Fantastic Mr. Fox

Analysis of the Book:

Published in 1970, Fantastic Mr. Fox was Roald Dahl’s third children’s illustrated short story in which a family of foxes tries to outwit and escape from farmers who are trying to eradicate them. The almost child-like illustrations of Quentin Blake match Dahl’s sharp, precise literary style extremely well. As in many of his stories, Dahl’s fable is a cautionary tale of adulthood.

 

Analysis of the Film:

Wes Anderson, a leader of the current independent film movement, adapted Dahl’s short story into a feature-length film in 2009. His stop-motion animated adaptation was widely praised, earning two academy awards. Although Anderson expanded on the ending, he remained largely faithful to Dahl’s cruel depiction of the natural world.

 

Analysis of the Adaptation:

Critics found the stop-motion animation style to suit the adaptation of Dahl’s work wonderfully, instilling nostalgia in the audience and matching the quirkiness of the storyline and its blunt tone. However, Anderson chose to give the animals, who are portrayed as the ‘good guys,’ American accents while the evil farmers have British accents. Although this subtlety is common in American films, critics were skeptical about its incorporation in this adaptation given that Dahl is British.

 

Online Research:

 

Critical Analysis:

How does the film compare/contrast with Richard Linklater’s animated film A Scanner Darkly, in terms of animation style? It’s been argued that Linklater’s rotoscoping was oddly appropriate to the literary source (Philip K. Dick’s book). Is the same true of Fantastic Mr. Fox‘s animation style (stop-motion)?

Just like Linklater’s use of rotoscoping in his adaptation of A Scanner Darkly, the stop-motion animation of Fantastic Mr. Fox was appropriate for the themes and tone of this narrative. Its jerky movements matched the eccentricities of the story well and invoked a sense of nostalgia in the audience, bringing them back to their childhood when they most likely read Dahl’s work. In addition, the stop-motion created a light, carefree atmosphere which was appropriately ironic to a narrative that, upon close examination, is actually quite terrifying.

A Scanner Darkly

Analysis of the Book:

Published in 1977, Philip Dick’s A Scanner Darkly provides insight into the drug scene of the 1970’s as well as society’s surveillance paranoia. His story is somewhat biographical due to his own struggles with drugs and focuses on the blurred line between delusion and reality. This hazed reality is exemplified in the futuristic ‘scramble suit’ that the undercover cops wear to protect their identities. The protagonist, Bob Arctor, is an undercover cop living with users of the drug ‘Substance D.’ Using his struggles, Dick comments on both the potential dangers of drugs as well as the corrupted manner in which the government has approached their war on drugs.

 

Analysis of the Film:

Richard Linklater adapted Dick’s novel to film in 2006, updating his theme of the battle between government and drugs to a modern audience. The problems of the American drug culture as well as government surveillance has only grown since A Scanner Darkly was published and Linklater captures this well. The movie was filmed using an animation technology called ‘rotoscoping.’ This animation style, which many critics have found appropriate for the adaptation, create very fluid visuals, making everything seem like it is constantly moving and reshaping. Aside from showing the world in the way that a drug user might perceive it, this visual effect also highlights the theme of ‘delusion versus reality’ because nothing appears to be entirely real.

 

Analysis of the Adaptation:

A Scanner Darkly is widely considered to be the best of the adaptations of Dick’s body of work, capturing the underlying critique of the paradox of the drug war well. The primary concern in adaptting this novel to film was the extreme importance of narrative voice in the original narrative. The inability of the film medium to expose characters’ thoughts and interior monologues makes it difficult to adapt a book that is so heavily reliant on its characters’ impaired identities and hazed perceptions of their own realities. However, Linklater compensates with powerful visual details and occasional voice-overs that do not seem out of place.

 

Online Research:

  • A Scanner Darkly:
    This article tackles numerous aspects of A Scanner Darkly, primarily focusing on how the film techniques that were used shed light on the underlying themes of the original novel. She particularly investigates the theme of surveillance as well as the use of rotoscopy. In addition to the fluidity of this animation technique, which draws the audience into the realm of addiction and paranoia, the animation allows for an incredibly elaborate ‘scramble suit,’ bringing attention to its importance in both the original novel and film adaptation. The “vague blur” that characters become within this suit is representative of the inner struggles that they are having with their own personal identity as a result of the drugs and paranoia of surveillance.
    http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=507
  • Robert Tilendis – A Scanner Darkly:
    Tilendis examines the themes that Linklater is able to extract from the original novel such as surveillance and the “shifting interfaces between self and other.”
    http://www.greenmanreview.com/film/film_scannerdarkly_omni.html
  • A Scanner Darkly Interview:
    Australia’s public broadcaster ABC interviews A Scanner Darkly’s director (Richard Linklater) and actors Keanu Reeves and Rober Downey Jr., uncovering interesting similiarities and differences in what attracted them to the project.
    http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1789033.htm

 

Critical Analysis:

Although A Scanner Darkly is clearly a commentary on drug culture and our government’s efforts to suppress it, Dick does not seem to take a strong stance on either side. Rather than being solely an anti-drug or anti-government parable, he is commenting on the paradox between them that we have created. While he explicitly shows the detrimental effects of Substance D and drugs in general, Dick also exposes the dystopia that has been erected as a result of the government’s attempts to control its people.

Adaptation Paper (Watchmen): Turning Masked Heroes into Super Heroes

Discussion of the Literary Work:

Alan Moore is regarded as one of the pioneers of the graphic novel genre and literary medium. In collaboration with illustrator Dave Gibbons, DC Comics published Moore’s Watchmen in a limited series of twelve issues over the years of 1986 and 1987. At the time, comics were viewed as childish forms of entertainment. However, Moore and other innovative authors adapted this medium for an adult audience, exposing the underlying literary credibility of comic books. In popularizing the graphic novel medium, Watchmen helped to open up a new world of literature and earned a Hugo Award as well as a spot on Time Magazine’s Top 100 English novels published since 1923.

