William K. Ferrell; Praeger Publishers, 2000 Westport, CT
Reading the Novel and the Film (pp. 31-58)
THE WRITTEN NARRATIVE: HOW LITERATURE COMMUNICATES
The broadest division of fictional literature is genre, a distinct type or category into which literary works may be grouped according to the context or subject matter. The four major literary genres are poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama. This concept of genre applies to both literature and film as libraries and book and video stores tend to group novels and films according to their subject matter. Originally this term was used to separate comedy and tragedy. Theoretically tragedy occurs when the protagonist loses the struggle; comedy occurs whenever the protagonist succeeds in his or her conflict. As a practical matter, any area into which a number of stories can be grouped can be considered a genre. For example, comedy and tragedy are usually subdivided into types of tragedy and types of comedy. These generic subdivisions will include such categories as romance, adventure, science fiction, mystery, horror, humor, and drama. Subdivisions occur because an author manipulates the structural forms--the seven basic elements of literature--to create a specific type of literature. These forms are, for the most part, universally accepted as to meaning and application.
Plot applies to both the action and the arrangement of the episodes or sequence of events. All of the action and events that occur in the story must connect. By connection, there must be a sense of causality in that one event leads to another and all connect by their relation to a central plan of action.
Plot refers specifically to the sequence of event, episode, or incident in the story; causality forms a base for all aspects of the narrative. This connecting force includes everything from a specific character's motivation to the effect of environmental circumstance, which may or may not be a recognizably contrived circumstance. Because a story is a created entity and every action in the story must connect, there is a level of contrivance in all literature and film. When an action becomes too contrived, that is, it taxes one's imagination to accept it as believable, it conforms to an ancient Greek theatrical device called deus ex machina, or an act of God intervened. In ancient Greek theater, a large crane was used to manipulate the actions from above by allowing one of the gods to descend and interact with the characters. Obviously a crane transporting a god is not a part of modern literature or film; however, there are devices an author or director may use to create an intervention. Nevertheless, if an act of contrivance becomes too overt, by coincidence, fate, or karma, the story can lose its significance. In literary language this contributes to the very important aspect of verisimilitude (from the Latin veri similis: "like the truth"). In literature and film it is most important that the characters, the actions they perform, and the setting in which they perform the actions be truly believable within the scope created by the author.
Characters are individuals created by the author to act out the story. There are several types of characters. The protagonist is the focus, as originator or principal recipient, of the action; the antagonist(s) may be one character or many who stand in opposition to the protagonist. Antagonism may extend to nature in the case of environmental forces, as in The Old Man and the Sea. In addition, there are exposition characters, necessary to provide information the reader or viewer requires in following the action. Transitional characters are those whose function is to move the plot in time or place. Major and minor characters are arbitrarily determined by their direct effect on the plot. And finally, flat characters are one dimensional, providing the reader with limited knowledge about either their physical or psychological makeup or both, and round characters are multidimensional. The more we know about the character, the rounder they become, which generally implies a greater function. A character's function or influence on the plot is the most important factor.
A conflict or struggle occurs when the protagonist encounters obstacles while attempting to accomplish something or to prevent something from being accomplished. Each obstacle becomes a function of the plot. There are the familiar definitions: man versus himself, man, society, the environment, or the supernatural. This broad definition tends to generalize the concept. In approaching the story through its archetype, we will need to be more specific. In the case of McMurphy in Cuckoo's Nest, it is not just man versus man, but a messianic hero trying to free the inmates of a mental
hospital from the forces of evil. These forces are represented by both character and circumstance. McMurphy encounters many obstacles, first, in conflict with a single character, the ward nurse, and then, by the entire system, the machine-like manner in which the hospital functions. If McMurphy is able to overcome and defeat the obstacles, the story becomes a comedy by definition; if he fails, it is a tragedy.
