Enoch Arden as films in 1911. And he produced short episodes of reels like Perils of Paurine as a melodrama film with longer story in 1913. His works contributed to develop 10 minutes of short reel preclassical film to more than one hour long classical film. As a result, films also searched a possibility as storytelling media like novels.

The first heyday of literary film is from 1930s to 1940s (Corrigan 1999, 35). Many film makers appeared as the film techniques are developed, and started to find sources from literature naturally. There were no acute discussions on the relationship between literature and film. In those days, people shared the thinking that the book is better than the movie. However, the discussions on interpreting of literature on films and relationship between them raised up by Hamlet starred Laurence Oliveier in 1948. After that, Throne of Blood by Akira Kurosawa, the adapted work of Macbeth, was praised from film communities and the films being treated on equal position with literature when they discuss the values and meanings of them (Corrigan 1999, 3).

From the end of 1970s, the classic novels being reproduced by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, the relationship between literature and film got more serious (Brownstein 2001, 16). Ivory who enjoyed some dramas by BBC wished to produce films with visual aesthetics like United Kingdom. In 1979, start with Europeans of Henry James, They produced films mainly with Henry James and E. M. Foster’s novels until the early of 1990s. The feature of Merchant-Ivory is, as shows in Howards End, seeking for the poetic visual aesthetic by cast intellectual, good looking actress like Emma Thomson as a heroine with a background of majestic mansion. The scenes of the film was featured with gardens and forest with full bloom of flowers, beautiful green nature, antique mansions and beautiful country houses, elegant manners and relationships of the upper classes, and elegant British accents. The film of this genre played important role to be independent as an art piece not only with strong plotline but also with beautiful visual aesthetics. Brownstein’s claim, ‘Merchant-Ivory stakes a claim for Film as Art by making classy films of Classic novels’ (Brownstein 2001, 16), tells this film genre is being accepted as an independent art work deviated from the shade of literature.

According to Corrigan, massive social impact, the aesthetic development of film art, shifts in cultural literacy were in the background of the argument that the literature based film is an art (Corrigan 1999, 3). In other words, film was developed as an art piece because the way to appreciate literature through films spread out to the public by growth as a hobby to them. Also, through the development of film art, aesthetic achievement was made to meet the audiences’ imagination by developing of the film technique. Corrigan is analyzing the reasons of the visualization works of classic novels and literary canons were so active in three ways.

As a reaction against contemporary filmmaking trends to diminish traditional plot and character

As a conservative or at least therapeutic turn from cultural complexity

As a reflection of contemporary film audiences and their increasing concern with manner over matter. (Corrigan 1999, 72)

From 1970s, blockbusters, action movies, animated movies disparaged the value of narrative which the literary film had. Kung Fu movies, Rambo (1989), Natural Born Killer (1994), Spider Man and so on show the dynamic action scenes with weakened story rather than consistency, complexity, compact of plots. In this kind of movies, a character who delivers surficial image become a main character rather than a character with depth of logical or complex philosophy. Compare to the superficial and provocative action movies, the literary films approached refreshingly with strong narrative and plot (Corrigan 1999, 72). There was a desire of appreciating both films and literatures which have traditions and culture. It means that the discussion of eliteness and popularity has begun.

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The modern audiences who prefer the literary film wished to find contents and characters which satisfying nostalgia of the age of romance, adventure and social order from the works with background of not too distant past. The people who experienced the flood of individualism, rapid changes of society, violence and globalization in the complex real world wanted to appreciate relief from peaceful, simple and beautiful time and places. This attraction of literary romantic world, not too distant past, provided the shelter from complicated mental world of modern people. Corrigan called this satisfaction as ‘the high concept of images of great literature’ (Corrigan 1999, 73).