Although featuring a story surrounding costumed heroes, the very aspect that the world of literature condemns in the comic book medium, Watchmen is a sardonic investigation of the life, psychological conflicts, and emotional struggles of these characters rather than a display of conventional heroics. Alan Moore sets his novel in 1986; an alternative history of the Cold War in which Nixon is still President of the United States and masked vigilantes exist. Outlawed by popular demand in the 1980’s, the group of vigilante “watchmen” sense a renewed call to action as the US and USSR near nuclear warfare and thus the destruction of humanity. Their group of vigilantes consists of numerous members with varying specialties and degrees of power, but the most notable of the group is Jon Osterman. As a result of a radiation accident, Osterman (more commonly known as Dr. Manhattan) essentially becomes an indestructible superhuman and develops an entirely new perception of space and time. As he puts it: “We’re all puppets… I’m just a puppet who can see the strings.” (Moore)

The complexity of Watchmen is as much engrained in its narrative as it is in the graphic novel medium itself. Alan Moore is notorious for his hatred of Hollywood convention and the overlap between blockbuster films and comics. Given the box office success of superhero movies, Moore believes that many comic publishers are sacrificing their integrity by becoming storyboards for future films. As a result, Moore deliberately uses a range of innovative techniques to not only enhance his own work, but also to protect it from Hollywood contamination. For example, the way in which panels are sequenced and the space in between them play an extremely important role in Watchmen. In his graphic novel Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud refers to this space as a gutter. As a result of these gutters, comics are much more interactive than the film medium which dictates plot points and character development to the viewer. Because readers can progress at their own pace and their eyes have the freedom to wander, the organization of panels is crucial to the graphic novel and allow readers to make their own inferences. Thus, comics utilize subtle suggestion to drive the reader’s imagination as opposed to the over-explanation and linear nature of film.

Another unique aspect of Watchmen is the random newspaper articles, letters, diary entries, and other tidbits that Moore inserts at the end of each chapter. Although they do not fit into the primary narrative, these articles provide powerful insight into the past of the watchmen group as well as each individual character. Such techniques, which flow seamlessly in the graphic novel format, contribute to the ‘unfilmable’ label that has been placed on Watchmen.

 

Discussion of the Film:

Due its reputation of being an unfilmable story and its large, cult-like fan base, the decision to translate Watchmen to the film medium was met with much apprehension. However, understanding the intricacies of the work, director Zack Snyder committed to remaining entirely faithful to the original. Although critics generally agree that Snyder accomplished this goal as well as he possibly could, the film still omits, condenses, and even alters so much of the original work that much of its genius does not shine through.

This is embodied in the altered ending. In the original narrative, Veidt choreographs the explosion of a giant, squid-like creature on New York City, killing half the city’s population but leading the world’s superpowers to declare peace in order to turn on a common threat. However, in Snyder’s adaptation, Veidt organizes nuclear detonations in multiple major cities across the globe using Dr. Manhattan’s energy signature. Although establishing a different enemy than the original, this still leads the US and USSR to desert nuclear warfare with each other to protect themselves against the perceived threat of a common threat. There has been much speculation about Snyder’s decision to alter the ending. Bob Rehak hypothesizes that, given the events of 9/11, Snyder may have wanted to de-emphasize New York City as ground zero (Rehak). However, most agree that a giant squid falling on the city was simply too far-fetched for the big screen and an audience composed largely of viewers who have not read the graphic novel. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, crucial aspects of the story had to be modified to suit the motivations and backgrounds that would lead to such a different conclusion.

 

Discussion of the Adaptation:

Despite Snyder’s attempts to remain entirely faithful to Moore and Gibbons’ original work, many of the literary techniques described in the first section of this paper are nearly impossible to translate to the film medium. Therefore, Snyder is forced to compensate using methods that thrive in film. This is most clearly demonstrated in Snyder’s use of violent action scenes. The hyper-violence that plagues the entirety of the film is established in the very first scene, in which the Comedian is brutally murdered in an incredibly gory fight. While violence was a prominent aspect of the Watchmen graphic novel, Moore does not rely on it in the same way that Snyder does to formulate plot. In what has been criticized for selling out to Hollywood convention in order to increase viewership and profits, Snyder turns the complex, ‘masked heroes’ into the ‘superheroes’ that Moore was originally mocking, condensing the vigilantes into one-dimensional characters. As Robinson writes, “It’s so easy, making superhero characters who casually take mere mortals apart with their bare hands. What’s hard is making them human.” This was embodied in the characters of Rorshach and Adrian Veidt. Rorschach is not nearly as psychotic or animalistic as he is portrayed in the film, but merely uses violence as a means to defend his principles. Similarly, Veidt is portrayed as the obvious villain in the film adaptation because his character does not develop as it does in the graphic novel. In the film, Veidt seems entirely assured of his sociopathic plan and the audience is more inclined to believe in his evil as a result of his violent fight sequences. However, in the novel, even after his plot succeeds, Veidt second-guesses himself. The reader can see that he is trying to do the right thing but is also clearly unsure: “Jon, wait, before you leave… I did the right thing, didn’t I? It all worked out in the end.” (Moore)

Despite the altered ending and the shortcomings that were expected in the adaptation, Snyder did succeed in remaining faithful to many aspects of the original work. Particularly in the visual respect, Snyder and his production team were able to display the same dark, depressed world that Gibbons created in Watchmen, capturing the sense of hopelessness well. Also, using extreme close-ups, the film adaptation was able to show the complex character emotions and troubles that defined the illustrations of the novel.

Finally, I found Snyder’s biggest success to be in his portrayal of the defining motif of the narrative: time. In the comics, as each issue/chapter was released, the symbolic Doomsday Clock continues to tick ever closer to midnight (representative of nuclear armageddon), establishing the theme of a determined fate. As a result of Dr. Manhattan’s radiation accident, however, he is granted a different conception of time which he describes as: “Time is simultaneous, an intricately structured jewel that humans insist on viewing one edge at a time, when the whole design is visible in every facet” (Moore). This altered conception of time is highlighted in Chapter 4, when Manhattan recounts his past in an entirely non-chronological order. Without following any sort of logical pattern, Moore and Gibbons cover decades of history in quick succession, utilizing seamless panel transition in the visual channel and juxtaposed narratives in the verbal channel, instilling a sense of atemporality in the reader. The film mirrors this excellently when flashing back into his past, doing so in the same chaotic, atemporal manner.

