Adaptation or Adoption ?

     Throughout the many novels and plays we have read, their adaptation to film has varied from a smooth transition to a varied form of change and alteration. Each of the films we have seen has varied in its amounts of alteration, while all have seen some minor changes in their transition from novel and/or play to film. Considering aspects such as plot, character, theme, and tone, I will devote the rest of this essay to the changes from novel and/or play to that of film.

     First, The Turn of the Screw (1898), by Henry James, when compared to The Innocents (1961), directed by Jack Clayton, both leave a great deal of doubt in the mind of the reader and the viewer. Using the essay "The Innocents versus The Turn of the Screw: The Children," by Anna Bagyleva, from the Montage '95, I strongly agree that the film adaptation of this book only added to the doubt and the confusion in my mind. In the adaptation of this novella to film, the greatest amount of change was a result of the tone of madness, evil, and confusion portrayed in the plot and theme. Alteration of character was also a major point of alteration in that the novella portrayed Miles and Flora to be unfortunate victims of the evil forces. In contrast to this childish innocence, however, the movie portrays both Flora (Pamela Franklin) and Miles (Martin to be surprisingly cruel. In the movie they were guilty of so many little evil things to prove that they were truly lost. Thus, in the end their devilish souls resulted in a mass confusion and craziness which took over the movie.

     Second, A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) by Tennessee Williams, when compared to the 1951 screen version of this play, directed by Elia Kazan, can best be described as an adaptation that truly adopted the characters. Using Brian Gray's essay "Stanley Kowalski or Marlon Brando" from the Montage '95, I strongly agree that choice of character and tone are the two greatest changes in this play's adaptation to film. Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski stole the show through his use of primitive mannerisms and rough charm. While reading this play, I felt the role of Stanley seems to be nothing more than a non-feeling, beast of a human being. However, through Brando's casting of this part the greatest change of character takes place with a man in which the viewer is constantly fascinated, despite his temper and other inner faults.

     Third, when comparing Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House to that of the 1879 screen version directed by Joseph Losey and starring Jane Fonda as Nora, I found the greatest amount of adaptation can be seen in character and tone. Throughout the written version of this play, Nora plays the role of an overly subservient wife, while not truly demeaning her own self. Throughout this play, she played her role dutifully, while yet not making herself out to be a pitiful creature. Using Richard Wilson's essay "An Argument Against Marriage" from the Montage '95 as a basis however, I could see that Nora, played by Jane Fonda, became a wretched little puppet playing at the game of marriage. Playing right into Torvald's hands, she allowed herself to be treated as a pitiful creative unable to care or even think for herself. She played the part of a fool well. Thus, the degradation of Nora's character appears to be greatest transition of this play to film.

     In closing, through the adaptation process of the literary works we have read to that of film, I have determined most of the changes have been a direct result of character portrayal. However, as can be easily seen, this result of change in adaptation or adoption in character portrayal can either make or break a movie.

Krysta Ernstberger

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