Meanwhile, Troost and Greenfield insist that the development of visual technology, supply of television and video, played most important role in arriving of a literary films’ heyday in the late of 20th century (Troost 2001, 2). In this period, most screened movies were recorded as videos and newly produced movies being sold as videos as soon as after it screened. Before the video player was supplied, watching movies was only possible in some theaters or televisions. However, the dissemination gave freedom to appreciate visual materials when they want for the modern people. They are possible to watch movies they like by lower price without restriction of time and places. As it became easier, watching movie became important hobby to the public. To satisfy the demand and desire of film population, movie makers produced many kinds of films such as violent, sexual, documentary films include literary film.

As the movies getting popular, film industry had to find new materials and the canons were the easiest material to find. It was possible to jump on the popularity that the literary canons already had. The public increased the commercial success of the movies as they wanted to see how well the stories and characters of the novels have visualized. Also, artistic intends to share their respects to the writers and favorite novels in visual spectacles, the trend and approachableness of watching movie were the other elements to bring the heyday of literary films.

Corrigan is counts two things, plot and diverse viewpoint, as elements of reproduction from novels to films. It means that novel’s plot which is lead by psychology of characters that make actions with cause and effect, and diverse viewpoint of narratives which organize occasions with more than one viewpoint are work as elements which make movies more interesting (Corrigan 1999, 37). He gives Gone with the Wind and example because this novel provides many approaching points such as a viewpoint which describes a person’s destiny changed by historical events, victory from obstacles and tragedy which Rhett and Scarlett face, and so on. On the other words, the novel provides many possibilities which let scenario writers reinterpret and reconstruct the viewpoints of the novel with their own eyes and a point of view.

Even the novel provided a one of the main basis, the history of relationship between them walked with both of coexistence and harmony, opposition and conflict. Bluestone defined the relationship of novel and movie as ‘overtly compatible, secretly hostile’ (Bluestone 1957, 2). And Corrigan explained that their history is the history of duplicity, conflict and interdependence (Corrigan 1999, 1). These opinions of two critics tell the point that both film and literature developed to inseparable relation through the process of conflict, coexistence and complementariness.

The fear of replacing literature to visual images is already begun from the middle of 18th century, before films (Corrigan 1999, 9). The conflict between text media and visual media begun from effort to experiment of visual image as an expression method – under a supposition that the visual images could be a communication method – and a development of scientific tools like kaleidoscope. Various inventions and amusements brought discussions about a position of literature. William Wordsworth felt hatred from the trend of visual culture. He claimed that protect the traditional literature from visual media while he separate literary people and amused public. However, William Blake released the contents of his poems, Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience and Jerusalem in woodblock. These kinds of argument were a prelude of major argument of the end of 19th century with appearance of films (Corrigan 199, 9-10).

This particular period in Western history is an especially rich prelude to the cultural, aesthetic, and political issues that would appear full-blown by the end of the nineteenth century. Writers, artists, scientists, philosophers, and entrepreneurs raised questions early that remain unresolved often in the context of the relationship of literary culture and a new culture of images, about high culture versus popular culture, active reading versus passive fascination, individual sense versus mob sensibility, creative expression versus mechanical reproduction, words versus images as pedagogical tools, and realistic pictures of history versus literary descriptions. (Corrigan 1999, 10)

The discussion about a relationship between literature and film started from 1930s, when the film industry begun in earnest. In 1932, Thomas Mann said that he despises movies but also he loves it when the movie based on his novel The Magic Mountain failed to success. It shows the ambiguous and compatible stance of the writers of the time (Corrigan 1999, 1).

As films develop, research on the movie based on literature focused how the contents of novels are faithfully adapted into visual images. So analysis and assessment how literature reproduced to visual materials were main work of criticism on movies. The early film critics who considered visual materials as a transform of literature discussed films with fidelity of adaptation which is asking how the dramas or the movies are realistic and faithful to the original texts. Critics and writers who are claim the superiority of literature insisted sacrosanctity of the original texts and they thought that movies are vulgar public art than literature. They raised the paucity of mere looking of movies which lost the depth of literature and they thought the movies plagiarize literature. For example, Virginia Woolf expressed the fear that movies would destruct plots of novels and would diminish them with her complaint on adaptation of movies from literary texts (Brownstein 2001, 16).