 

Works Cited:

Barnes, David. Time in the Gutter: Temporal Structures in Watchmen. KronoScope, Volume 9, 2009, pp. 51-60.

Carroll, Larry. ‘Watchmen’ Director Reveals Key Differences Between Graphic Novel, Film. MTV, 2009. http://www.mtv.com/news/1605765/watchmen-director-reveals-key-differences-between-graphic-novel-film/

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: William Morrow, 1994. Print.

Moore, Alan, and Dave Gibbons. Watchmen. New York: DC Comics Inc., 1987. Print.

Rehak, Bob. Adapting Watchmen after 9/11. Cinema Journal, Volume 51, Number 1, Fall 2011, pp. 154-159.

Robinson, Tasha. Book vs. Film: Watchmen. A.V. Club, 2009. http://www.avclub.com/articles/book-vs-film-watchmen,24746/

No Country for Old Men

Analysis of the Book:

Cormac McCarthy published No Country for Old Men in 2005, mixing the Western and thriller genres in his highly acclaimed novel. Through his unconventional writing style, McCarthy places protagonist Llewellyn Moss in the battle between freedom and fate – a theme that is present in many of McCarthy’s works. After stumbling across a large sum of drug money, Llewellyn is caught between psychopathic serial killer Anton Chigurh and Sheriff Bell, each of whom represent opposite sides of this deterministic spectrum.

 

Analysis of the Film:

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, the film adaptation of No Country for Old Men was highly acclaimed, winning 98 international film awards out of 144 nominations, four of which being Academy Awards. The Coen brothers strive to remain as faithful to the original novel as possible, following its action almost scene-for-scene, attempting to put on screen exactly what the text describes. Although this is a difficult way to adapt a novel and prone to criticism about small details, No Country for Old Men did an excellent job. This is exemplified in their depiction of the western landscape which sets an ominous tone for the rest of the film.

 

Analysis of the Adaptation:

Although it is widely agreed that the Coen brothers did an outstanding job remaining faithful to McCarthy’s original work, there are a few aspects of No Country for Old Men that are very difficult to translate to the film medium. The most important of these differences in the adaptation is the removal of many of Sheriff Bell’s monologues. In the novel, his inner thoughts not only clue the reader into many of the underlying themes of the book, but also establish the sheriff as a main character and the philosophical antithesis to Anton Chigurh. By cutting many of these ramblings out, the audience is deprived of his insights and view the sheriff as a secondary character, giving him much less importance than he deserves. Unfortunately, such monologues are hard to put on screen, simply because of their monotony and slow pace.

 

Online Research:

  • Joel and Ethan Coen Interview – No Country for Old Men:
    Collider interviews the Coen brothers to uncover the reasoning behind their decisions and their intents with different aspects of their film.
    http://collider.com/entertainment/interviews/article.asp/aid/6047/tcid/1
  • Jim Emerson – No Country for Old Men: Out in All that Dark:
    Emerson examines the impressive filming of landscape and nature in the Coen brothers’ adaptation of No Country for Old Men, linking some of the seemingly insignificant backdrops to central themes of the work.
    http://www.rogerebert.com/scanners/no-country-for-old-men-out-in-all-that-dark
  • No Country for Old Men – The Ending Explained:
    This article investigates the somewhat surprising ending of No Country for Old Men. The title “No Country for Old Men” derives from William Yeats’ poem ‘Sailing to the Byzantium,’ whose “central message was that in order to be happy in old age we should abandon the world’s more primal pleasures and turn to the spiritual and eternal instead.” With this in mind, we see how the tone changes in the conclusion of the film, trading the plot and thriller-style action for a more contemplative ending, as “the money fades into insignificance.”
    http://arbitrarynonsense.com/2012/08/08/no-country-for-old-men-ending-explanation/

 

Critical Analysis:

A common interpretation of McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men is that it is a commentary on determinism with its characters representing the different ends of the deterministic spectrum. Anton Chigurh portrays the extreme side of nihilism; Sheriff Bell depicts extreme freedom, and Llewellyn struggles to navigate the space in between. In particular, Chigurh is unmistakably nihilistic, finding all the principles that humans value as baseless, ultimately rendering life entirely random and thus meaningless. One of his most memorable quotes from the film emphasizes this point: “If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?” Interestingly, Chigurh also introduces an element of randomness in some of his killings, offering the decision to chance by flipping a coin.

American Splendor

Analysis of the Book:

Harvey Pekar and his line of comics entitled American Splendor were written and published during an era before this genre was respected within the literary community as it was reserved almost exclusively for superhero action stories. While maintaining the comic medium, Pekar decided to diverge from this trend by writing about the ordinary struggles of regular people, using himself as the protagonist. Pekar has become known as a complainer of epic proportions, providing an existential perspective on both his life and hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. His ability to bring an aspect of realism into the comic book world was revolutionary and possibly earns him a spot as one of the founding members of the underground, independent comic scene. Although he did not do the illustrations himself, his material was based on his own observations, activities, and thoughts. His writing style somewhat mirrors ‘stream-of-consciousness,’ allowing him to truly expose his character’s thoughts and emotions.

 

Analysis of the Film:

In 2003, Shari Berman and Robert Pulcini directed the film adaptation of American Splendor which won a total of 28 film awards, the most prestigious of which being the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Their adaptation transcends multiple genres of film including comedy, drama, documentary, and animation. In fact, the film features three completely distinct versions of the Harvey Pekar character: a comic representation, Paul Giamatti playing Pekar, and finally Harvey Pekar himself. Because of this kind of self-reflection, this hybrid film is quite post-modern in execution, which is fitting for a protagonist who is similarly self-critical.