A setting is always the time and place of the story. The place is the space in which the story takes place. Time includes not only the date of the setting but also whether the story takes place in continuous real time or in flashback. A flashback may be presented chronologically, that is, maintaining the original order of events, or in nonchronological form, by merely connecting thoughts or memories in no particular order, discounting the relevance of time. The entire story of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is narrated as a flashback, following chronological order. The English Patient takes a much different approach. Chronological time means nothing because this story is told by an omniscient narrator, interweaving memory with real time, making the element of time less important. It is the relation between memory, which contains no time element, and current action that conveys the story. In each case, the time-space relationship influences what the reader perceives. A place may be as small as a hospital ward in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest or cover half of the U.S. in Shoeless Joe/Field of Dreams. What is important regarding setting is not the size or scope but rather the amount of influence it imposes on the story's characters or theme. For example, in The Last Picture Show, it is the setting--a somewhat desolate and deteriorating Texas town--more than any single character that provides the antagonism. How necessary is the setting, both time and place, to the story? Could the character's action have occurred elsewhere with the same effect? To what extent is the character being controlled or manipulated by the environment?
Theme refers to the central or controlling idea of the work. From a reader's perspective, a theme in its simplest form may be that meaning of a story the reader can relate to his or her life. On a broader level, a reader or viewer may infer a metaphysical or metaphorical meaning in accordance with or even beyond what the author may have intended. This is particularly true of stories removed from their originating time and place. If the archetype theory exists, and in this book it does, today's meaning of a story may not have been a nineteenth-century author's conscious intent. In addition, a good novel may be approached from a variety of perspectives, which will shade a theme toward a relationship with life the author did not or could not know. Generally, there will be one dominant theme emerging from the story, but as each reader filters that theme through his or her own experience and knowledge, variations become the rule and not the exception. An author communicates thematically, but the reader translates
the meaning into his or her own objective reality. It is through the sharing of these variations that a broader meaning to the story and, most important a clearer understanding of a theme is developed. This is what makes Jung's archetypal concept meaningful. The story may connect to each of us in a slightly different manner, but what ultimately separates the good from the mundane is that a good story actually does connect. When an archetypal connection is made, the story potentially appeals to a mass audience.
In addition, there are three elements over which an author has much more control than a film counterpart. It is through his or her manipulation of these elements that the story will generally succeed or fail.
First, and perhaps most important to a written narrative, is point of view. This is the voice, persona, or narrator who tells the story. Students are usually taught that a story may be first person, an identifiable narrator, or third person, an anonymous narrator. However, these are simply headings for several types of each available to an author. A first-person narrator may be from a major or minor character, interior monologue, dramatic monologue, letter narration, diary narration, subjective narrator, detached autobiography, memoir, or observer narration. An anonymous narrator may be categorized by how many characters with whom the speaker has omniscience --the number of characters and to what extent the narrator sees into the mind of a character. Or the anonymous narrator may be a fly on the wall and be a totally objective observer, unable to know the thoughts of any character. A unique form of either first or third person is stream of consciousness, where the voice relates seemingly unrelated thoughts that connect thematically. To use this form requires great control and generally relies on metaphors and symbols to convey meaning. Point of view also presents a major difference in literature and film. A written narrative always has an identifiable narrator, that is, a human voice telling the story. A reader must evaluate a narrator's reliability and relative objectivity or subjectivity in relating the events of the story. The persona telling the story contributes to the level of verisimilitude conveyed to the reader. For example, the narrator of Cuckoo's Nest is a schizophrenicparanoid American Indian who wavers between hallucination and reality throughout the novel. However, as the novel progresses, his hallucinations become fewer and fewer, until, by the end of the flashback, he appears rational enough to leave the hospital. The longer he narrates, the more believable he becomes. Because the story is a flashback, we can accept the verity of his narration because we know he has been cured. On the other hand, the narrator of Larry McMurtry The Last Picture Show sounds very much like a town gossip. Some of his narration seems to glory in the frailties of the characters and their misadventures. As a reader, we may want to take his words with a grain of salt--enjoying the satire, but always recognizing it as exaggeration. In film, the point of view is ultimately the camera lens.
