Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.C55 M39 1992
In the chapter of the book entitled “Corrupt and Crumbling Institutions,” McCaffrey alternates between lauding John Schlesinger’s version of The Day of the Locust for the segments in which it is faithful to Nathaniel West’s novel and highlighting the elements of the film that fall short of the novel. Although the film is a moderately faithful adaptation, its greatest shortcoming is that it fails to consistently match West’s tone of “level rage and tilted compassion.” McCaffrey observes the power of West’s work in that he offers philosophical passages that humanize his characters even as he attacks their pitfalls, which facilitates reader identification with the characters. Except for the final scene in the film, McCaffrey praises those that Schlesinger created as they are true to West’s tone.
As West’s novel is considered among the best satires of Hollywood, it is successful largely due to conventions unavailable to the medium of film. To capture passages of philosophy, the oft-criticized use of voiceover narration would be required. Although the film matches the events of the novel, its failure completely match its tone leave it a less successful satire. Many of the pitfalls of the film result out of aspects of the Hollywood system the book attacks. The relevance of this articles lies in that it not only analyzes the adaptability of West’s book to film, but offers insights into issues facing the film adaptor and addresses satire in general context.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1997.85 .A32 1999
This chapter deals with the problems facing those who adapt the written word to film. The chief issue facing the adapter is that the two forms of media operate under different constraints and use different languages. Techniques in film and literature, namely the description of parallel action and montage. The author uses a quotation from Tolstoy to address the benefits of cinema in its apparently “enhanced representation of reality.”The author addresses how film and cinema have become largely interdependent despite working in separate languages. The chapter goes on to describe the difference between creation and distribution of the mediums—mainly that the novel is the brainchild of a single person with a single vision that is designed to be consumed individually, where the opposite holds true for all aspects of cinema. However, the author counters the notion that this results in the ‘high’ art of fiction and the ‘low’ art of film. She observes that essential aspects of a work exist which are necessary for a successful adaptation but concedes that deciding which aspects those are can be difficult. She lays out the three types of adaptation and addresses the relative practice of each. She continues to address further issues that make adaption difficult, such as the omniscience of film’s perspective, the lack of tense in film, the tendency to heighten love stories in classic adaptations and the difficulty of translating formal devices, such as metaphor and perspective, to a visual medium.
From many of the criticisms of the film adaptations of The Day of the Locust, it is apparent that many of the difficulties described in this chapter faced Waldo Salt as he attempted to make a faithful adaptation of West’s novel. The philosophical passages containing the narrator’s perspective were largely left out, much to the detriment of the film. The mentioned tendency to heighten love stories in adaptations holds true, as the level of interaction between Tod and Faye in the film was much greater than that of the book. Also, it resulted in a weakened ending as the focus on romantic relationships forced the film to add a scene to the end which stripped the power of the scene which directly preceded it.
The present study demonstrated that the magnitude of after-effect due to wedge prisms depends on the form of the visual feedback used to represent hand and target position in fast, targeted, transverse reaches. Trained human subjects made reaches with and without prisms in three visuomotor representations (VR): (1) the subject’s actual hand and targets (Direct), (2) a real-time video broadcast of hand and targets (Video), or (3) abstract, computer-generated targets and a cursor representing hand position (Cursor). A significant after-effect occurred in each VR. However, the magnitude of the after-effect was significantly different among VRs: the magnitude was greatest in Direct, smaller in Video and smallest in Cursor. A significant after-effect (carryover) also occurred when a subject prism-adapted reaches in one VR and then removed the prisms and made initial reaches in another VR. Our data showed that when reaches were prism-adapted in Direct and then prisms were removed, there was a large carryover to initial reaches in Video or Cursor (D→V and D→C). In contrast, when prisms were worn in Video and removed for reaches in Direct (V→D), there was a significantly smaller carryover than from both D→V and D→C. Finally, when prisms were worn in Cursor and removed for reaches in Direct (C→D), there was very little detectable carryover. Our results suggest that adaptation is context-dependent and that the magnitude of carryover is dependent on the VR in which adaptation occurred. Interpretations of adaptations made in abstract training and experimental conditions may be greatly affected by this finding.
