Throughout the semester, we have been exposed to some pretty good, pretty bad, and pretty ugly film adaptations of novels and plays. One week, we would be shown a fairly decent adaptation like Pygmalion, directed in 1938 by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard and based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, and the next, something truly horrid, such as the Jane Fonda version of A Doll's House, directed in 1973 by Joseph Losey. If I were to adapt a piece of literature to film, the film I would use as the best example of a book/play-to-film adaptation would be A Streetcar Named Desire, directed in 1951 by Elia Kazan and based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play.
There are many aspects to A Streetcar Named Desire that make it the memorable classic that it is. One of the most impressive aspects to Streetcar is that it managed to keep the same tone as Tennessee Williams' play and even fit into the Hay's Code. The Hay's Code prevented the film from presenting the homosexual undertones that were present in the play along with some violence. Any film that can manage to keep the original author's message and tone while having to follow a set of limiting rules is truly inspirational and can be learned from.
Another aspect to Streetcar that I would use would be the fun that the actors seemed to be having in their roles. The acting was not the most realistic; but it was believable; and, most importantly, it was fun to watch them act. The acting was also extremely well balanced. All of the actors would sometimes act humorously while at other times they would also be serious. They found a happy medium that is really hard to reach. Sometimes, actors and actresses play their characters too comically, and some play their characters too seriously. This film found a happy medium at which there was humor, and there was still depth.
The film that I would do my best to avoid using any aspects of in my film whatsoever would be, of course, the Jane Fonda version of A Doll's House. What she did to that film would be the equivalent to what George Lucas eventually did to the Star Wars saga. A Doll's House became pretty much just a vehicle for Jane Fonda to strut around in as the new Star Wars films have become excuses to throw as many special effects on the screen as possible. Both only cared about attracting an audience, and both ended up doing what they set out to do, but neither have aged well. The original Star Wars trilogy will always be a groundbreaking, good film series that will be remembered fifty years down the road, but Episodes I, II, and even III will, I hope, be forgotten by all. The same goes for A Doll's House. I hope that no one will remember the film, but everyone will remember Jane Fonda.
A movie that we did not view that I would use many aspects from adapting the book or play to film would be that of A Clockwork Orange. The book is a mighty fine piece of literature, but the 1971 film adaptation, while fairly faithful to the book, is at least 500 times more disturbing. Stanley Kubrick did an excellent job in conveying the mood that Burgess conveyed in his book. Personally, I am not a fan of the graphic depictions of sex and violence found in the film, but it is hard to deny that it is a great adaptation of a so-so book. While the book may not be considered quite the classic, the movie is, without a doubt, one of Kubrick's greatest and probably even one of the greatest ever made. Like A Streetcar Named Desire, the film adaptation manages to convey the same tone as the original source material and is also considered to be a classic.
While I am not sure which work of literature I would like to adapt to film, I do know that I would look closely at the aspects of the adaptations of A Streetcar Named Desire and A Clockwork Orange. Both of these films still hold up against today's cinema and stand the test of time. If I were ever given the chance to make a film, I would hope that it would hold up at least half as well as these two films have over the years. But as long as it did not turn out to be like Jane Fonda's version of A Doll's House, I would be happy.