Tone and style refer to the diction and detail of the story. Diction is the
author's choice of words--the types and syntax of sentences. The details are the amount of dialogue, arrangement, and order of incident and information, and the number and location of descriptive passages. Other concepts applicable to diction and detail are the author's use of imagery and/or tropes (figurative language), use of formal, informal, colloquial, obscene, concrete, abstract, or other type of language or combination of these. The structure of diction and detail create a tone. This includes the attitude the author is expressing through his or her choice of words in descriptive narrative as well as the words used in dialogue. As a point to observe, verbs and their modifiers are the primary part of speech inducing tone. Tone, in some novels, may be the dominating element. Satire is frequently used to establish a particular perspective by ridiculing the subject or treating it in an absurd manner. However, satire can vary in its intensity. Larry McMurtry's narrator in The Last Picture Sbow used a mildly exaggerated form of satire in the somewhat absurd behavior of his teenage characters, while Robert Hornberger (Hooker) chose a more acerbic tone in M*A*S*H. George Orwell conveys his condemnation of the communistic form of government in Animal Farm by transferring his human characters into animal form, a totally absurd idea. Some other labels for tone include formal, informal, solemn, somber, serious, ironic, patronizing, intimate, sardonic, and facetious. The other side of tone is the emotional response the reader receives, generally categorized as mood. The author establishes a tone, which evokes a mood or feeling in the reader. Most frequently these are not the same.
These three literary elements--tone, style, and point of view--can be controlled and manipulated and provide an advantage the author of a literary work has over the film version. It is very difficult for a film to take a viewer into a character's thinking; it requires a level of contrivance, as in a disembodied voice, which lowers believability. Omniscience may in fact be the major difference between the written form and the motion picture. A reader is able to form a personal visual perception by being able to see through the eyes and mind of a character. Film to any formal degree is unable to accomplish this. The greatest of actors are certainly able to convey feeling, but they cannot convey a precise or specific thought visually. An actor can display anger but not the reasoning process that went through his or her mind evoking the anger. It may have been a series of memories of past associations with the character, the event, or a combination of the two. One artist who demonstrates the degree to which this can be taken is James Joyce in Portrait of the Artist or Ulysses. In both novels, Joyce uses a stream-of-consciousness point of view that upon a first reading is extremely confusing. The protagonist is allowing us to see the full range of memory and feeling an event may evoke. Joyce relies on symbols to connect the described memories to the action. Omniscience can take us there; acting, no matter how brilliant, cannot.
A thought to remember concerning word choice comes from a quotation
attributed to Mark Twain: "The difference between the right word and the wrong word is similar to the difference between a light bulb and a bolt of lightning." When the right word appears within the right syntax, the readers feel the effect within their own being.
The cohesion of the elements in relation to the abstract quality of the narrative will determine the quality of the presentation. Just as in music or painting or any of the other fine arts, what determines quality, beyond a high proficiency with mechanics, is the harmony and unity the author can develop in the elements while simultaneously presenting a strong theme. The structural forms listed above are the basic devices used to identify specific weaknesses or strengths in a work of literature. The archetypal idea, which frames the theme and meaning of the work, can only be qualified by identifying which of the elements the author could have or should have improved. It is well to remember that a critic begins when the author finishes his or her creation.
HOW FILM COMMUNICATES
There was a time when it could be truly said that reading is fundamental. At ages four to six, children were exposed to the written word, and the only pictures were book illustrations or the occasional movie such as Pinocchio or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Since the mid-1950s, children have been exposed to film almost from the moment they enter the world. Instead of being fundamental, reading has become, to some extent in the minds of many, an adjunct to their sensory world. A response such as, "It was a good movie, but the book was so much better," is no longer a common response. There are probably many explanations for such reactions, none of which is really relevant to our subject here. Our interest is not in determining which medium is superior. Each form of presentation has strengths and weaknesses in presenting an archetype. Our goal is to assess which form is a more accurate and comprehensible portrayal of our culture at a specific time and place.