American Journal of Psychology: Vol. 87, No. 1/2, p. 197
Sheidt, R.A., Conditt, M.A., Secco, E.L., Mussa-Ivaldi, F.A. (2005), Interaction of visual and proprioceptive feedback during adaptation of human reaching movements, Journal of Neurophysiology, 93, 3200-3213.
People tend to make straight and smooth hand movements when reaching for an object. These trajectory features are resistant to perturbation, and both proprioceptive as well as visual feedback may guide the adaptive updating of motor commands enforcing this regularity. How is information from the two senses combined to generate a coherent internal representation of how the arm moves? Here we show that eliminating visual feedback of hand-path deviations from the straight-line reach (constraining visual feedback of motion within a virtual, "visual channel") prevents compensation of initial direction errors induced by perturbations. Because adaptive reduction in direction errors occurred with proprioception alone, proprioceptive and visual information are not combined in this reaching task using a fixed, linear weighting scheme as reported for static tasks not requiring arm motion. A computer model can explain these findings, assuming that proprioceptive estimates of initial limb posture are used to select motor commands for a desired reach and visual feedback of hand-path errors brings proprioceptive estimates into registration with a visuocentric representation of limb position relative to its target. Simulations demonstrate that initial configuration estimation errors lead to movement direction errors as observed experimentally. Registration improves movement accuracy when veridical visual feedback is provided but is not invoked when hand-path errors are eliminated. However, the visual channel did not exclude adjustment of terminal movement features maximizing hand-path smoothness. Thus visual and proprioceptive feedback may be combined in fundamentally different ways during trajectory control and final position regulation of reaching movements.
Redding, G.M., Wallace, B., Effects of pointing rate and availability of visual feedback on visual and proprioceptive components of prism adaptation, Journal of Motor Behavior, 24.3, 226-237.
When the limb becomes visible early in a pointing movement proprioceptive adaptation is greater than visual, but if visual feedback is delayed until the end of the movement the reverse is true. However, this effect occurs only if pointing rate is low. With high rates, adaptation is proprioceptive in nature regardless of feedback availability.
Adaptation to the simple visual displacement of prisms was compared to that for refractive lenses, which have a varied prismatic effect. Subjects were made myopic using contact lenses, then corrected using spectacle lenses. The effect on the perceived direction of a randomly located target was assessed from pointing behavior. Prism adaptation showed a negative directional aftereffect but lacked intermanual transfer. Lens adaptation lacked a negative aftereffect but exhibited intermanual transfer. The results suggest that lens adaptation involves a recalibration of extraretinal eye movement information and multiple sets of lens adaptation can be retained for short periods.
Different factors may determine the displacements in reaching that occur as a result of wearing prism glasses. Both visual and propioceptive factors are probably involved, but in previous studies, visual factos have been underemphasized. These experiments explored whether prism after-effects could be confined to a specific portion of the visual field. This would rule out a purely proprioceptive-motor hypothesis.
Subjects wore goggles over one eye with the other eye occluded. This allowed a monocular visual field of 60 degrees. Objects in the visual field were displaced by 22 degrees from their true position. Subjects were asked to look at the reflection of a target in a mirror so placed that the target appeared to lie on the horizontal surface of a table. The subject could mark the apparent position of the targets, but the mirror concealed his hands and marks, so subjects could not see or correct errors of localization. There were 3 phases of each experiment. The first was the pre-exposure phase in which the subject marked the apparent position of the target points. Then there was an exposure period of 1-min in which the subject with goggles on reached for a target and could see his active hand. When the exposure period was over, the goggles were removed and the subject repeated the same marking procedure as in pre-exposure. The difference in position between the pre-exposure and post-exposure markings served as a measure of the size of the Displacement after-effect.
Experiment I - adaptation to induced displacement in a limb seen through the prism, but not moved by the subject.
In the pre-exposure phase, subjects marked the apparent location of the target with the active hand first and then with the passive hand. During the exposure period, goggles were put on and the active hand was used to mark the target. In one condition, the passive hand was visible. In the other condition, the passive hand was held outside of the field of view. In the post-exposure phase, the subjects marked the location of the target with the passive hand and then the active hand to distinguish between visual and proprioceptive explainations for the DAE. Subjects showed a significant DAE when marking with the passive hand if it had been visible during the exposure period, but not if the hand had not been visible.
