A Narration of Tristram Shandy

I don’t know a huge amount about the book, but it is clear that the approach of this film is a film crew making a film about an “unfilmable book.” Winterbottom chose to make a film about the making of a Tristram Shandy movie, instead of a straightforward adaptation, perhaps for the reason that it was considered unadaptable. This is film in a sense could fall under the documentary column in a sense with all the behind the scenes.

The film opens with the behind the scenes of actors getting ready, then shifts to the narration by Tristram Shandy of his life starting at birth. We never get beyond hearing about his birth due to what appears to be distractions. The narrator keeps trying to tell his story, but it keeps getting put aside. I found that the novel is similar in that Tristram, isn’t even born until the book is more than half over.

Jennie says “‘Fear Eats The Soul,’ there’s more truth in that title than most whole films.” For some reason, after she said that I had to Google the movie. Fear eats the soul, was originally a German movie, which translated to Fear consumes the soul. Could this entire adaptation be about a characters fear? Fear of not pleasing his wife and family duties in present life, and fear of his past life.

This adaptation was indeed very different from the last adaptation movie we saw. The opportunity to see the filming and development of the film from the behind the scenes aspect was rather interesting.

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5 Responses to A Narration of Tristram Shandy

  1. Sara Tener says:

    Having seen Brydon and Coogan in The Trip, I wouldn’t necessarily say that this film is supposed to be about a character’s fear of failure. In The Trip they also play “themselves” and certain similar qualities of their characters remain. Perhaps, it would be more appropriate to suggest that it is the filmmaker that fears something? Fear of not adapting a work in the fashion that the audience might expect? Fear of not making a film that the actors and collaborators approve of? I am not particularly inclined to think so even though it is clear at the end that the film does not live up to some of the participants’ expecatations. If the book is about someone failing to write their autobiography and centers on the members of his family or household that led up to his life, the film succeeds in the sense that it is about a film adaptation that never comes to be a transfer and focuses on those characters that create it whether or not it is a success.

  2. Laura Callei says:

    Melissa- I also do not know much about the novel, actually I know nothing about the novel. This made it a bit difficult for me to understand the adaptation aspect to the film. I was surprised however, to find out that there was a film crew and that the characters were in fact actors. It was an adaptation within an adaptation it seems since, we assumed we were watching an adaptation of the novel but then we find out that the adaptation we were watching was an adaptation within. Phew, that was a lot!

    I do not think that the film was about the characters fear. I simply think that they were struggling to create an adaptation on a novel that just isn’t translatable onto film. I think that this is explained at the end of the film when the creators were asked why certain things were left out or not included, and if I remember correctly, one of the creators said, “because we were trying to stay true to the novel.” It just seemed like it was inevitably non-translatable onto film.

  3. Mike Ketive says:

    I’m also not familiar with the source material, but I find that this adaptation is essentially a commentary on how the novel is deemed “unfilmmable”, as we see the difficulty going into the making of the adaptation within the adaptation. Like the previous film we watched, this one’s also a bit of a head trip. Never the less, I also have to disagree; I don’t find that this film about fear, but just about the struggles of Steve Coogan, the actor and Steve Coogan, the family man and his juggling and blending of those two personas. However, I do agree that this film is absolutely not a transfer of the source material to another medium, but a commentary on the difficulties of filming texts that are deemed “unfilmmable”.

  4. Coogan is known for playing very egotistic, self-centered characters (and having Brydon as a foil to bring him down to earth). But maybe that is actually a form of fear–or rather, an insecurity that drives Coogan (that is, his fictional characters) in his desire to be accepted as a true artist?

  5. Pingback: Blog Response 2 Tristram Sha | ENGL 329B

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