Reading Film (Fall 2011)

a qwriting blog for ENG 110

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Response To Bazin

September 6th, 2011 by Denisha Bayley · 3 Comments · ¶4 Bazin

Reading “Adaptation, or the Cinema as Digest,” maybe tedious and confusing at first but after dissecting his thesis, figuring out Andre Bazin is trying to say is rather simple. Bazin is merely questioning whether or not adaptations of literature to film should be made. He starts his essay off by debating the integrity of adaptations and their purpose. However, a few pages on, Bazin begins come to terms with the justifications of adaptations. Bazin’s outlook on the subject by the end isn’t quite solid as before but he gives the reader a lot to think about. Should a book be adapted to film, even if the true meaning and emotion of the work would be compromised? Or is it justified, for the sake of bringing culture to the public?

Personally, I agree with Bazin’s stance at the beginning. What’s the purpose of translating a book onto screen if the film is not going to fully represent the work. Look at the clip shown in class,for example, where the classic tragedy of Hamlet was turned on its head and was made into a gun-toting Duke Nukem style parody. Although the clip as hilarious as it may be, would have lost a lot of context and angst that Shakespeare tried hard to convey in his work. As Bazin said in his thesis “If they are not so integrated, we naturally get theses mediocre films that one is right to condemn…..,” had that clip been made into a real movie it would’ve been mediocre at best. However, this is not to say that all adaptations of Hamlet would be mediocre. It is quite possible to produce an outstanding rendition of Hamlet, but in order to make such a movie, the film makers must maintain the full integrity the original work.

On the opposite end of the spectrum in Bazin’s debate on adaptation, is whether or not its okay to water down literature for cinema when its purpose is to bring culture to the masses. Bazin takes into consideration the film he saw Devil in the Flesh. Although the spirit and style of the book was betrayed according to him, he still felt that the adaption was the best that could be made for the public. He goes on to say that if the director had been more faithful to the original the film would have been impossible to show to the public being that the reality of the book would ignited the screen. That being said, if the director did in fact stay faithful to the book, i doubt the public, those who haven’t read the book,would have any interest to do so. I can also agree with Bazin on this. If they hadn’t made the adaptions of the Harry Potter series, I probably wouldn’t have picked up any of the books to read. Even though the movies didn’t contain every single thing from the books, it still conveyed a captivating story for me to what to know more about it.

So in the end, like Bazin I am unsure about on my stance when it comes to adaptations. I guess what it really comes down to is a matter of preference. Some people love cinematic adaptations and others rather the original written work. As long as the adaption doesn’t go completely against the author’s vision, there shouldn’t be a need for a debate.


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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Kevin L. Ferguson

    “the author’s vision”–this might be the key, mysterious idea. How do we know Shakespeare’s “vision”? We can only guess at it by reading his works, and there is even disagreement about what exactly he was trying to do (if you’ve read Hamlet–is he a coward, crazy, or just really crafty and waiting for the right moment?). This is also true of many disagreements about films–where one viewer loves a director’s vision while another viewer doesn’t get it. Maybe “adaptation” is kind of like reading, then–it’s a director/screenwriter reading and reinterpreting literature, just like is done in an English class?

  • Jeen Kim

    I liked how you brought up Bazin’s example of the Devil In The Flesh. It brings up a complicated predicament in which (if true) there seems no way out. It seems frustrating that if you adapt something you might lose original fans due to changes but if you don’t, nothing gets shared with the rest of the public.

  • nlobello824

    I liked your summary of the passage and I totally agree with your statement at the end when you described as long as the authors original ideas are not compromised.

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