Study On The Widow Jones Animation Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Greg Jenkins has observed that adaptation 'is a presence that is woven into the very fabric of film culture.' [1] This statement may be true but no definitive theory of adaptation exists. Critics and scholars have pondered since it first showed itself in cinema yet they cannot seem to agree on what makes an adaptation a success or a failure. The problem of adaptation stems from many sources. What, if anything, does a film owe the novel on which it is based? How, if possible, does a film remain faithful to its source? Who is the author of this work? What is an Author? These questions, and many others, are at the heart of adaptation studies. But I do not want to just look at the basis of adaptation, or try and find out the true heart of adaptation, I wish to look more closely at the links between a book author and a film author, the evolution of adaptation, and the many, many different forms it now shows itself in; As the adaptation of novels and fiction began to occur more regularly, other types of adaptation stemmed off from the fictional novel. These included...

And so directors began to experiment with these other media types of adaptation; I do not wish to just look at films, but look more into these different type of genre's that have been adapted for film. But as I have highlighted here, there is more to adaptation then film. Film can be adapted into radio, and all of these subjects can be adapted from one to the other, and I wish to explore this further.

I am then going to look at the many different type of genre's that occur in any of these different styles of adaptation, this will help me understand why a specific format of adaptation may be used for a specific genre; the genre's I am going to touch upon shall be;

I would finally like to touch upon the adaptation of place and setting, many historical and science fiction films when adapted to film have settings and places in them which do not exist, depending on the constraint on money within a film, sometimes the right location cannot be found, so the director can end up having a set built just to recreate the setting and place to give the whole film more consistency throughout. When pieces are re-adapted, the landscape and setting also has to be re-adapted in some places, it can either be built afresh, or a destination similar in description used. CGI can be used to help film areas where people normally couldn't get too, or to recreate a scene or structure that is crucial to a film piece.

I also wish to look at Stanley Kubrick, a director, writer, photographer and producer of films during this transgression from early documentary film making to the adaptation of novels and books.

Adaptation is both theoretical and practical. It is theoretical in the way that it asks viewers to consider what a particular adaptation is doing within a film and practical in the way that it attempts to apply the theory so a sample case study. Stanley Kubrick is not a random choice as he encompasses many of the major questions of adaptation. Although every single one of Kubricks films were based on works of fiction, he fits into that highest degree of film-makers, the auteur; An auteur being a director that reflects there own personal creative vision as if he was the primary author.

The range of Kubrick's films also proves useful for this study: most of Kubrick's adaptations are successful, a few are not; many of his films have surpassed their literary ancestors, others have taken them to new heights, whereas some stay faithful to the source text, others change and deviate greatly away from the source text. I shall look at a few of Kubricks' recurring themes throughout his films, love and war, by considering each novels thematic appeal to him, followed by a short analysis of the film in terms of what it is trying to achieve with the text.

A Brief History of Adaptation in Film.

William Heise's The Kiss (also known as The May Irwin Kiss, The Rice-Irwin Kiss and (The Widow Jones) a mere twenty seconds, thrilled, awed, and enraged its audience when it was projected a screen in Ottawa, Canada on July 21, 1896. It was downgraded by the clergy as a "lyric of the stockyards," while several different newspapers gave denouncing reviews. However, in 1999 Heise and producer Thomas Edison finally received their long overdue reward when the Library of Congress deemed the short film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. The film is significant on many levels. It was the first on-screen kiss and as a result ignited the first censorship debate regarding film. It was the first use of an actor and actress both May Irwin and John C. Rice were well-known stage actors who spent most of their time on Broadway and who had become stars. But most importantly, it was the first time that film was used for narrative rather than documentary purposes.

Most early films were or non-fictional and generally unedited views of street scenes, firemen, passing trains, and parades, these documented events and ordinary slices of life. In March of 1895, the founding fathers of modern film, Louis and Auguste Lumiere projected the first film for a public viewing: La Sortie des Ouvriers de L'UsineLumiere a Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory). It, like other films of its time,actually showed and documented what the title stated: workers leaving a factory for home. So, when Edison and Heise made the decision to tell a story, they were creating new horizons for film by opening the door for the narrative films of the next century. But rather than write a story, Edison and Heise decided to adapt one that was already written. They hired Irwin and Rice and had them re-enact the final scene of John McNally's stage production The Widow Jones so that a broader audience might be able to experience a Broadway show (Fig 1). With a single twenty second clip, Edison and Heise gave life to both narrative film and film adaptation.

