Ever since humans invented language in its spoken form, they began to narrate and listen to stories. Stories are an integral part of human life. Our stories are mixed together in the form of legends, folklore, mythologies and in a myriad of forms. With the invention of printing technology, the knowledge trove began to spread across a large population who were capable of reading. This enabled access of knowledge and information to a wider demography.
Among the many forms of literature, novel is considered superior, by many. Irrespective of the language there is a vast readership only for novels, than for any other forms of literature. Primarily we get attracted to cinema and literature alike only because of the fundamental urge and likeness to hear stories. Stories have been an integral part of our lives ever since we began to evolve as a thinking animal.
My pondering over literary film adaptations grew in an unconventional way. Most of the readers are viewers as well. In what way the same story written in words moulds into, while it is canned into the spool? What you are about to read here is the contextual translation of the essay I wrote in my vernacular, for a film magazine’s special issue, focusing on literary adaptations into movies. I began to ponder the similarities and functional differences of the two mediums, literature and cinema. Here are the compilations of my views on it.
The ‘Word’ Tent
The basic and functional unit of literature is a word. We grow our idea only by staking words. Literature relays on the written language. The usage and style of words might vary from one form of literature to the other. Yet, they all have their bases housed on words. Among the forms of literature, poetry chooses the densest form of the language in which it’s written. In fact the experimentations on every language is fit to be done only in poetry. With poetry a language evolves.
Literature, irrespective of its form, encompasses the meaning of human life and existence on its entirety. Generally the prime aim of literatures seems to paint the meaning of human life on a broader canvas. As novel ‘form’ in literature exactly has this structure, in general people find novels as the most suitable form to inquire life in literature. Human life is a bag of unexpected surprises. We never know the turns it might take till the moment we face it. Whenever I try to imagine life, I end up with a mental image of a vast plateau. It keeps growing continually in the most unexpected directions in the least expected ways. Interestingly, so is a novel.
A short story works on a style that varies widely from that of the novel. The crux of a short story is the climatic twist it offers. It aims to stun the readers with a twist he/she might have never expected at the first place. The time and space it covers is relatively less and it usually hangs around a few characters. When it comes to literary film adaptations, some of the filmmakers still prefer to adapt short stories for their films, because the span of time it encompasses seems more fit for the ‘film time’ a cinema handles.
Many popular blockbusters and cult classics remain film adaptations of short stories. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Rear Window (1954), All about Eve (1950),Memento (2000) and Minority report (2002), to name a few.
Unlike the rigid structure of a short story, a novel is the most flexible form of literature. Every time when we try to define the structure of the novel, somewhere someone would have written a novel that defies the formulated definition. Experimentation, though, is quite common in every forms of literature; it is most frequent in novels. Like novels, cinema is also an art to experiment. Every now and then a filmmaker comes up with a fresh way of storytelling.
Novel and Cinema – Structural similarities
Though short stories fit for the ‘film time’, ever since literary adaptations came into cinema. It is the novels that mostly find their way to the celluloid. A mainstream cinema is a piece of art that aims at showing a slice of human life in an entertaining way. An art house cinema is even more serious in its aim. It cares least about the entertainment quotient.
Novel form (or the structure of novel) can include every other forms of literature, due to its flexibility. A novel writer can incorporate letters, short stories, essays, poems, philosophy and great many others into his/her novel. Akin to the novels, in the art forms no other form of art is as much versatile as the art of Cinema. Like a novel cinema can embrace almost all other forms of art- painting, music, dance, costume designing, artistic ways of manipulating light and sound, and a lot more. Besides all these, ever since the talkies, cinema has wrapped words as well into itself.
In short if novel is the structure where every other forms of literature can amalgamate, so is cinema. Cinema can pool in almost every other forms of art. Thus cinema turns of to be the grandest form of art, both in form and scope.
In the next part we shall focus our attention in understanding the functional differences between the written language and the language of images.