Reading Film (Fall 2011)

a qwriting blog for ENG 110

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My response to Bazin’s “Adaption”

September 7th, 2011 by Kaitlin Stevens · No Comments · ¶4 Bazin

“The book is better than the movie.” A line I’m sure we’ve all heard before, which in many cases probably reigns true. In many other cases, however, I’m sure other people would beg to differ. It’s really all a matter of opinion and perspective. From Bazin’s perspective, film adaptions generally do not quite do the original books justice. In Bazin’s opinion, adapting your original work to a movie is basically equivalent to selling your soul.

Though Bazin is undoubtedly right in certain situations, it is unfair for him to generalize most adaptations as inferior. Of course, in a film adaptation, certain specific details from the book will be overlooked, and to the avid reader, this is usually an automatic deal-breaker. But in today’s media-run world, how many avid readers are really left? To be fair, Bazin’s Adaptation was written decades ago, before the world was driven by the media and technology, so in his day and age, it’s likely he had more supporting his viewpoint.

In the sixth paragraph, Bazin argues that the problem with adaptation is that the audience is too focused on the radio, and that the radio is not an art form like the cinema, but a means of  reproduction and transmission. Personally, I disagree. Although it’s true that the radio was mostly used for news broadcasts and other purposes besides playing popular music, I believe that it is an art form of its own, which in a way, is relatable to literature, because like books, there is no picture – except for the one you are imagining while reading, or in this case, listening.

Which brings me to another point – film adaptations can prove to be very rewarding to someone who is more focused on aesthetics. If you are like me, when reading  a book, you have a mental picture of what you believe everything you are reading about looks like based off descriptions. When you watch a movie based off that book, you get to see what everything and everyone actually looks like, and it’s exciting, at least in my opinion. However, this can also be frustrating if the casting and other visual aspects of the film just don’t feel right, so here is a place where I can agree with Bazin, when he states that certain authors sell themselves short when it comes to adapting their works to film. If the author isn’t involved enough in the movie-making process, there is a good chance that it won’t be as close to the book as most readers would want it to be.

Overall, I would say that Bazin made very good arguments in his essay, but times have changed, and so has forms of entertainment and art. Nowadays, it is rare if a book doesn’t get turned in to a movie. In fact, I would even argue that most popular movies these days are based of books, which is why I think they are so popular – because all the prospective viewers have  background information on the movies and more of a motive to want to see them. I personally don’t believe that films butcher novels, in fact I find that they often make them better, speaking from a perspective of someone who is a big fan of aesthetics. I’m almost certain if Bazin were around to see how adaptations have evolved today, he would have a different viewpoint as well. It’s really all a matter of perspective.

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