First off, sorry for the late post, Prof & co.! I was so sick this week I couldn’t even get out of bed to watch the film on my computer until this afternoon. But, mission (finally) accomplished.
As for the film, I couldn’t help but draw the comparison between Tristram Shandy and Adaptation, and furthermore, what Dudley Andrew and Brian McFarlane might have to say about that comparison, as it pertains to the issues of fidelity, transfer, and/or adaptation.
First of all, I think the class came to something of a general consensus, especially after hearing from Susan Orlean, the author of the source text, that Adaptation did, probably, effectively capture the “spirit” of the original novel even if it took liberties with the story itself. (I use that many qualifications because as far as I know, no one in class has actually read Orlean’s novel and I’m sure there are several people in class who would disagree with that description.)
Essentially, I’m left wondering: Do both films achieve the same “spirit of fidelity” because they use the same sort of process? (That process being “take a difficult work, one that would be nearly impossible to make into a film, and then use the drastic efforts that go into trying to make it into a film anyway plus some elements of additional fiction to get across the essence of the text”.) Or does one achieve that while the other is not as successful? Or is the adaptation (for certainly McFarlane would not see either of these films as “transfers”) successful not because the extra stuff that’s added to that which is taken from the text, but purely due to the bits that are taken directly from the source material?
Obviously this is all largely going to be opinion based, but I have some answers to satisfy my own curiosity. I would say that both films are successful adaptations because they work in such similar ways; the openings of both films, for example, grabbed me immediately even though they had each nothing to do with their source materials. The fact is that the subjects in each of these films would probably not have interested me as much without the ridiculous and often hilarious performances of Nicholas Cage, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as characters outside of the scripts within the films. It is the additional material that gets you paying attention to the adapted bits, which can then stay more faithful in tone (if not in plot) to their sources.