Thursday, October 25, 2012

The New Language of the Cinema

David Mitchell's reaction to having Cloud Atlas adapted into film:
"None of the major changes the film made to my novel “threw me off” in the sense of sticking in my craw. I think that the changes are licensed by the spirit of the novel, and avoid traffic congestion in the film’s flow. Any adaptation is a translation, and there is such a thing as an unreadably faithful translation; and I believe a degree of reinterpretation for the new language may be not only inevitable but desirable. In the German edition of my last novel, my translator Volker Oldenburg rendered a rhyming panoramic tableau by rescripting the items in order to make it rhyme in German too. He judged that rhythm mattered more than the exact items in the tableau, and it was the right call. Similarly, when the Wachowskis and Tykwer judged that in a translation (into film) of “Cloud Atlas” Zachry’s and Meronym’s future needs more certitude, then I trusted them to make the right call. They want to avoid melodrama and pap and cliché as much as I do, but a film’s payoff works differently to a novel’s payoff, and the unwritten contract between author and reader differs somewhat to the unwritten contract between filmmaker and viewer. Adaptations gloss over these differences at their peril."
It's interesting that, in general, authors appear to give movie directors benevolent license to do whatever they have to do in order to make it work the big screen. Only occasionally do you hear of big disagreements like Stephen King's dislike of Kubrick's version of The Shining. It's very different than the typical reaction of the reader, who often intensely dislike having the pictures in their mind overwhelmed by the overpowering images of a movie.

Originally posted on Reading, Running and Red Sox

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