How important is fidelity to an adaptation, and is it more important that a film be a good film rather than a good adaptation?
In “Backgrounds, Issues, and a New Agenda” MacFarlane takes several opportunities to express his thoughts on the issue of fidelity in adaptation. Essentially, he is tired of the assumption that the only way a film adaptation can be good is if it is entirely faithful to the novel, and that if an adaptation makes a great deal of or some large changes to the source material, that makes it somehow abusive of the work from which it is drawn: “At every level from newspaper reviews to longer essays in critical anthologies and journals, the adducing of fidelity to the original novel as a major criterion for huding the film adaptation is pervasive. No critical line is in greater need of re-examination – and devaluation” (8). Furthermore, he points out that “one does not find filmmakers asserting a bold approach to their source material any more than announcing crude financial motives” in reference to the fact that many adapted films come to be made because there is a higher success rate among adaptations since, as we’ve discussed in class, they come with a built in audience, even if that audience is there to see the vision of a director that does not fit their own vision and to sort of hate-watch the film as a result.
MacFarlane goes on to quote Dudley Andrews later in his later, suggesting that if a film is adapted then it is “the effacement of the memory derived from reading the novel by another experience – an audio-visual-verbal one – which will seem, as little as possible, to jar with that collective memory” (21).
I’m planning to go a bit further into detail on this topic in my presentation on Thursday, so without spoiling all that fun, I’ll just suggest that perhaps we can all consider the differences between a good film and a good adaptation.