Film and Literature: Adaptation


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Rethink Film Adaptation: It's not a one sided story.

". . . Rethink adaptation, not as an exercise in comparative textual analysis of individual books and their screen versions, but as a material phenomenon produced by a system of institutional interests and actors. "-Simone Murray

Alot of the times when viewers of film and readers of literature watch the combination of the two mediums on film they either come out with a sense of content and fullfillment or they come out with a sense of disgust and disapointment. Why is that, what causes one of the two reactions?
The reason for people's determined but weak stance in favor or against the film is because their focus was on one thing. That one thing is, "Was that movie faithful enough to the book." This is a reasonable question to make, especially when the film adaptation is one of your favorite books. The viewer wants to see that their novel, short story, or what ever piece of literature it is, that they have built a relationship with, is not butchered by the artistic views of the film producers. This is a ligitmate evaluation of adaptation. However, it is not enough and leaves the argument and insight into the film weak. There is so much more to the adaptation of novels into film.
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"We need to get away from the aesthetic (good vs. bad; pretty vs. ugly) evaluation of adaptation and begin to understand it sociologically (culturally)." -Simone Murray
From the idea that film is not all about good, bad, or nicely done, we need to think about what is the driving force behind the adaptation of novels into film.
To start, it is not all the films fault for the adaptation. More times than not, it can probably be proven, more people turn on the film producers for their endeavors to adapt the book. The blame or inspiration tends to fall on their shoulders, instead of falling on the shoulders of the film producers and the publishers of the piece of literature. It takes two to make a piece of published (owned) literature into film (the literatures secondary owner). According to Simone Murray's artical on the matter, literature is not the victim in film adaptations, rather the the two sources are partners in helping eachother stay alive in the mainstream.

It's All about the Benjamins

When thinking about film and literature's realtionship one needs to understand the substance that keeps it alive. That substance is MONEY. Both businesses are capable of making huge economic strides when they do business together. The movie business profits from investing in a book that already has a huge ban of followers, and the publishing company profits from selling the rights of the book to the film producers. It's a win-win situation, no one loses accept possibly the the viewers of the film if they hate it. But, that is what brings the art of adaptation even more purpose to be studied. Films are not done for the pure art of it or purely because there is a group of followers of the novel that want to see the literary piece reproduced into a different medium.
No, it is because there is money to be made, and there is even more money to be made when the adaptation can reach out and interest those who have read the literature and those who have not read the literary piece. Something important to remember is that, ". . . literature is not adapted and produced by artists or Hollywood moguls in isolation, but rather by companies with significant resources as part of an extended process and in consideration of certain economic, social, and artistic factors" (Kyle Dawson Edwards) There are ulterior motives, and there is no innosence in any business whose main purpose is to entertain, including literature (novels, short stories, etc.). Money is the route to all of our entertainment, and it is the driving force behind the creative nature of those who produce. They will most likely produce a product that is enjoyable and irrestiable to the masses.

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The Substance Behind Harry Potter, I am Legend, and The Hunger Games:

harry_potter.jpgThese movies that are listed are ones that have come from books that are well known, and have a well known group of followers of all ages. Having an audience that is expanded across different ages, is an element that film producers look for when going to adapt a book to film. It is logical, the more people that the film industry can depend on coming to view the film then the more earnings they can expect to receive. To be able to gain film rights on a well known book like Harry Potter equals enormous success economically for the film production company that bought the rights and for the publishers of the book. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" (the book) had "11 million copies sold during the first 24 hours in three markets alone" (The New York Times; 2007) Also, J.K. Rowling will be worth more in the years to come, but is presently worth approximately $1.12 billion from all of the book deals, adevertisment deals, and movies deals that has been made with her work. The Harry Potter series has grossed $6,369,345,142, not including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows which grossed $476,000,000 in earnings. All of these figures were made possible, because of the film and book industries success of studying out the audience that followed the group and appealing to them and many more through film they were able to make a fortune.

The same will probably take place for the new film adaptation of Hunger Games. So far the novel has already sold 800,000 copies, has been translated into 26 different languages and rights have been sold to 38 different countries ( There is a solid following of the book, not as large as Harry Potter, but that could always increase with the release of the movie. The movie often times brings more people to buy the book, the two business definatley work well together in that respect as well.

When studying the relationship between film and liter it is important to spread the blame or the credit evenly, because they are in agreement with the idea to transform the literature. They both are getting paid either way, especially when it comes to popular novels.

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