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Creative Cinematic Influence, Or a Great Influence

         If I were to make a film based on a literary masterpiece, it would be Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. The book is similar to The Innocents, Jack Clayton's 1961 film adaptation Henry James's 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, as both are interesting, well-written, mystery thrillers that give off a creepy feeling of unease, but Wilde's story is so good one cannot stop reading. I believe this magnum opus should be honored in all types of entertainment media, such as film. To create a successful film adaptation of such a novel, I believe a director must refer back to the classics that also have been on the silver screen. The director must study these films and study the formulas and techniques that are used in adapting literature to film so that he or she can utilize these techniques in his or her own work. The motion pictures that I would study would be Jack Clayton's The Innocents, William Wyler's Wuthering Heights (1939), and Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).

         For Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, I would want the appearance of rugged realism so that the streets are dirty, the outburst of emotion is barbaric, and sanity is pushed to its limits and beyond. The best cinematic literary adaptation I would study for such visual effects and atmosphere is Kazan's Streetcar, based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play. All the elements that are listed above are in this film and literary work. Williams' play is written to capture the raw, rugged feel of real life, and Kazan honors Williams' work by visually harnessing the play's gritty realism. He shows the house that Stanley (Marlon Brando) and Stella (Kim Hunter) live in as a rundown, poor, almost dirty apartment loft. He also shows how abusive Stanley and Stella's relationship is through Brando's method acting. He shows the barbaric, unrefined part of life that is very much a part of the real world. To have such realism, the story becomes a whole lot more interesting, and the audience identifies with, and develops an emotional attachment to, the main characters. To have an emotional attachment is to have complete attention and acceptance from a viewer.

         I would creative cinematography in my film to heighten the characters' emotions and to give the film that feeling of unease. The film I would study for such a technique and for great emotional impact is William Wyler's Wuthering Heights, based on Emily Brontë's 1847 novel. The cinematographer in William Wyler's Wuthering Heights is the great legend Gregg Toland. Before Toland pictorially created the most talked-about, number-one AFI film, Citizen Kane (1941), directed by Orson Welles, Toland experimented with his original "deep focus" technique in Wuthering Heights. He used the power of depth and angles to help give the audience a better feel of characters' emotions and positions of supremacy. This is used many times when viewing the power of Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) over Hindley (Hugh Williams) or Catherine (Merle Oberon), where the camera is slightly below the character, shooting up and giving a more powerful effect than the actor alone exhibits. These advanced angles are now considered basic cinematography, but are still applicable to modern techniques. The study of his cinematography gives one the ability to make an emotion or feeling more or less powerful or important to a story, which is important for creating an emotional roller coaster ride in a great story.

         The last, but not least, element I would want in my film would be to utilize symbolic imagery to create a dark psychological effect, almost like film noir. One literary film that utilizes such a technique is The Innocents. The film not only uses eerie, lingering darkness to suggest insanity while Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) and the audience try to figure out if the ghosts are real and possessing the children (Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin), or if Miss Giddens is simply mad. To achieve this effect, Clayton uses imagery, such as the close-up of Flora watching a spider eating a butterfly or an insect crawling out of a garden angel's mouth. This technique is very important in creating an entertaining and efficient thriller.

         In creating my film version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, I must have an effective output of emotion, visuals, and realism. And to achieve this, I must study, learn, and master the techniques of the classic film creators that precede me.

Shanah Zigler

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