 

Analysis of the Adaptation:

Berman and Pulcini’s adaptation of Harvey Pekar and American Splendor was well received by film critcs, who particularly reveled at their clever use of comic-style animation. Without overpowering the plot, these techniques made the narrative seem like a comic book coming to life on screen. Although the adaptation was not faithful in the conventional sense of telling the exact same story, the film was particularly adept at capturing the thematic essence of the Pekar’s comics and his own character. Being an independent film, American Splendor mirrored the realism that Pekar pioneered in his comics. In addition, because Pekar did not illustrate his own stories, the visual representation of his character differed between issues. Therefore, by using the three different depictions of Pekar in the film, American Splendor was able to not only match the postmodern, self-reflective nature of the original work, but also pay tribute to the way in which his character may be perceived differently depending on representation.

 

Online Research:

  • Harvey Pekar, the American anti-hero who led a comic-book revolution:
    This article more closely examines Harvey Pekar’s life as a comic writer. Especially popular amongst the underground world of comics, Pekar sought to defy mainstream convention both in life and through his work. The term ‘graphic novel’ and the acceptance of this art form is fairly recent, but Pekar is seen as one of the pioneers of this genre. Despite the fact that the medium was overrun with unrealistic, superhero comics, Pekar sought to comment on everyday life through this medium with a realist and anti-confromist attitude.
    http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2010/jul/15/harvey-pekar-american-anti-hero
  • Film Review: American Splendor:
    Straying from the majority of reviews, Schager criticizes the American Splendor adaptation, claiming that people are only buying into the innovation of the movie rather than the substance. In his mind, Pekar as a character is simply not diverse enough to portray in this fashion.
    http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/american-splendor
  • Classic Review – American Splendor (2003):
    Jordan praises the adaptation, analyzing Pekar’s original themes and referring to the film as “a flawless example of character study.”
    http://jordanandeddie.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/classic-review-american-splendor-2003/

 

Critical Analysis:

Berman and Pulcini’s use of animation to mirror the look of a comic book was one of the most admired aspects of their film adaption of American Splendor. This begs the question: Why did they not use this animation for the entirety of the narrative? Personally, I found the subtle use of comic animation to be admirable, not the animation itself. The occasional prevalence of animation made the audience feel as if they were witnessing Pekar’s comic books coming to life, which is much more appealing than simply watching the comics on screen. This use of animation was intended as a postmodern reflection on the material that the film was adapting. If the entire film had been in that style, the animation would overpower the film and the meaning behind this technique would be lost.

Adaptation

Analysis of the Book:

Based on one of her New Yorker articles, Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief is an extremely well written example of creative nonfiction, which is a relatively new genre. This style allows for the author’s voice to be heard even while writing about nonfiction. The novel follows a loose narrative centered on John Laroche, a man of many intense passions who is currently interested in the highly lucrative ghost orchid flower. Rather than following a conventional narrative arc, The Orchid Thief is mainly comprised of tangential observations and keen insights into the world, driven by Laroche’s eccentricities.

 

Analysis of the Film:

Despite its explicit satire towards Hollywood culture, writer Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation is highly acclaimed in the world of cinema. In his innovative adaptation of Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, Kaufman inserts himself into the narrative, creating a very self-referential and post-modern film. With his invented twin brother Donald representing the Hollywood culture that stifles artistic filmmakers, Adaptation becomes less of an adaptation of The Orchid Thief, but rather the story behind the adaptation, focusing heavily on the themes of mutation and evolutionary adaptation. This combination produces the multi-layered play-on-words in the title. Ultimately, this film is a satirical commentary on the filmmaking industry, simultaneously using the devices that they are mocking.

 

Analysis of the Adaptation:

Despite its acclaim, some critics argue that Kaufman’s meta, self-aware Adaptation was a cop-out in adapting Orlean’s eloquent novel The Orchid Thief. Quite on the contrary, I found the movie to push boundaries rather than retreat from them. The overlapping plots and non-chronological digressions by the narrator remained faithful to Orlean’s original narrative voice, while using her substance to expose entirely new themes.

 

Online Research:

  • Rebecca Murray, Fred Topel – Director Spike Jonze and Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman Talk About “Adaptation”:
    Given the self-reflective nature of Adaptation, this interview with the director and writer/protagonist provides insight to the intentions of the film.
    http://movies.about.com/library/weekly/aaadaptationintb.htm
  • An Adaptation of Post-Modernism:
    By analyzing what the author considers to be the three primary relationships within the film, this article examines the title and theme of ‘adaptation’ and its importance to the meaning of the film. These three relationships are between Charlie and Donald Kaufman, Susan Orlean and John Laroche, and the relationship between the viewer and the film itself. Ultimately, the author finds all of these relationships to mirror each other in the sense that “every individual is essentially the same person, made different through adaptation,” yet they rely on each other’s specific eccentricities to survive.
    http://www.lukestay.com/film-analyses/adaptation
  • Peter Rainer – Celluloid Heroes:
    Rainer praises the film, focusing primarily on its originality and its ‘defeatist’ motif.
    http://nymag.com/nymetro/movies/reviews/n_8075/

 

Critical Analysis:

Many reviews were critical of the classic Hollywood, cliché-ridden ending of Adaptation, but I found it to be quite clever. Throughout the film, Charlie explicitly despises contemporary Hollywood culture, embodied by his twin brother Donald who writes a script for a thriller in a matter of weeks that becomes massively successful. This battle between Charlie’s ‘high art’ and Donald’s ‘low art’ persists throughout the entire film. Rather than a sellout, the film’s conclusion was a reflection on itself, as Charlie is forced to adapt to Hollywood convention in order to succeed, mirroring the primary themes of the play (mutation and adaptation). In fact, Robert McKee advocates this point and foreshadows the conclusion when talking to Charlie by saying: “Wow them in the end – you’ve got a hit.”

