Twilight Zone: Ventriloquist in the Genetic Concept or in the Ventriloquist concept?

-Initially I was thinking that my example followed the genetic concept, however, I feel am unclear as to what the Ventriloquist concept really means. In the initial explanation Elliot writes, “it pays no lip service to authorial spirit: rather, it blatantly empties out the novel’s signs and fills them with filmic spirits…Heathcliff abondones Cathy’s corpse to pursue her ghost”(143) Can the ghost not resemble the body?

-What does it mean to empty out and refill? Can the film adaptation result still hold some “resemblance” to the initial text?

In the genetic concept of adaptation, Elliott continues to use Wuthering Heights and suggests that an adaptation can hold a resemblance to the original text, however be different in a number of ways. In referencing McFarlane and the ability to transfer, he cites, “novel and film can share the same story, the same ‘raw materials’, McFarlaine argues, but are distinguished by means of different plot strategies” (150). Elliot continues and states that a separation occurs between content (what is told) and form (how it is told), and that “McFarlaine rightly observes that even when signs transfer intact from novel to film (as when lines of dialogue transfer directly), they are ‘deformed’ by the catalysts that surround them”(151). It seems that in cases where elements of both form and content appear to be transferred from novel to film, other elements involved in the film-making process (catalysts) get in the way- and a full transfer with both content and form is never possible. This speaks back to the constant argument of fidelity. The frustration that readers feel when viewing an adaptation that goes off in a new direction, seems to be inevitable according to Mcfarlaine and Elliott. It appears that even when content and form comes together, the catalysts will never allow for an exact replica- so anyone expecting one will indeed be disappointed, and should not expect this result.

In thinking about the separation between a narrative form and content, for some reason the Chuckie films came to mind (Child’s Play ,etc.) Personally, I absolutely hate scary movies, but have been forced to watch a few over the years. Although Child’s Play/other Chuckie films are not clearly adaptations- Probably because the section before the genetic concept discusses the ventriloquist concept – I thought of two creepy Twilight Zone episodes Talking Tina and The Dummy, which both use a doll and dummy respectively to wreck havoc on the humans around them (in the twilight zone).  Talking Tina says things like “I want to kill you” in a nice doll voice to the father of her owner and the ventriloquist dummy is shown to eventually take over the act- becoming the performer and the performer becoming the dummy. They seem to both follow a similar concept in different ways. It seems like the Chuckie movies evoke both the content (what is told) through the talking doll scenario trying to kill in each scenario, as well as, form (how it is told) by giving a new plot and narrative.

In reexamining the Ventriloquist concept, I am not sure if my examples still fit. Can a ghost not resemble the once living body? The equation of this concept is The Novel’s Signifiers + The Film’s Signifieds=The Adaptation’s Signs. Is this happening in the Twilight Zone/Chuckie comparison?

For some reason I can’t make them into links  sorry [edit: I fixed it for you. -klf]

Talking Tina Clip

The Dummy Clip

Child’s Play Trailer

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3 Responses to Twilight Zone: Ventriloquist in the Genetic Concept or in the Ventriloquist concept?

  1. Sara Tener says:

    From what I understand of Elliott’s work, the ghost can resemble the body, which is why she discusses the similarities between the psychic mode and the ventriloquist mode of adaptation. See pages 149-50.

    With respect to your question about emptying out and refilling a text in adaptation, I take it to mean that you use the signifiers in the book (any concrete person, place, thing, etc.) and fill them with filmic intent: the filmmaker gives the signifiers a different meaning, a different signified. This could be changing something like the content or the theme. Elliot points out how this is problematic: those signifiers do not easily lose their original signifieds even when they are filled with something else.

  2. Marie Mosot says:

    I think the thing to remember about the ventriloquist concept is that it makes a metaphor of the ventriloquist, not the dummy. Novel and dummy are dead insofar as they can’t speak for themselves, so filmmakers and ventriloquists speak for them. They as storytellers – and I’d also argue we as readers and viewers – fill these empty ciphers with our own words, meanings, intentions. We may respect the cardinal functions, but we imbue it with different significance – we give the narrative skeleton a different muscle definition, so to speak. “The spirit of the text is reducible to the sum of its surrounding culture” (143) or what McFarlane would call a film’s “production determinants.”

    The doll and dummy from the Twilight Zone and Chucky don’t quite work in this concept of adaptations because they do, in fact, speak for themselves without any external aid. But the dummy (in the second clip) is right when he says, “You made me what I am today.” In handling the dead novel/dummy, we make it, recreate it, enliven it with our own thoughts and predilections. It cannot have a life of its own outside our hands. When the dummy becomes the ventriloquist, though, the clip can be said to argue that the novel can become its own voice, and for the most part, we as readers grant literature this kind of autonomy, but it’s illusory. The very act of interpretation assumes readers take the position of ventriloquist, even if only partially (see: reader response). What we really have in the process of adaptations – and I’d argue interpretation in general – is a collision of ideologies between work of art and reader or filmmaker, between creation and recreation or reception, between established form and malleable content.

  3. I think Elliot says it best on page 144: “While film adaptations typically do cut and condense novels, they also add the semiotic richness of moving images, music, props, architecture, costumes, audible dialogue, and more. All of these signs are laden with cultural and symbolic resonances…The ventriloquist view, then, points to adaptation’s filmic enrichments of the novel.”

    He says, “these equations distinguish ‘film’ from ‘adaptation’: the adaptation here is a composite of novel and film, rather than pure film.” I think the ventriloquist view functions at this intersection between novel and film; it’s where the film will makes changes to the novel, replacing the novel with the film version of events? I think. *nervous laughter* I say this because of the example of MGM omitting the violent words and actions replacing it with “a mercenary economic process that preys on romantic desire.” In this way the novel empties out the novel replacing it with something filmic. The film might highlight certain aspects of the novel, while dismissing others. (Of course Elliot talks about film and consumption and *Wuthering Heights* and consumption). But people don’t appreciate what film can do — can add; all they see is a threat to the novel.

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