Adaptation is strange beast that (for the most part) successfully manages a dual identity. As the film’s story centers on an author translating a novel into a screenplay, the viewer is given a layered story that examines the creative process and highlights many of circumstances that surround it. Running alongside the main plot point is rich charcater work that dissects the author’s relationships, personality, and thoughts. As the film plays out the two plot tracks intertwine and create an introspective look at what adaptation is to an author.
The master stroke of this film lies in the the way in which the story portrays how an author’s life impacts an adaptation. Writers typically pull from their own lives. This point is presented to the audience, which, at least for me, creates a deeper appreciation for adaptations. This idea is further pushed forward through the use of the viewer’s perspective. As viewers, we all submit to a set of cynical criticisms ranging from story, character, casting, and so on. The film even addresses this through Charlie Kaufman, “How else can I show his thoughts? I don’t know. Oh, who cares what McKee says? It feels right. Conclusive. I wonder who’s gonna play me. Someone not too fat. I liked that Gerard Depardieu, but can he not do the accent?” Along with recognizing the viewer’s common perceptions, Adaptation touches upon Hollywood norms. However, this presentation of conceptions exists to better help redefine what an adaptation is.
Through the use of these generally accepted ideas and normalities and the exploration and development of character, the film implies that the adapter installs bit and pieces of his or her life into the existing text. The result being an adaption that is laced with the author’s own story. Through examining the author (traits, life, relationships) the film elaborates on what goes into the writing process. The placing of general conceptions attached to adaption help flush out this idea of an adaptation having a dual identity.
As a film, Adaptation is a story with simple beats, which benefits from deft character analysis. The film as about its characters journey as much as it is his actual task. It shines a light on the process and peels back layers of what it is to translate prose rooted in imagination into a more tangible medium.
I enjoyed this film for all its humor and subtleties. I would definitely deem it as abstract in the way it approaches its storytelling. Though I may have ranted a bit in regards to the duality I found throughout, overall, the film is like a great portrait. One can enjoy it on the surface with one simple view, or find layers of depth and analysis upon investigation.