The Hours

Analysis of the Book:
Paying homage to renowned British author Virginia Woolf and her novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925), Michael Cunningham’s The Hours won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. The novel somewhat incorporates Woolf into her own story, weaving three narratives from three different time periods in history into one plot. These three narratives concentrate on three women: Woolf, who is writing the pre-determined novel of Mrs. Dalloway in the 1920’s, Laura Brown in the 1950’s, and Clarissa Vaughan in the 1980’s. Given the distinct time periods, each of these women are faced with different catalysts, but all suffer from feelings of depression, alienation, and are faced with disease and mental illness both internally and externally. Cunningham sought to modernize the stream-of-consciousness style of writing that Woolf pioneered in her original novel, making it more digestible to modern audiences while maintaining the distinct narrative voice that characterizes the genre.

 

Analysis of the Film:
The adaptation of The Hours, released in 2002 and starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep as the three protagonist women was highly acclaimed both in the film’s execution as well as its acting performances. Because of the stream-of-consciousness style of the narrative, adapting this story presented a daunting task. However, layering the three storylines on top of one another and transitioning seamlessly between them substituted this narrative voice well. In fact, the film was actually able to further emphasize the similarities between the three women through the film medium by using visual mirrors, such as the symbolic flowers. The movie was also able to employ many film techniques, such as the close-up shot, to visually capture emotion that can be even more powerful than words.

 

Analysis of the Adaptation:
Because of the stream-of-consciousness style of the original novel, the narrative voice is crucial to the story, an aspect of literature that often proves challenging for film adaptations. However, the film was able to replicate some of it through voice-overs and use visuals to compensate for the rest. In addition, the film moved seamlessly between the three women’s lives, adapting a similar progression as would exist in a stream-of-consciousness novel. Finally, while staying faithful to many of the themes in the original novel, the film was also able to modernize many others. For example, by taking Clarissa out of the 1980’s and into the new millennium, the adaptation updated the AIDS narrative to one that today’s generation can better relate to. When Cunningham was writing the original novel in the 1980’s, AIDS was a new epidemic that became an automatic death sentence to anyone who was diagnosed. Today, however, there exist a number of drugs which can help someone with this illness to manage the disease and continue living. Through Richard, the film does an excellent job of portraying the struggles of someone afflicted with this illness even as they are ‘living.’

 

Online Research:

  • Motifs of Feminism: Analytical Essay of The Hours:
    This article explores many of the themes of both the original novel as well as the film through a feminist lens, focusing heavily on the prevalence of suicide and depression.
    http://feelthefilms.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/motifs-of-feminism-analytical-essay-of-the-hours/
  • The Hours: A Review (from a psychological point of view):
    This analysis concentrates on the issues surrounding suicide in The Hours, relating them to the theme of alienation. The women in all three narratives struggle with similar feelings of alienation and mental illness yet cope with these issues in their own unique ways. The author is particularly intrigued by society’s attitude towards depression which make the struggles of the afflicted seem almost like selfish disturbances. However, the novel and film is adept at capturing the driving forces behind the desperation of depression and ultimately finds optimism in its conclusion, despite the tragedies incurred.
    http://168seconds.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/the-hours-a-review/
  • Oprah Talks to Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore:
    Oprah interviews the actors who play the three primary female characters in The Hours, investigating their personal connections to the film as well as their own interpretations.
    http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Oprah-Interviews-Meryl-Streep-Nicole-Kidman-and-Julianne-Moore

Critical Analysis:
Although all three narratives occur over the course of only one day, this does not confine the story at all. In fact, the stream-of-consciousness style of both of the original novels as well as the film adaptation suits these time boundaries nicely. By minimizing the events and time lapse, the inner thoughts of each of the characters are magnified and can be examined more closely. In addition, because the novel and film are trying to tell three separate stories, excess action would overflow the content of the story and appear superficial. Instead, the overlapping storylines and the frequent and almost unnoticeable transitions mask the condensed time periods.

Sherlock Holmes

Analysis of the Book:

Rather than being tied to any singular book, Sherlock Holmes has emerged as one of the most recognizable characters in literature. First appearing in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study of Scarlet in 1887, the British detective has since been the protagonist of countless novels, fan fiction, films, and other media, transcending numerous eras of history. As a result, the original character has been modified and adapted so frequently that its true essence has become somewhat convoluted. However, in almost every representation, his unparalleled methods of deduction, proficiency with gadgets and martial arts, and his witty banter lead him to solve the unsolvable mysteries of the world.

 

Analysis of the Film:

In 2009, director Guy Ritchie became one of many artists to attempt a Sherlock Holmes mystery narrative. His action-packed, Hollywood blockbuster has seen mixed reviews. Starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson, the detective duo is faced with solving an elaborate mystery of epic proportions. Combined with the almost excessively violent fight scenes that Ritchie has become known for, this adaptation injects a new level of energy into the traditional Sherlock Holmes narrative. However, Ritchie keeps the setting in Victorian England, capturing the gloomy, ominous setting of industrial London in awesome fashion.

 

Analysis of the Adaptation:

Because the Sherlock Holmes character has been modified and adapted so many times over the years, the detective has changed drastically since its inception. Much of today’s audience envisions the recently popularized conception of Holmes as a tall, slender man who is witty, sophisticated, and wears a checkered deerstalker hat. Therefore, Ritchie’s portrayal of the character, which was darker, emotionally torn, and much more violent, appeared to be an entirely new and different interpretation. However, many of these ‘new’ aspects were in fact much more faithful to the original charcter, who struggled with narctoics and moral dillemmas. In my opinion, this Holmes has much more depth; his emotional flaws and arrogance creater a more complete character. This holds true for Watson as well, whose character has also been misconstrued after thousands of adaptations. Rather than the more recently popularized old man who is always flabbergasted by Holmes’ discoveries, Jude Law’s character is faithful to Doyle’s young, intelligent doctor who is a sidekick to Holmes and not just a hindrance. Overall, Ritchie was able to create a detective duo comprobable to Doyle’s original conception while incorporating exciting fight sequences without turning Holmes into too much of an action super-hero.

