[Milton-L] Great Adaptations

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Wed Jan 23 15:03:24 EST 2008


It may help to remember that any adaptation of a film is an adaptation
from literary conventions (and their modifications) from previous
centuries to screenwriting conventions of today.  I have a former
student who is in the process of revising a script with a director who
is trying to get funding for something in the small film range ($10
mil).  The director's instructions serve as very strong reminders of
how formulaic screenwriting is.  You need to have sixty scenes (not
the ninety she wrote), every single scene needs to either pose the
problem of the film or be part of the answer, on scene 45 the
protagonist makes an irreversible decision, write characters that
actors -want- to act, etc.  The recent adaptation of Beowulf is very
clearly influenced by storytelling conventions in comic books and
video games which most scholars of English lit simply don't pay
attention to.  That's too much a cultural studies thing.  These
conventions are, however, a propos to the film's medium and its target
audience (adolescent boys --  I wouldn't be aware of this if it
weren't for my own adolescent boys).

Beowulf the recent film, taking all this into account, isn't horrible.
 It's not good, but it's not horrible.  It's not Beowulf the literary
piece, of course, or Beowulf the narrative told in the literary piece
adapted for film.  It's ideas from Beowulf the narrative told in the
literary piece adapted for a high budget, non-interactive, extended
video game segment designed to amuse adolescent boys and perhaps their
dates.

Jim R


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