Directors Overcoming Obstacles

         When a director decides to make a film based on a book and/or play, he/she has many obstacles to overcome. The problems involved in adapting a book and/or play to a film include casting, settings, portraying the intentions of the author of the novel or play, and costumes. Once these problems have been solved, the director will be successful in adapting a film from a book or play.

         One obstacle the director must conquer is casting the actors to be in the film. The choices made during this phase must be appropriate to the characters the author had in mind when writing the book or play. One example of this being done unsuccessfully is in the 1939 film, Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler. The casting of Merle Oberon as Catherine was inappropriate. She was portrayed as stubborn and opinionated in the 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights, by Emily BrontŽ. In the film, however, she was not as I had pictured. An example of appropriate casting by the director is the 1954 film, Los Abismos de Pasion, directed by Luis BuŮuel. Irasema Dilionís Catalina was more of the opinionated character I had imagined when reading the novel.

         Books and plays tell the reader what they need to know. This is difficult to incorporate into a film because the audience has no way of knowing what each actor is thinking unless there is a narrator. This can be overcome if the director casts appropriate actors and actresses for the film. This was successful in the 1961 film, The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton and based on Henry Jamesís 1898 The Turn of the Screw. Although it was never mentioned that the governess, Miss Giddens was mentally unstable, it was portrayed well by the actress, Deborah Kerr, cast to play this character.

         Another obstacle the director must defeat is in the making of the settings for the film. The settings should depict the description of the scenes from the novel or play. They should be appropriate and have aesthetic value. The settings should include both indoor and outdoor scenes and be realistic to the audience. The 1973 film, A Dollís House, directed by Joseph Losey and based on Henrik Ibsenís 1879 play, did not do a good job at making the scenery realistic. The scenes in this film looked fake and cheap. The 1961 film, The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton is an example of the setting being realistic. The film is supposed to have a mystery about it, which greatly represented by the scenery. The layout of the mansion is maze-like to the audience. It is also dark inside the mansion, adding to the element of mystery. The scenery outside the mansion is the opposite of that of the inside. The scenery outside is very realistic. The lighting is bright with wildlife and trees everywhere.

         The third problem the director must beat is portraying the intentions of the authors of the book and/or play. The point the author tried to make in the book or play has to be apparent in the film. Two films were successful at accomplishing this: The 1939 film, Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler, and the 1961 film, The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton. These films were effective at showing the intentions of the authors of the book and/or play through the adaptations of the films. Wuthering Heights was meant to be a tragic love story. This point was made clear in the film adaptation through the use of great actors. The Innocents was a mysterious ghost story made obvious to the audience by the use of lighting, music, and scenery.

         The fourth problem encountered by directors when adapting a film from a novel or play is choosing the costumes for the actors. One film jumps out at doing a great job at using costumes to relay the message the author was making when writing the novel or play: the 1964 film, My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor. At the beginning of the film, Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) is a poor flower girl. This is depicted through her clothing. She is wearing nothing more than rags. As the movie continues and Elisa starts going to gatherings to impress Higgins, she begins wearing elaborate dresses, flashy jewelry, and crowns. These were the types of costumes I imagined her wearing when I read the 1913 play, Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw.

         Overcoming complications when adapting a film from a novel and/or play can be very difficult. Some of these hurdles can include casting, settings, portraying the intentions of the author of the novel or play, and costumes. Once these barriers are removed, a director can successfully turn a novel or play into a film in which audiences will enjoy and appreciate.

Nichole Walker