In Adaptation or Cinema as Digest Bazin warns that when considering an adaptation what matters is not faithfulness to form but rather “the equivalence in meaning of the forms” (20). Spike Jonze’s Adaptation. seems to provide a prime example of such an equivalence. Granted, I have not read Orlean’s novel but based on the book review read by Kaufman in the film it is apparently more of a cut and dry, narratively disjointed, fleshed out article- something more in the purview of a reporter rather than a novelist. The first half or so of the film seems to mirror this form/literary technique. Kaufman reports on his thoughts, on his interaction with Hollywood and his brother, and these scenes are intercut with scenes taken from the novel (e.g. Orleans traveling with and interviewing Laroche).
Kaufman’s wish to bring Orlean’s text to screen, intact and mindful of her intentions, drives him mad. Well, he’s already a bit of a mess, so it furthers him along down the path of insomnia and insanity. As he proceeds, in starts and fits, he is constantly interrupted by himself. Both by his own (mostly masturbatory) fantasies and his twin brother who’s recently become obsessed with becoming a Hollywood genre writer. Leaving himself out of his script, acting as a passive translator of text to film, and an undue obsession with remaining faithful to Orlean’s novel (e.g. looking for ways to literally make orchids beautiful on screen) frustrate and defeat his efforts to write.
Kaufman is only able to achieve an equivalence of meaning after introducing himself–a writer of movies–into the story. He comes to a sort of acceptance that he is writing a movie and that the styles/idiosyncrasies of such need to be maintained not only so that he can finish writing, but also so that he can adapt, rather than merely mirror, the novel. There was a line in the film that dealt with condensing an idea, or finding one thread from the novel and running with it, presumably while doing so while being mindful of the context of film (while not being slavishly devoted to the ‘rules’ of filmmaking, such as avoiding voiceovers). In this notion one can find an equivalence of meaning of the forms, and ultimately the point (or a point) of an adaptation- to foster the evolution of a narrative from one form to another.