In 1903, one of Edison's former cameramen, Edwin S. Porter, directed the first narrative film of significant length, The Great Train Robbery. This ten minute one-reeler had fourteen scenes based on an 1896 short story by Scott Marble. The film became the most popular and commercially successful film; establishing film as a commercially viable medium. According to William Horne, as film began to develop as a popular form of entertainment, production companies acquired an "insatiable" appetite for narrative materials and quickly turned to works of literature. In fact, in a 1928 article, Leda Bauer outlined the responsibilities of the typical Hollywood "scenario editor," pointing out that he (almost exclusively he) was responsible for "finding the thrillers in the classics" and having "a thorough knowledge of the (Fig 1) May Irwin and John C. Rice in The Widow Jones (1896).

One of the earliest instances of taking a popular literary character and transplanting him from the page to the screen is Arthur Conan Doyle's detective Sherlock Holmes who first appeared on the screen in the 30-second short Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900). Over the next ten years, Holmes would appear in over twenty films screened for a worldwide audience.

As the popularity of cinema grew, so did the lengths of the films produced. Once producers realized that an audience would sit in the theatre for more than an hour and that they could save money-and therefore make more money-by shooting longer films on standing sets rather than constantly building new sets, production companies began creating the first feature films.

In Europe, the first was Michel Carre's L'Enfant prodigue 1907. The US studios quickly followed suit by producing a four-reel versionof Les Miserables (1909), releasing each reel separately. H.A. Spanuth then produced and released Oliver Twist (1912), the first US feature film to be shown in its entirety. Two years later, D.W. Griffith released the first epic motion picture, the 175-minute The Birth of a Nation, film being based off of Thomas Dixon's, The clansman a novel and play . Although the film is often condemned for its blatantly racist outlook and its promoting of white supremacy and the portrayal of the Klu Klux Klanas heroes, it is in many ways the most influential film ever made in that it first used techniques that have now become industry standards. Interestingly enough, all of these major milestones in cinema history are adaptations.

A quick summary of the events which caused novels and books to be used and taken for film; A development occurred in the late 19th century in books and novels, which attempted to play down the role of the author by doing less 'telling', but instead using scenes which allow characters and their actions to speak for themselves. This development being from the author explaining his thoughts and feelings on the subject at hand, toward a more descriptive type of work, creating characters and placing them in situations that would allow the readers to imagine what was occurring. This Change in writing began the narrative course for cinema. When cinema began to see itself as a narrative entertainment, it decided to ransack the novel which already carried narrative fiction within itself and use it to form short films. Joseph Conrad refers to written word, his belief in what he was creating and how he wanted his readers to perceive his work. He wanted them to visualise what he was creating in words, in there minds eye. Imagine what was happening, hear what was happening and feel what was happening. Griffith an American film director 16 years later referring to the big screen, announced that his task is above all to make you see, a remark echoed in the same context as Conrad. Conrad's statement had come true, with the introduction of film; books and novels were adapted and recreated, allowing readers to see there books come to life.

Dickens and Griffith.

Another comparison that trails through the writing about film and literature is that between Griffith and Dickens. Sergei Eisenstein a Russian film director and film theorist compares their 'Spontaneous childlike skill for storytelling' Both being so frequently paraded as examples of the ties that bind cinema and the Victorian novel.

Griffith was not important because he took better pictures then anyone else, he was important for having discovered montage , the fluid integration of the many different camera shots, from extreme close-up to distant panorama, to produce the most coherent narrative, the most systematic meaning and the most effective rhythmic pattern. In doing so Griffith had contributed to the development of cinematic language and invented the distinctive art of film.

Because of Griffith's fascination with Dickens I found that many of his films have many themes which can be attached to Dickens work. Although I also found that his love for Dickens work was not the only author that inspired him to direct films, but also Shakespeare as we find out that one of his first directed films 'The taming of the shrew' a short comedy film was based on Shakespeare's play of the same name.

One gets the impression that critics steeped in a literary culture have fallen on the Dickens-Griffith comparison with a certain relief, perhaps as a way of arguing the Cinema's respectability. - Brian McFarlane This statement challenges other critics by commenting on the fact that this comparison being the only main comparison between fiction and film at that time, that if it was thrown aside the belief that the evolution from novels to film would have no evidence to back it.

