Reading Film (Fall 2011)

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Diagramming Difference , Assignment 1

September 19th, 2011 by martinvukaj · 1 Comment · 1 Diagramming Difference


Martin Vukaj


Assignment #1



Diagramming Difference


Good morning fellow peers and teachers! Fellow countrymen, lend me thy ear. The topic of adding a film class associated with literature has been a highly debated one on campus. Many deem that film itself, is a literature in its own right while others see it as purely an entertainment art, with no deeper meaning contained in it. I’m not here today to preach whether or not to have a film class, only to present logical ideas so that you can ultimately make a decision.

Literature has been around the world for thousands of years now. One of the earliest forms of media, written literature has presented itself over the years and brought countless works of art into the world. Pieces such as Hamlet, Macbeth, Lord of the Flies, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, merely just a few to name some of the famous ones. I’ve picked these works for a reason. They have interesting characteristics, being that all of them have either been adapted to play or movie. Film and literature share many similarities. Both media arouse emotion which cannot be found by any other way. Some works of literature are written in such detail that readers actually empathize with the characters in the novel they’re reading, such as Lord of the Flies. I know many people felt sad and sorrow when they cross upon Piggy being killed, and that emotion was released through literature. Now although the movie representation of Lord of the Flies wasn’t the best adaptation of literature to film, it still got main points across contained in the novel. The emotions that one feels are purely opinion though. Some may watch a movie adaptation, i.e Harry Potter, and say that those films don’t capture the pure details and don’t excite emotions found in the literature, while others argue that the movie’s are great adaptations from the novels.

People that argue that novels don’t make good film adaptations have a valid argument. They’re have been many noticeable flops in the movie industry, trying to take giant literature masterpieces and turning them into film, most notable are Hamlet, Macbeth and The Great Gatsby in my opinion. Fans of all these works argue that their film counterparts are just horrible. I remember watching a Hamlet adaptation with Mel Gibson in it and I was thinking to myself, what a horrible work. It didn’t have the miniscule details that I enjoyed when I read it. Details themselves, are what many people argue when comparing film and literature. People say that the film didn’t quite catch the essence of the novel, that the little details weren’t represented on screen. The Great Gatsby, one of the greatest American works of literature was adapted to film in the early 70s and again in 2000. Many found the 1974 version to be the best one, but still argued that the pure flamboyance, and swagger of Gatsby could not be reciprocated on screen. In Andre Bazin’s academic essay, “Adaptation, or the Cinema as Digest,” he argues that films do not need to be strictly adapted from novel to film, in fact he calls those that do so, hard-liners. Bazin says that adaptation is the art in the directors eyes and how he sees the novel to him which can’t possibly adhere to every single persons point of view of the novel.

The structure to film and literature are also very important and is a similarity between

the two media as well. In Gordon Harvey’s “Elements of the Academic Essay,” his sixth bullet is structure. He presents structure as the “sequence of main events or sub-topics and the turning points between them.” This is a perfect definition of structure for films and literature. Almost every work of film progresses in a logical, timely order unless of course it was made by Eisenstein. And in novels the theory is the same as well. The structure of film and literature is so important and its due to the fact so that readers and film viewers can coherently understand the plot and context within it. If films and novels were placed out of time order, how would we know which event was to happen first. Structure presents a huge factor in the case of literature v.s film.

The style and artistic elements also play a large part in film and literature. Many novels are written in such a manner which cannot be reproduced on screen. The most glaring example is Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. His personal style and how he wrote would be extremely hard to reproduce as a film. Many would argue that his style and persona couldn’t be adapted. His sarcasm used in the novel couldn’t be expressed as narrative in film. But there are also film elements that just couldn’t be expressed as words. For example, in a scary movie, with the killer approaching the woman, he was getting closer and closer. Written down, the emotion doesn’t jump out at you like a scary movie, but in film, the presence of the killer and the eerie music to let you know he was approaching would create an emotion not felt in literature. Although the stylistic and creativity elements are often combined, in film and literature they represent qualities that cannot be duplicated.

Stylistic elements in film could be the quality of an actors acting ability, or the directors style in which he guides the film, and in literature authors have their own tendencies and personal flairs in which they use. Hemingway often wrote stories with a relation to him, like The Sun Also Rises, Jake Barnes is a war veteran and Hemingway was also a war veteran.

The obvious difference between the two medias is that film is a visual art whilst literature is a writing art. Within the visual aspect, as I alluded to before, the viewer can see things that really can’t be explained in writing. There was a scene in a indie movie in which the director wanted to display the main actor being mad without using words. The director had the actor use a facial expression, and start working on carpentry. The camera went to a close up shot on the actors hands and had him hammer away at nails in a very aggressive manner. Just by this, I could tell that the actor was mad in his situation. A scene like this could not be duplicated in literature, and scenes in literature vice versa.

The object here is not to prefer film over literature or literature over film. Both of these medias obtain aspects in which are special to their field. Films present a visual medium to where viewers can watch and relate to the situations on screen. Literature presents readers with the ability to read such great works with details to the minuscule scope. Who says that literature and film can’t exist in harmony? Or should they?

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Kevin L. Ferguson

    Hi Martin,

    I like that you really took the assignment at face value and wrote as if you were actually talking to real people. In doing so, you make good use of what Harvey calls STANCE (and STYLE). Naturally, you won’t always take the same stance with every audience, but I think it works here because you are informative (as in the fourth sentence) without being too pretentious or know-it-all (as with the humor of quoting from Julius Caesar and saying you won’t “preach”).

    You also establish a clear MOTIVE in the third sentence (the debate). I was hoping to see that strong sense of motive continue throughout the essay, but it sort of drops out through the middle. When revising, is there a way that the sense of motive can be made more a part of the essay? At least to continue giving a sense of the importance of this topic?

    Doing that might help with another aspect you can strengthen in revision–STRUCTURE. Notice how the first sentence of your fourth and fifth paragraphs. Both are “and” type sentences (you use the word “also”). If you remember what Harvey says about having a logical, but “progressive” order, you might see how these paragraphs’ beginnings would detract from the sense of complication or direction you want to convey. By paragraph 6 (the short one), I wonder if there is a logic to your structure–why is this paragraph here, how does it relate to what came before and contribute to what will follow? Likewise, you start the seventh paragraph by saying how it’s subject is “obvious”–if that’s so, maybe you should do the “obvious” stuff early in the writing, so you can build to more complication (unless, of course, you’re saying that it only seems obvious, but is really complex). Your last paragraph would then have a real purpose–not just to realist what you’ve said, but to conclude with the new development you’ve uncovered for readers through your writing.

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