Some may argue that any adaptation of a novel for film, television or the theatre is never as effective as the original given that novels are able to deliver much more content in greater detail and that novels excel in communicating the character’s emotions and thoughts via various literary devices, developing a more intimate and deeper connection with the reader. However, this is a myopic standpoint as one has to consider how these adaptations excel at using visuals to emphasize and communicate certain key ideas of a story, and how condensing a novel into a 120 minutes adaptation can actually result in its key ideas being presented in a more succinct, straightforward and easily understandable way. Hence, adaptations of a novel for film, television or the theatre can still be as effective if their visual elements are properly capitalized.
(Counter) Argument 1:
Novels are able to deliver much more content in greater detail.
Elaboration: In films, we typically see large-scale dramatic events—epic human struggles that have to be resolved within one hundred and twenty minutes. Dramatic TV shows and stage plays are also similar in that the kinds of conflicts they tackle are usually pretty intense, while at the same time limited by the length an episode or stage play can run.
Novels seem to work in an entirely different way. They are not limited by length of time, which means the dramatic events in novels can be more complex, more detailed, more sustained. It seems a number of esteemed contemporary literary novels make use of that specific breadth and scale, traversing multiple eras and introducing multiple characters.
Example: Catcher in the Rye wouldn’t work very well as a movie because movies are best at showing action and movement as the vast majority of it takes place in the mind of holden, and little action occurs as holden ponders.
(Counter) Argument 2:
Novels excel in communicating the character’s emotions and thoughts via various literary devices, developing a more intimate and deeper connection with the reader.
Elaboration: Where the novel stands out is its ability to put us in the thoughts and perspective of a character so smoothly. Novels can transition from thought to action so seamlessly to the point where the vast majority of some novels can take place completely within the mind of a character and the story can remain gripping and moving. Instead of showing a character, a novel completely inhabits the mind of a character in the world of the narrative. Whereas, a movie based on this principle would be boring.
Example: Catcher in the Rye
Link: Novels can focus on the narrow confines of a particular relationship, it can create an intimacy between reader and characters in a way almost no other narrative medium can.
Film, television and theatre excel at using visuals to capture, emphasize and communicate certain key ideas of a story in an instant.
Elaboration: Makes the narrative more epic, exciting and compelling especially if the novel is driven by action.
Example: “The Wizard of Oz” film adaptation. When the door swung open and the screen switched from black and white to color as Dorothy captures her first glimpse of Oz, its stunning, refreshing, breathtaking and colorful depiction of Oz would require a detailed description. However, the more detailed it was, the longer it would take to read it, distinguishing that immediate stunning impact.
Link: Film, television and theatre can still be effective, if not more effective, if its strengths are being properly capitalized.
Condensing a novel into a shorter adaptation can actually result in its key ideas being presented in a more succinct, straightforward and easily understandable way.
Elaboration: By condensing a novel worth hundreds of pages into a 120 minute adaptation, the medium is forced to deliver its key ideas and content in as few scenes as possible. In short, every moment during the visual adaptation counts and would tend to be highly valuable content, resulting in a short, captivating and meaningful delivery.
Example: In the “To Kill A Mockingbird” theatre adaptation, the novel is condensed to fit the duration of a play and yet it does not fail to emphasize and make prevalent its key themes on Racism, Justice and Judgement.
Link: The time limitation set by novel adaptations can actually make the narrative more straightforward and succinct, which is in a way an effective and efficient way to deliver ideas and content.
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