Experiments II & III - exposure of a limited retinal area to the prism to study the transfer of DAE between the central and peripheral regions of retina.
In the pre-exposure phase, subjects marked the location of three targets at 20 degree intervals across the visual field while fixating in the center of the field (so that peripheral areas of the retina were used when marking the lateral target points). In one exposure condition, the visual field through the prism was limited to 10 degrees. In the second condition, the goggles were masked to allow a 15 degree horizontal and a 10 degree vertical field at the periphery of the goggles' field, but there was also a pinhole in the center allowing the subject to hold fixation. The two conditions achieved differential stimulation of the central and peripheral retinal areas.
If subjects saw their hands moving in the central 10 degrees of the visual field, they showed equally large after-effects at all targets. If the subjects only saw their displaced hand in the periphery of the retina, the after-effects were greater on the exposed side of the field than on the other parts. Experiment III was the same except fixation was not required during the post-exposure phase. In this case, there was not difference in DAE for a central or lateral target.
The critical factor in the production of intermanual trasnfer of DAE was the presence of the passive hand in the visual field while the active hand was seen moving. When the passive hand was not in the field, there was no opportunity for a combined input to reach the comparator.
Wisker analyzes a few of Du Maurier’s short stories, including Don’t Look Now. Instead of solely focusing on the short story, Wisker explores themes and images in the film adaptation as well. The most important aspect of her analysis of Don’t Look Now is her explanation as to why John Baxter follows the murderer (to his demise). No other criticism or analysis of the film or short story, that I have read, offers a reasonable explanation as to John’s actions. Wisker explains that it is John’s “protective paternalism” (28) that causes him to try to help what he thinks is a young girl, because she reminds him of the daughter that he could not help. The film better illuminates this theme by making a visual connection between Christine’s red raincoat and the murderer’s red jacket. Wisker explains that, “John’s own suppressed torment at the loss of his daughter transfers into a desire to see this child safe” (28). John has no illusions that the hooded stranger he is following is the ghost of Christine, but he does think it is a little girl. John’s actions are explained as the actions of a man trying to redeem himself in his own eyes, by saving someone who reminds him of his daughter.
Wisker’s connection between the two sisters and the Fates, figures of Ancient Greek mythology, is another insightful analysis. The Fates were three sisters who controlled the lives of mortals by cutting their ‘life threads.’ Wisker writes, “We can read the twins as the fates with the thread cutting sister missing, appearing at the end in the pixie-hooded murderous dwarf” (28). Roeg expounds this theme in the film. First of all, he makes the dwarf a woman, whereas the gender of the dwarf is never explicitly mentioned in the short story. Secondly, the woman he gets to play the dwarf resembles the two sisters; she is stocky like Wendy and has a vulture-like visage like Heather. She could very well be their long-lost sister (who happens to be a dwarf). Finally, the way in which she kills John...
Harrison, Stephanie. Adaptations: From Short Story to Big Screen. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2005.
Harrison’s book neither deals directly with Roeg’s film, nor with du Maurier’s short story that inspired it, but it is essential to any analysis of Don’t Look Now. The process by which a director adapts a short story into film is important, because a short story is just that, short. A director must take something that rarely lasts over fifty pages and turn in into a film that usually lasts over two hours. A director must take the story and ‘run with it;’ in some ways making the story his own. Harrison analyzes 35 short stories and the films they spawned. She separates the films and analyses into sections based mainly on genre (Horror, Western, etc.). Don’t Look Now is a hybrid film, so it would not snugly fit in any of the genres that Harrison chooses, but it does have horror, drama, erotica, and auteur elements to it. Harrison describes four different auteurs (Altman, Hitchcock, Kubrick, and Kazan) and their individual styles of adaptation. She calls Altman, for instance, the “translator” (3), because he attempted to stay as true as possible to the original story. There is little to no literature written about Nicholas Roeg, so it is impossible to know whether or not he would fit in with any of the different auteurs.