The conflictual stance of literature to films is coming from the limitation of the films. It thought that the films are destruction of original works because of skip and compression cause by time constraint and technical problems which bring lack of description of the delicacy, complexity and the world of imagination. Roger Gard considered that correlation of inner and outer side cannot be delivered in films because ‘Pictures can tell only of the surface of things’ (Macdonald 2003, 10). Also, he claims that appreciating movies is just ‘mere looking’ so it forgotten easily and movies cannot describe delicacy, psychological details, irony and so on. Moreover, he insists that movies cannot be an alternative of novels because of incompetence of camera.

The crucial difficulty lies in this camera’s inability to discriminate easily and swiftly within a given appearance. Because of this, the adaption of subtler effects is very hard to achieve. Moreover, the possible advantages of a camera-enforced objectivity are duly paid for by the difficulties of establishing a particular point of view. The camera has no narrative voice. (Macdonald 2003, 10)

However, as the science and film skills developing, the movie apologists started to insist the excellence of films. Gaylene Preston insist that the process of watching movie is not mere looking but the process of comprehensive thinking, and the movies can do many things than texts.

Professor Gard speaks of ‘the paucity of mere looking,’ the fact that even vivid film shots may inhabit the memory only temporarily, Certainly, films can be limited in scope and intensity, just as novels can be. However, the process of seeing a projected image (as opposed to the self-created image projected in the theater of the mind) need not be dismissed with ‘mere.’ The carefully wrought images created by artists over the centuries inhabit the memory of every student of European art, and meet and surpass all Professor Gard’s tests of subtlety, wit, irony, and so on. True, some filmmakers scant the visual in favor of plot and dialogue, but not Ang Lee, or Douglas McGrant, whose lushly shot Emma makes the décor speak louder than words. Some directors are famously painterly, drawing as much inspiration from the picture gallery as from the reading room. (Macdonald 2003, 14)

The critics who are agree with this opinion counts the point that the reader’s imagination cannot overcome their world of past experiences. In the world of imagination of the readers, there is limitation because readers imagine with what they saw and what the heard in the past. However, the imagination world that movie provides a piece of work with science, skills and huge money. Even places and time could be regulated but the world which movies show is not narrow or limited. Various pictorial elements, music, costume, act of characters and so on can overcome the limited inner side of the individual.

Recent film critics counts immediacy of storytelling through actor’s action, costumes, music, backgrounds and stage setting, and strong sense of time and places as strong point of movie. It means that audience may interest on the contents and storytelling, but may appreciate the value of movie with the each element. Actually, music is playing as an important role in movies.

The two genres share the elements of characters, narration, and language, but these are revealed or expressed in different ways. The most important ways in which film differs from the novel lie in the additional elements of pictures and sound. The filmmakers may reveal theme and character and move the action forward by means other than language. A good director will find a way to make the visual image convey the ideas implicit in the story. Usually, the visual image conveys many ideas at once — contained in the expressions on the faces of the actors, in their wearing apparel, in the setting where they are seen, in the use of light, and in the editing of visual images. …The choice of music is also important, as well as the way it is integrated into the film, except in musicals, is best when least obtrusive. If this is true, it is no wonder that many viewers are unaware of the way music creates mood and reinforces, or undercuts, the visual images in a film. (Parrill 2002, 10)

Some film criticism thinks the movies as a result of independent artistic activities from literary text. Separated from literary text, it focuses on how well they got the fertility and creativity from original works. Successful literary film is making an inventive movie by reinterpreting and using original works. Literature text work as culture soil for film makers to produce their own films, and the created movies being born as an independent art piece with its own vitality, moreover it puts richness to the original work.


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