 

Online Research:

  • Trevor Gentry-Birnbaum – How Faithful is Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes to Arthur Conan Doyle?:
    This article evaluates the adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes character from multiple angles and ultimately grades each aspect.
    http://whatculture.com/film/how-faithful-is-guy-ritchies-sherlock-holmes-to-arthur-conan-doyle.php
  • Steve Weintraub – Director Guy Ritchie Exclusive Interview Sherlock Holmes:
    Collider’s interview with director Guy Ritchie sheds light on many of his intentions and expectations for his film; insights that are otherwise unattainable.
    http://collider.com/director-guy-ritchie-exclusive-interview-sherlock-holmes/
  • Torsten Reitz – Sherlock Holmes, Then and Now: A Comparative Analysis:
    Reitz comments on the evolution of the character of Sherlock Holmes since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original portrayal, ultimately finding it to be a faithful adaptation in many respects. He particularly admires the gloomy aesthetic of the film as well as Downey Jr.’s interpretation of the role. His eccentricities and believable struggles with alcohol and other ethical dilemmas stay true to the complicated and often misguided morals of the original detective. Although the narrative pace is admittedly faster than Doyle’s original mysteries, Reitz found the violent action scenes to be Doyle’s original character than many of the movie’s critics gave them credit for. Similarly, Watson, who has been cast as an old, incompetent hindrance in many contemporary renderings, is depicted as the more apt sidekick that he was in Doyle’s novels, restoring the character’s depth.
    http://www.themovingarts.com/sherlock-holmes-then-and-now-a-comparative-analysis/

 

Critical Analysis:

Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction, the aesthetic of this adaptation of Sherlock Holmes was perfect for a representation of London during the Victorian era. Almost every setting was clouded in a dark, gloomy environment, casting the audience into the industrial city that London was at the time. This ominous tone allowed the edgy, darker side of Holmes to thrive, bolstering Robert Downey Jr.’s performance and ultimately making the character more believable. In tandem with the post-modern approach to the film, the production team create a world that is suited for Ritchie’s interpretation of Sherlock Holmes and one in which he can thrive.

Film Treatment: Catcher in the Rye

1.) Concept:

J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye is one of the most popularized bildungsroman novels to ever be published. Because it is a coming-of-age novel, it has been appreciated by a new generation of adolescents for decades.

Holden Caulfield is a sophomore at a northeastern liberal arts college, but the movie begins as he is reading his letter of expulsion. Although Holden has faced a series of academic shortcomings throughout his life, it is evident that he is quite intelligent. However, his somewhat traumatic youth has led him to create an apathetic exterior shell in order to conceal what he perceives as inner weakness. By the time the narrative begins, he has already developed a cynicism towards growing up that any adolescent can relate to on a fundamental level.

After being expelled, 19 year old Holden takes the train back to his hometown of New York City, but decides to delay confronting his parents about the expulsion. In the meantime, he roams around the more deserted areas of the city, making every decision on a whim but being sure to avoid the crowds of ‘phony’ tourists. Consumed by booze and apathy, Holden tries to find meaning in this transitional period of his life by rekindling old romances, visiting acquaintances, and engaging in the stereotypical debauchery of a college student. However, Holden is underwhelmed by the entire affair and quick to criticize those around him.

Ultimately, the plot line is almost inconsequential to the heart of the film. Rather, it is the select few relationships and memories that Holden holds dear that influence his character’s development. In the original novel, Holden narrates the story himself, providing the reader with insight into these personal thoughts and emotions. In fact, the story is littered with Holden’s musings and tangential observations. However, film narrators often hinder the fluidity of the story. Therefore, in the film adaptation, the importance of these narrations will be captured through flashbacks. Not only does this allow the audience to better understand Holden’s inner emotions without the need for a narrator, but they provide an opportunity to visually portray characters such as Jane Gallagher or his younger brother Allie. Jane never actually appears in novel and Allie died three years before Holden’s expulsion, but these characters have a stronger influence on Holden’s character than almost anyone that he actually encounters during his adventures.

 

2.) Characters:

  • Holden Caulfield:
    Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of the film, is a 19 year old boy who was just expelled from college. He delays revealing his expulsion to his parents while he soul-searches in New York City. As he reluctantly transitions from a somewhat traumatic childhood to adulthood, Holden creates a tough exterior to compensate for his sensitive and somewhat self-conscious interior, like many adolescents. However, his individuality and inability to maintain close relationships forces him to deal with these issues alone and his discomfort with the reality of his own weaknesses leads him to identify and criticize them externally. Driven by a high level of intelligence, Holden develops a deeply rooted judgmental cynicism that, in tandem with his impulsive emotions, keeps him constantly on the verge of emotional collapse. Ironically, he criticizes the rampant hypocrisy that he sees around him while he is being hypocritical.
  • Phoebe Caulfield:
    Despite being six years younger than Holden, Phoebe is the strongest influence on his decisions in the film and their relationship is the most important of the novel. Extremely intelligent and mature for her age, Phoebe actually criticizes many of Holden’s immature qualities, but does so with a childish innocence that Holden longs for.
  • Jane Gallagher:
    Although Jane never physically appears in the narrative, her presence is strongly felt. After spending a summer as her neighbor, Holden develops a strong affinity for Jane; her appearance as well as character.
  • Allie Caulfield:
    Allie (Holden’s younger brother) dies of leukemia three years before Holden’s expulsion. Therefore, we are only introduced to his character through Holden’s personal memories. Ultimately, his perception of Allie’s character is the only which truly matters. To Holden, Allie is a model child – easily the smartest of the family and extremely friendly. The idea of his death and the loss of someone as genuine as Allie haunts Holden and is symbolized in Allie’s baseball glove; one of the very few things that Holden carries throughout the novel.