This will be determined in the manner we approach each medium. When we read a novel, we tend visually to imagine the characters and action as described in the narrative. In other words, we are mentally creating our own picture version of the story. Since each of us creates a personal picture version, each will be different in detail, clarity, and depth. Each version becomes dependent on the level of knowledge and experience each of us has in relation to the story. For example, a black teenage girl reading Alice Walker's The Color Purple will imagine a particular set of images based on her own experience. These images will be different if the teenager lives in New Jersey rather than Mississippi. It will also differ if the teenager is male or white or Buddhist or whatever mixture he or she might be. It would even be different if he or she has read other novels by Walker. Each person
has a lifetime of personal experience, both real and learned, that will influence the images he or she perceives. This is true for everyone who reads a novel and sees a motion picture.
This personal history adds degrees of complexity when viewing a film after having read the novel. A viewer enters the film with a multitude of biases based on an expectation generated by his or her imaginary perceptions and, in addition, how and to what degree he or she likes, or in the case of a classroom assignment, dislikes the novel. It is assumed very few people will force themselves to read a novel they dislike.
A third element has to be considered. In literary analysis, it is impossible to separate the author from the work. A good novel is, by any standard, a work of art. Therefore, the novelist has a reputation, perhaps a following that recognizes this author as having something meaningful to say. A culture holds its best writers, composers, painters, and architects in high regard, some attaining the status of national treasures. Based on cultural traditions, we expect a good novel to offer a psychological, social, or philosophical commentary that is worthy of consideration.
Generally we do not hold film directors to that same level of esteem. The question then becomes, Do films ever reach a level where they may be considered art? If not, then we could never have a film equal to a novel. Could a mediocre or bad novel or short story be turned into a classic film, deserving to be called art? How can we tell if it reaches such an elevated stature? The aesthetic standards for literature are generally accepted. There are some generally agreed-on standards we can apply to film. V. I. Pudovkin expresses the idea that the art in film production does not really occur in any one aspect. Rather, just as in literature, it occurs when the elements come together in a special manner in a finished product. "Between the natural event and its appearance upon the screen there is a marked difference. It is exactly this difference that makes the film an art" (86). just as the author brings together all of the devices of literature in a harmonic manner that will express a meaningful theme, the film director brings together the elements of film at his or her disposal to accomplish the same end. Some devices are applicable in accordance with literature only, others are applicable only to the art of cinema, and some apply equally to both.
In considering film as art, we must recognize that each medium is dependent on the devices or conventions available at the time it is created. An author or a film director cannot go beyond what is available in the way of technology and understanding than is present at the time of creation. We have discussed some of those conventions with which an author must work. In order to understand the devices related to filmmaking, we need to identify process, function, and applicable terminology.
An approach to film analysis must begin with an area of study most associated with film criticism. Semiology as a term may be applied to both literature and film, but for communication accuracy, we will use it pri-
marily as a film device. Semiotics, with regard to film analysis, is the study of the structural placement and integral function of major scenes in the development of the overall plot and theme. The creative process for film begins with a story idea (a novel or short story), which is translated into a screenplay. The screenplay or script places into written form the dialogue and a summary of location in space and time. The screenplay is then converted into a storyboard, a visual representation that places into structural form the scenes, in both content (location, characters, props, required action) and order (selection and placement of scenes), necessary to present the story. This concept differs from literary analysis primarily because from the very beginning, the story is being "reduced" to those components that can be translated into visual replications of the novel's action. At this point, the viewer will be an omnipresent participant in developing the production. The storyboard places into the planning the order and location for scenes, and identifies for the director, cinematographer, and sound engineer what the viewer will need to see and hear to comprehend the story.