Griffith learned important aspects of his craft by paying close attention to the technique of Dickens." Dickens is invoked by Eisenstein, Altman continues, "Because of his use of episodic structures, his tendency toward overstated, oversimplified emotions, and his contributions to the technique of cross-cutting."[2]

Critics seem to have concentrated on the thematic interests and the large, formal narrative patterns and strategies the two great narrative-makers shared, rather than to address themselves, as a film-oriented writer might, to detailed questions of possible parallels and contrasts between the two different Authors/Directors. Dickens and Griffith are compared to one another throughout many books and throughout many theorists, to compare Griffith to Dickens, and to try and highlight the themes and general likeness that Griffith places in his films that correspond with Dickens written work. Will help me understand more about the growth of adaptation, But after the birth of cinema and the narrative form that was now being used, even in the hands of a Griffith, Joy Boyum goes on to say, silent pictures 'remained significantly limited as a storytelling medium,' precisely because of the absence of spoken dialogue: 'For its narrative and dramatic possibilities to be in any way fulfilled, film clearly demanded sound.

And so With the advent of sound in the late Twenties, then, the movies learned to talk; and the motion picture industry turned more than ever to fictional works for new properties to film. But that, of course, did not mean that film makers should abandon the mobility of the camera and other cinematic techniques that had been perfected in the silent era, thereby forgetting that talking pictures should still be moving pictures.

Alfred Hitchcock wrote that 'the introduction of spoken dialogue constituted the final touch of realism needed by the film medium.'

In "pure cinema," Hitchcock continued, "dialogue would always be designed as a complement to the visual images; and a good director would never rely too heavily on the spoken word." Hitchcock accordingly insisted that a good adaptation of a literary work to the screen involved creating a film in which the images as often as possible were allowed to speak for themselves. After all, one of the most basic elements of the cinema is the telling of a story as visually as possible, Hitchcock went on: "to embody the action in the juxtaposition of images that have their own specific language and emotional impact--that is cinema."[3]

More needs to be added to this section.

Other comparisons.

Joseph Conrad

As film came to replace novels and fiction of the earlier nineteenth century, it did so through the application of techniques practised by writers at the end of the 19th century. Conrad with his insistence on making the reader 'see' and James with his technique of 'restricted consciousness',both dumbing down the authorial versions and limiting the point of view from which actions and objects are observed, In this way they may be said to have broken with the tradition of 'transparency' in relation to the novel's referential world so that the mode and angle of vision were as much placed in a novel as it was in a film.

The distinguished film maker Josef Von Sternberg once remarked that 'fiction and film have both fed at the same breast.' This is a rather artistic way of observing how often film studios have turned to the novels of writers like Conrad for material, given the affinities between fiction and film.

The comparisons with cinematic technique are clear but, paradoxically, the modern novel has not shown itself very adaptable to film. However persuasively it may be demonstrated that the likes of Joyce, Faulkner, and Hemingway have drawn on cinematic techniques, the fact is that the cinema has been more at home with novels from--or descended from--an earlier period. Similarly, certain other more modern plays, such as Death of a Salesman, which seem to owe something to cinematic techniques, have lost a good deal of their fluid representations of time and space when transferred to the screen.

Media's Within Adaptation
  • Non- Fictional being, Journals, histories, biographies and Autobiographies, films about wars, a persons life, a persons experience. Mainly a true fact that occurred.
  • Comic Books, these being adapted into films quite regularly, mainly based on super heroes.
  • Theatrical, being plays such as Shakespeare's plays, all being re-adapted from written plays to film.
  • Television, programs that have been shown on TV and adapted to make a film, such as the X-Files, Miami Vice and Mr. Bean.
  • Radio, Radio shows such as 'The hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy', also radio shows have been adapted from film turning the whole beginning meaning of adaptation upside down; the first 3 star wars films being made into a radio show after the films had been released.
  • Literary adaptation - being a novel, short story, poem adapted to another genre or medium, such as a film, a stage play, or even a video game.
  • Religious adaptations, films such as the 'last temptation of Christ' and the comedy film 'the life of Brian'.
  • More needs to be researched for this section.
Film Genres

'Genre' is a French word meaning 'type' or 'kind'. It has occupied an important place in the study of the cinema for over thirty years, and is normally exemplified (either singly or in various combinations) by the western, the gangster film, the musical, the horror film, melodrama, comedy and the like. On occasion, the term 'sub-genre' has also been used, generally to refer to specific traditions or groupings within these genres (as in 'romantic comedy', 'slapstick comedy', 'the gothic horror film' and so on).