One point I found very interesting in Harrison’s analysis is her idea that audiences are less hard on films based on short stories for being true to their source material, because “few short stories are embedded in the public’s consciousness in a way that popular novels are” (xvi). In the case of Don’t Look Now, both the story and the film seem to have been lost from the public consciousness (due, in part, to the success of The Exorcist, which was released the same year as Roeg’s film). Harrison’s book, as I said above, never mentions Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, but by looking at the process by which other writers have adapted short stories, we can get a sense of the different approaches to it and how Roeg many have gone about doing it. Roeg took a fifty-four page short story about a man’s blindness to his abilities and his fate and refashioned it into an unsettling drama/thriller about a married couple and ...
In Leitch’s discussion of what he calls fallacies in cinema adaptation theory, he invokes Hitchcock’s name under fallacy number nine, “Source material is more original then the adaptation.” Leitch centers his argument around the idea of auterism. Directors like Kubrick frequently adapted his films from pre-existing source material, yet is concerned to be a very original director. The early films from the Golden Age of Disney can all be linked together whether they are direct adaptation or original stories. All of William Shakespeare’s plays were essentially adaptations of pre-existing stories. He later points out that any work, adaptation or not draws from existing material, usually without even knowing it.
Leitch uses Hitchcock as an example of a director who manages to be an auteur with only rarely using original screenplays, noting in a footnote that Lifeboat as an unpublished novelette is up for debate as an adaptation. Despite having strayed so far from the source material that was not even published, under Leitch’s guidelines, Lifeboat still can qualify as being an adaptation. He disregards the notion that fidelity to source material (in spirit and specifics) and the idea that film adaptations are a way of connecting with the source material as ways of judging an adaptation.
Many criticize the differences without acknowledging the similarities. There’s value in noting that although the character’s names, motivations, behavior, and actions change, certain things did stay the same. Each character comes from the same background and represents the same aspect of society as in the final story. Hitchcock took away the competence away from many of the main characters, the sailors and the self-made man, whom Steinbeck idealized. Some plot elements were retained, though their context changed. Lifeboat is an interesting study for adaptation theory as it breaks with many of the false truths Leitch criticizes in his paper.
Prior to writing the novellete that would become the basis for Lifeboat, John Steinbeck wrote The Moon is Down, his first novel about the war. Like Lifeboat, it is a heavily allegorical story that, although unrealistic to a modern audience, was well reviewed and liked by the World War II-era American public who "wanted not art but propaganda."
Lifeboat partially originated as a project that the Merchant Marines asked Hollywood to produce in order to create public awareness of the threat U-boats presented its ships. Steinbeck's original version of the story was much truer to the Marines wishes, and much less of an allegory than the final film ended up being. While the characters were meant to represent a microcosm of American society, the element of a disorganized Democracy set against the strong-wlled Nazi was not present. In contrast, the self-made man shows the leadership qualities that must have been used to amass his fortunes, not the facistman who finds it so easily to give up power. Also, the Nazi is a weak individual who after only one act of deception is killed. The focus of the book is not the Nazi's ascension to control but of what life as a Merchant Marine and the experience of being shelled and stranded is like.
After Steinbeck completed his work on the project, three additional drafts were done, and by the end the story only vaguely represented the original. MacKinlay Kantor's draft was thrown out early on by Hitchcock, though he is credited with increasing the allegory's prominence in the story. One of Frank Capra's collaborators Jo Swerling stripped away a lot of the realism of the characters and provided the "Capra-corn" melodramatic elements. Hitchcock, the master of details, rewrote the final draft shortly before shooting to "give it narrative form."
After seeing his original vision transformed so much, Steinbeck eventually wrote and asked to have his name taken off of the film, claiming that he wanted no part in something that so clearly "damaged the war effort." Most of all, as revealed in a personal letter, it seems as if Steinbeck hated the transformation of the working class characters from ones with dignity to stereotypes, criticizing Hithcock's "middle-class" sensibilities.
In the midst of Hollywood's war time effort, incorporating pro-American propaganda into its films, it's somewhat ironic to see the process converting a film with origins in propaganda transformed by the process into what many reviewers of the time considered to be anti-American.