 

3.) Themes:

  • Alienation:
    Alienation is a common theme among bildungsroman novels because it is a common emotion among adolescents during the transition from childhood and adulthood. For Holden, he sees childhood as a comfortable place of innocence and adulthood as a foreign, superficial hypocrisy. As a result, he deliberately alienates himself from both sides of the adolescent line, seeing himself as too mature for childhood but anxious of adulthood. As a result, his cynicism, designed to protect him from hurt, only invites loneliness.
  • Sex/Relationships:
    Holden’s fear of intimacy is a subsidiary of the greater theme of isolation/alienation. Like many adolescents, his relationships with others are complicated and, although Holden encounters multiple opportunities for both emotional and/or physical relationships, he avoids them. Sex and concrete relationships are only one more step towards the ‘phony’ adulthood that he is putting off for as long as possible.
  • Death:
    The looming shadow of death haunts Holden throughout the narrative. This is emphasized by Holden’s close relationship with his younger brother Allie, who died three years before the beginning of the narrative. Holden desperately wants time to stand still, fearing change. Thus, the inevitability of death represents the impossibility of this desire.

 

4.) Locations:

  • College:
    In order to create this modern ‘phony’ world that Holden perceives, his college environment will be the stereotype of a small, intellectual liberal arts college in the northeast. Thus, Holden will be surrounded by highbrow peers who are knowledgeable yet snobby and embody the phony adulthood that infuriates him.
  • Family Apartment:
    The Caulfield family lives in an apartment building on the upper-east side of Manhattan. While not excessively lavish, it is clear from the appearance of the building and the interior furniture that his parents have done well for themselves but do not necessarily flaunt it.
  • Various Bars:
    Although underage, Holden frequents numerous bars during his time in New York City. These locations will be dirty, dimly-lit dive bars that not only visually represent the rut that he is in, but also are the only places where he can be served underage, further emphasizing his alienation from the adult world.
  • Central Park Duck Pond:
    As one of the most iconic locations of the original novel, the duck pond which has been deserted over winter embodies the transitional period of Holden’s life between childhood and adulthood. His inquiries into where the ducks go during winter is symbolic of his uncertainty about his own future and the landscape must emphasize this. On the verge of winter, the pond should be desolate and surrounded by trees that are losing their leaves, setting the ominous tone of winter.

 

5.) Action Scene:

Holden and Phoebe are sitting on a weathered bench, staring at the nearby carousel as it revolves over and over again. The song “Smoke in Your Eyes” plays ominously in the background while Phoebe still refuses to speak to Holden. Finally, he convinces her to take some money and ride the carousel, but adamantly refuses to join her. Eagerly, Phoebe races towards the practically empty carousel and picks out a worn, brown horse. As she rejoices on the ride and waves emphatically at Holden, he sits pensively. After the ride finishes, Phoebe returns joyfully to Holden, her childlike innocence making it impossible for her to continue holding her grudge. Holden hands Phoebe some more money. As she gets up to take another ride, it begins to drizzle. Phoebe notices a few raindrops, turns around, reaches into Holden’s coat pocket, and pulls out Holden’s red baseball cap. She places it on Holden’s head, arranges it nicely, kisses him on the cheek, and then hastily sprints off to catch the ride. After carefully selecting the same, run-down carousel horse, Phoebe goes around and around in pure, childish bliss. As Holden watches and admires her, it begins to rain much more heavily. The few parents of other children scatter for shelter, but Holden does not move a muscle. As he intently watches Phoebe enjoying herself, Holden breaks his solemnity and slowly begins to grin. Despite the rain, his eyes are clearly watering beneath his hat and a few, emotion-filled tears drip down his face. As the ride ends and Phoebe returns, Holden wipes his face before Phoebe can see, but the smile remains. Holden grabs Phoebe’s hand and they walk into the sunset, presumably back home.

 

6.) Dialogue Scene:

Holden: “Phoebe… Phoebe…”

Phoebe: “Holden! When did you get home?!”

H: “Not so goddamn loud… How are you?”

P: “Mom said you wouldn’t be home until Wednesday?”

H: “Shh… Quiet down, you’re being loud as hell… I got out early.”

P: “Stop swearing and stop lying! You got expelled again didn’t you?! Dad’s gonna kill you…”

H: “No, no. I just finished early. C’mon Phoebe don’t ignore me… That school was full of phonies. Just a bunch of snobby rich kids trying to one-up each other with their intelligence. The teachers too… Everyone is on a high horse and think that they are so much better than the rest of the world. Plus, everybody keeps saying that this is going to be the best time of my life. I sure hope not. How does anyone even know, I haven’t had the rest of my life yet. Anyways it’s really depressing.”

P: “…Dad’s gonna kill you…”

H: “C’mon I just didn’t like it. I left early by choice. They didn’t kick me out…”

P: “I know they did Holden! It’s not like this is the first time this has happened… You always complain about everything!”

H: “I do not.”

P: “Do so. Name one thing you really like.”

H: “Well, I like….”

H: “…I can’t really think of anything right now because I’m tired but of course I like a lot of stuff.”

P: “You can’t name one thing!”

H: “… Fine… Allie.”

P: “Allie’s dead!!”

H: “Alright I’m sorry Phoebe but you put me on the spot. I can still really like him even though he’s dead, right? You don’t stop liking someone just because they died, do you?”

P: “You know that still doesn’t count… Okay, what do you want to be in the future? A doctor? A lawyer like Dad?”

H: “Yeah I guess those are alright, you know, if you’re in it for the right reasons. Like it would be great to save lives or defend innocent people for stuff they didn’t do, but… You know, all those people are just in it for the money and the lifestyle so that they can tell everyone else that they have some fancy job. I don’t know, maybe I…”

H: “Was that the door? Shh… I got to go Phoebe, I’ll see you soon.”

P: “What, why? I knew you got expelled…”

H: “Don’t tell Mom and Dad I was here, okay? I’ll be back soon.”

