Who’s the judge?

Bazin introduces the concept that “faithfulness to a form, literary or otherwise is illusory: what matters is the equivalence in meaning of the forms” (20).  Really?  Is he sure?  If I am interpreting his idea correctly, Bazin is implying that a film adaptation of any given novel does not have to be ‘faithful,’ but instead it must evoke the same deep emotions and feelings based on ‘meaning’ or content.  If this is a theory that can be used to evaluate film adaptation, then who is the ‘judge’ of whether or not the film adaptation is successful?

The judge could be the audience – but according to Bazin – that is not the intention of the film director.  Bazin clearly states, “one must first know to what end the adaptation is designed: for the cinema or for its audience.  One must also realize that most adapters care far more about the latter than about the former” (21).  So if the director is not creating the adaptation for the audience – if he/she is indeed creating it for the cinema – who is judging the adaptation?  The critic?  I don’t even buy this explanation.  Film directors create film adaptations because it is part of their job and almost a guaranteed huge pay-day.  As discussed in class, when an adaptation is released into theatres, most people feel the need to go see it so they can spend countless hours comparing and contrasting the film and the novel it was adapted from.  I find it very, very difficult to believe that adaptations aren’t created directly for the audience…

However, if the judge is not the audience, the judge could be the critic.  Again, Bazin explains, “all it takes is the filmmakers to have enough visual imagination to create the cinematic equivalent of the style of the original, and for the critic to have the eyes to see it” (20).  I have a problem with this explanation as well.  Do critics not compare film adaptations to the novel?  Is that not one of the main complaints about film adaptations in general?  How can the filmmaker be relying on the critic, and not the audience, to judge his/her film adaptation without considering all aspects of the source of the film?  This vicious circle of pending judgment and responsibility is very frustrating!

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2 Responses to Who’s the judge?

  1. You reminded me of the passage at the end of the second essay “In Defense of Mixed Cinema” that adaptation isn’t about “competition or substitution” but actually addition–adding “a public” who wins out in both cases (they get exposed to more novels on film, they read more books after seeing films). We’ll talk more in class, but I think Bazin is pointing to a cultural shift in “art appreciation” (for lack of a better term) that comes about when technology makes art more widely available.

  2. Lisa, in your post you ask, “How can the filmmaker be relying on the critic, and not the audience, to judge his/her film adaptation without considering all aspects of the source of the film?
    Previously you said, “ When an adaptation is released into theatres, most people feel the need to go see it so they can spend countless hours comparing and contrasting the film and the novel it was adapted from.” From your post, I’m assuming the audience is comprised of the people that have read the original novel. With that being said, I believe that the filmmaker can just rely on the critic. If the audience are readers of the work that is being adapted, they looking for ways to prove that the novel is superior then the movie, because if is not “faithful.” A critic may not be able to tell you every detail of the novel, but they would be able to tell you the message, but more specifically the essence, was the same.

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