From Words to Frames – Part III
In the first two parts of this short series, we tried to compare and contrast the nature of the language of words and the visual language. We pondered over their worlds and tried to understand their functional differences. Now may the worlds collide!
Literature and Cinema
Literature and cinema are both mediums for storytelling. Only the ways the stories are told differ from one another. They have their own approaches in conveying a story. While the fictional universe of a literary work is entirely built with words, a cinema is created with images and words. But not just that, their aesthetics too are unique. This brings out the fundamental difference in the way a story is told, and the characters are built in literature and in cinema.
Generally literary adaptations in cinema can be categorized as Faithful adaptations, Loose adaptations and Regeneration of a literary work. While the first two needs no introduction third, in my view, is the best among the others. Regeneration of a literary work into the cinematic medium is not possible without the filmmaker getting inspired with that work. The aim of any literary work is to grow beyond its pages. A writer always wants his/her work to evolve beyond its text. In fact literature intends to by dynamic. Every writer wishes that his work’s scope get larger by day. Only a ‘growing’ text will stay eternal. Would anyone dislike eternity?
To regenerate the work of words into the cinematic language, the filmmaker who initially reads it ought to get inspired by it. In regeneration process, the filmmaker retains the soul of the work he has chosen to make his film on, but presents it from his/her perspective. This is the sole reason for some literary works being adapted to screen again and again.
Literature and Cinema – Functional Mechanisms
The narrative intention of any literary work is to create a mental imagery in the mind of a reader, who reads a scene of a story. Only through the proper cognitive accumulation of these series of mental images could the reader follow the story and connect himself/herself with the soul of the fiction. Every writer through their writing prowess tries not to ‘tell’ but to ‘show’.
A novel or a short story’s design depends on the differences in the ‘fictional duration’ it takes up in itself and the vastness of the space it deals. Nonetheless vast and vivid the narration is, a writer moves on presenting one thing at a time. And a reader, even with brief practice, manages to follow the writer’s narrative steps. If the reader can connect with the idea that those words create, in the same way as the writer has used them, then both are in unison.
Basically cinema is a visual medium. Its functional basic unit is a ‘frame’. The props that fill the frames and the characters’ costumes hint the ‘period’ of the film. This is where production design and costume design gain their significance. Beyond the meaning conveyed through the language of words, other elements of cinema- the aforementioned elements such as the music, colour etc, – make it a multi layered work. Through constant practice a viewer might be able to train his mind to perceive those meanings beyond words.
A literary work enables a reader to emotionally connect with its content only via intellectual processing. That is, the reader is supposed to understand the written language through his/her intellect. Only then the emotional connection with the work is possible. Unlike literature, cinema connects itself with its viewer through the senses, primarily. The emotional connection happens first and only through it the intellectual connection is possible. This shows the fundamental difference in the approach of the two mediums. They work exactly in opposite ways, to be precise. The impact a literary work creates in its reader is purely subjective. The intensity of the impact depends on the readers’ personal abilities in deciphering the meanings the words bring.
It might be surprising to see that a novel adapted to a cinema manages to attract more viewers than its readers, quantitatively. One might explain that cinema garners more people since it’s a mass media. That is right, of course. But, we have just discussed, why cinema stands as the best of all mass communication mediums. Relatively emotions are more fundamental and universal than intellectuality. One might not expect everyone to be literate. But certainly all are emotional. This fundamental human nature enables almost everyone to connect with cinema, at least at the shallow level. We should be reminded here, the fact that it takes time and practice to engage with the cinematic language at a deeper level.
In a nutshell, literature approaches its reader intellectually while cinema connects itself with its viewer emotionally. This substantiates the popularity ((relatively) of the later.
In the next and conclusive part of this series, we shall ponder over the challenges in literary adaptations in cinema. Also we might think upon the differences between ‘a reader’ and ‘a viewer’.