 

7.) Pitch:

J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye is one of the few remaining American literary classics that has not yet been adapted to the film medium. Ranked as America’s 13th most controversial book by the American Library Association, this work deserve a fresh interpretation. Although originally set in the 1950’s, the themes of alienation and relationships within this coming-of-age tale are timeless. Therefore, I am proposing to take the protagonist Holden out of the 1950’s and into the modern world. This will appeal to the current adolescent crowd and mold Salinger’s original themes around more contemporary issues. Given its historic popularity, the movie will already attract older viewers, while the modern setting will entice a young adult demographic. In addition, with the popular explosion of reality TV, Internet, and social media, the world has only become more ‘phony’ (as Holden would describe it) since the 1950’s.

In the modern adaptation, Holden’s character will also be a few years older than in the original novel for two primary reasons. First, the drinking age is now 21 in the United States and it needs to be believable that Holden would be frequenting bars. Secondly, due to the way our society has developed, a 16 year old today is not at the same crossroads as a 16 year old in the 1950’s. Instead, a college student today is closer to the point in life that Holden was struggling with.

The primary deterrent in the making this film is the narrative voice with which the original novel is written. The importance of Holden’s time in NY is not in the actual events but in his contemplation; how he perceives and interprets those events. Unfortunately, narration can be very difficult to capture adequately in the film medium. Therefore, flashbacks will fill this void. The utilization of flashbacks provide an opportunity to visually represent characters such as Allie Caulfield or Jane Gallagher that otherwise would not make it on the screen. Because of their strong influence on Holden’s character and decisions, the stories that are behind that need to be shown.

Bride and Prejudice

Analysis of the Book:
Published in 1813, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a satirical portrayal of the mannerisms and culture of late 18th Century England, has become one of the most popular novels of its time. Focusing on the Bennett family of five daughters, Austen explores the marriage politics of the era which required that women marry men of high social and economic status to ensure a satisfactory future for themselves. Although emerging during the era of literary romanticism and sometimes criticized for the patriarchal environment in which her characters are set, many believe that Austen actually intended to use her novel as a satirical commentary on the practices of the time by exposing these themes of class and gender. This was a particularly significant time for such a novel to emerge; elite families with land were desperately trying to maintain their elevated status despite the spreading of progressive ideologies being facilitated by the French Revolution. By developing characters that were deeply entrenched in this system, Austen appears to be making strong remarks on the rampant political conservatism among this class at the time.

Analysis of the Film:
Often criticized as a commercially-oriented director, British-Indian Gurinder Chadha adapted Austen’s Pride and Prejudice­ into a modern film entitled Bride and Prejudice, set primarily in rural India. Although it is accused of rampant clichés and low production value, Chadha is able to provide commentary on many important contemporary issues, the most evident of which being economic globalization. Lalita voices this explicitly when she criticizes Darcy, who represents the neo-imperialist West, of trying to turn India into a “theme park.” The character of Kholi also embodies the flip-side of that situation, epitomizing the Indian diaspora by which the country is losing its people to the prospects of greener pastures in Europe or the USA. Despite these attempts to modernize many of Austen’s original themes, I ultimately found Chadha’s film sacrificing much of the potential for these messages for ‘feel-good’ Bollywood theatrics.

Analysis of the Adaptation:
When adapting a novel into film, a director can choose one of two basic approaches. The first is to attempt to create an objectively faithful and accurate re-telling of the original novel with an identical setting and characters, but through a different medium. However, with a novel as widely acclaimed as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, audiences and critics are often very skeptical and quick to criticize even the most minor of flaws in such an adaptation. However, in her film entitled Bride and Prejudice, Chadha chose to take the alternative route by adapting the narrative and characters to an entirely different environment. Interestingly, I found the characters and general plot line of Austen’s original novel Pride and Prejudice to be believable even when set in a modern, rural Indian setting. Although Austen’s predominant themes of gender and class are not the driving force of the movie as in the original novel, Chadha updates these themes to apply to contemporary issues that the characters would actually be facing, such as economic globalization. Thus, issues of gender and class transform into those of culture and economic status, which, while slightly different, develop the plot in similar fashions. This is particularly evident in Kohli’s cliché quote “No life without wife,” which is then emphasized in song. This almost perfectly mimics the famous first line of the original novel: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Online Research:

  • Suchitra Mathur – From British “Pride” to Indian “Bride”:
    Primarily discussing how we should classify Chadha’s adaptation, this article investigates “the implications of yoking together a canonical British text with Indian popular culture” and the extent to which the themes in Austen’s original novel were transferred into the Bollywood film culture. Through the commentary on economic globalization (or neo-colonialism), Mathur finds that the themes and inter-character relationships within Austen’s original novel mesh neatly in the modern Indian environment of Chadha’s adaption, particularly as a result of the similarities in power dynamics.
    http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0705/06-mathur.php
  • ‘Bride and Prejudice is not a K3G’:
    This source is a direct transcript of an interview with Britsh-Indian director Gurinder Chadha and thus provides insight into her intentions with the film as well as the personal experiences that helped her shape it.
    http://in.rediff.com/movies/2004/aug/30finter.htm
  • Laura Boyle – Bride and Prejudice: Bollywood’s Pride and Prejudice Extravaganza:
    Boyle’s article, although seeming like a bit of an advertisement for the film rather than an analysis, evaluates the overall adaptation of the original novel, particularly in discussing whether the respective characters were faithful to their original counterparts.
    http://www.janeausten.co.uk/bride-and-prejudice-bollywoods-pride-and-prejudice-extravaganza/

Critical Argument:

Although making clear attempts at conveying messages about neo-imperialism and economic globalization, Gurinder Chadha’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice sacrificed aspects of the critical issues that it was trying to present in favor of Bollywood theatrics and entertainment designed solely to attract viewers. For example, the overriding theme of the movie is embodied in Lalita’s criticism of Darcy trying to “turn India into a theme park.” However, in the first choreographed song/dance in Amritsar, as well as many others, Chadha highlights and almost glorifies the idea of treating India as a ‘themepark.’ Everyone is wearing extremely colorful outfits and engaging in outrageous theatrics that not only did not flow with the pace of the film, but also detract from its fundamental themes. While this is not intended as an attack on the Bollywood-style of film-making, it simply did not seem to be the right fit for this adaptation.