The study of artistic genres is as old as Aristotle an ancient Greek philosopher and at least one of his terms, "comedy" has been regularly applied to films. (Although significantly, tragedy has not established itself as a film genre). Art, in film, plays, whichever media you wish to look upon, its terms in forms of genres are often imprecise and its methods of categorization unclear. What precisely is a documentary film, or a screwball comedy? Are films to be classified by there physical properties (silent, or in colour?), by there subject matter (Western, Gangster?) or by there purpose or chosen effect (comedy, horror?) Are all these categories legitimate? Of what interest is a category such as an Educational Film, Is it even the right thing to do, to arrange works of art into different classes, when these classes can overlap with one another.

Genre and genres in the cinema have tended to focus on mainstream, commercial films in general and Hollywood films in particular. Sometimes genre and genres have been exclusively identified with these kinds of films. 'Stated simply', writes Barry Keith Grant, 'genre movies are those commercial feature films which, through repetition and variation, tell familiar stories with familiar characters in familiar situations.'

Benedetto Croce an Italian critic wrote at the beginning for the 20th century 'the privileged position of the single creator and the single work has been severely criticized since then. With a new interest in general issues of language, cultural context and film history, the concept of genre continues to be employed in film theory and criticism, as it is in all art theory and criticism, and with important results'.

The most used and familiar system by which films are headed and generically classified as distinguishes between the different kinds of fictional narrative. Feature films can be placed into many different headings; Western, Gangster films, newspaper pictures, detective dramas, screwball comedies, courtroom dramas, film noires, musicals, war films, spy films, prison films, horror films, science films, fantasies and thrillers. As said before an obvious difficulty with such commonly used categories, is that they overlap, a film might combine, gangsters, detectives, newspapermen, a courtroom, a prison, suspense and a bleak nor atmosphere. In classifying such a film as this, one would have to rely on a judgement about what is most important in that film.

The above terms critics and theorists have used have generally coincided with those used by the industry itself, and the films categorized or discussed under the headings these terms have provided have for the most part been categorized or described in the same way by the industry's relay. However, anomalies and problems remain. The industry has often used a number of additional terms to describe and to sell its films. These terms have often been flexible, imprecise and hybrid rather than rigorous, pure and exact, and their application to individual films has often been transitory and opportunistic In addition, the feature film, the newsreel, the serial and the short have rarely been described or defined as genres.

And as will become apparent, many Hollywood films-and many Hollywood genres-are hybrid and multi-generic. This is as true of the feature film as it is of an obvious hybrid like musical comedy. Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson have examined the ways in which the Hollywood feature film combines romance with other kinds of stories and plots. And Barry Salt has noted the extent to which, since the 1910s, it has tended to alternate passages and scenes of pathos, humour and excitement. In consequence, genres often overlap, and individual films are sometimes considered here under a number of different generic headings.

'The argument that genre is ubiquitous; omnipresent, existing or being everywhere at the same time, a phenomenon common to all instances of discourse, clearly must modify the perception, and to some extent also the location, of Hollywood's genres.' This statement from Steven Neale explains that Hollywood instead becomes just one particular site, its genres specific instances.

Genre in Hollywood also expands. It begins to encompass 'the feature film', 'the newsreel', 'the cartoon', 'the B film', 'the A film' and 'the serial' as well as-and often at the same time as-'the western', 'the musical', 'the gangster film' and the others. In addition, the argument that genre is multi-dimensional means that attention now needs to be paid as much to the factors that are placed on audience expectations, the processes of labelling and naming as to those that trespass on the films themselves.

Verisimilitude also referred to as 'True likeness'.???

Adaptation and the creation of setting.

Need help with research for this section.

  1. Greg Jenkins; taken from Novel to Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation Book by Brian McFarlane; Clarendon Press, 1996.
  2. Novel to Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation Book by Brian McFarlane; Clarendon Press, 1996.
  3. Alfred Hitchcock, "Film Production," Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 15 ( 1972), 908.
  1. Taken from google images
  2. Taken from google images
  3. Taken from google images

Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings

  • Book by Leo Braudy, Marshall Cohen; Oxford University Press, 2004. 937 pgs.
  • Genre and Hollywood Book by Steve Neale; Routledge, 2000. 336 pgs.
  • Conrad and Cinema: The Art of Adaptation Book by Gene D. Phillips; Peter Lang, 1997. 220 pgs.
  • D. W. Griffith, American Film Master Book by Iris Barry; The Museum of Modern Art, 1940. 42 pgs.
  • McFarlane, Brian; Novel to Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation, pg 1-20.
  • Grodal, Torben; Moving Pictures: A new theory of film.
  • Sergei Eisenstein, Film Form, ed. and trans. Jan Leyda ( Harcourt, Brace: New York, 1949),196.