An aesthetic judgment is made as to what scenes will be included in the visualization process and what scenes will be excluded. For example, consider a very dramatic, perhaps melodramatic, scene in the novel Shoeless Joe, from which the film Field of Dreams was made. Ray Kinsella, the protagonist of the film, is the Iowa farmer who hears the magical voice telling him, "If you build it, he will come." Early in the novel, in order to focus the reader's attention on Ray's mystic nature, we are given the following passage:
It was near noon on a gentle Sunday when I walked out to that garden. The soil was soft and my shoes disappeared as I plodded until I was near the center. There I knelt, the soil cool on my knees. I looked up at the low gray sky; the rain had stopped and the only sound was the surrounding trees dripping fragrantly. Suddenly I thrust my hands wrist-deep into the snuffy-black earth. The air was pure. All around me the clean smell of earth and water. Keeping my hands buried I stirred the earth with my fingers and I knew I loved Iowa as much as a man could love a piece of earth. (14)
What we see in the film is Kevin Costner, as Ray Kinsella, pull a stalk of corn from the earth and plunge his hands into it just as the disembodied voice interrupts his moment. In this scene, he angrily cast the stalk aside as he challenges the voice to identify itself. We are not told, by action or sound, why he is examining the stalk's roots.
One might imagine Phil Alden Robinson, who wrote the screenplay and directed the film, mulling over whether to include this scene. How would it be filmed? Would it add to or diminish his version? Or would it, perhaps appear too melodramatic for a contemporary audience? Whatever may have been his motives, he chose not to include it in the film. W. P. Kinsella,
the novel's author, obviously thought it important in establishing his alter ego protagonist's character. Because Ray Kinsella is an archetype, a man who measures life in terms of family and the primal forces of nature, does the omission of such a descriptive scene lessen the emotional bonding between reader and protagonist? Or does Robinson at some other point in the film provide a scene where this aspect of Ray's character can be felt and understood? Only a careful study of the film structure allows judgment.
One method is to look at each scene semiologically; focusing on each scene as both a revelation and a structural component. It is a given that the order in which scenes are placed is fundamental in conveying the story. However, within that organization of scenes, a director and his or her staff must consider the composition of each frame. This brings into focus the spatial arrangement of character, objects, and background. Film, as a visual medium, must be concerned with a specific and limited space. A novelist has no need to concern himself or herself with space. An author may take us into the mind of the character, who at any given moment may take us on a memory trip, recalling a time and place located in the past, present, or even the future. Directors and cinematographers are therefore somewhat more limited than a novelist regarding space and time. Michael Ondaatje, in his novel The English Patient, observes no rules in manipulating space and time in the minds of his characters. In fact, when reading the novel, there are times we have to pause and reconstruct what we have previously read to place the events being described into an understandable order. As the plots and subplots become more complex, the pauses may become more frequent. Anthony Minghella, the film's award-winning director, does not have that privilege. His film version is a continuous movement from one scene into another and does not allow a viewer the opportunity to pause and reconstruct the events mentally. Minghella, in remaining somewhat true to the novel, uses flashbacks to convey the story. He does this by bringing the camera in for a close-up of the English Patient's face, using a dissolve to convey we are entering the memories of the character. When we return from the flashback, we are brought back into the scene we left. The novel, narrated by an anonymous voice, is free to move to another character, switch to another memory, or return to real time. Minghella, using the camera as his narrator, must conform to cinematic limits. The director must move smoothly from one scene to another, keeping the audience informed as the story develops.
Being visual does have some advantages. In constructing his story, the director has the opportunity to locate the film in a setting that will not only provide a sense of realism but can also enhance the story. The background of a scene can act as a metaphor amplifying a theme or specific idea the story wants to convey. George Stevens, producer and director of Shane, a popular western of the 1950s, selected a location near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a flat valley at the base of the Grand Teton Mountains,
to film what became a modern western classic. The mountains become a frame for many of the outdoor shots. The use of a lens filter causes the mountains to be bathed in a lavender tint providing a subtle "purple mountain majesty" to underscore the romantic idealism of the film. In addition, the camera is placed near ground level, and the camera lens thus becomes an "active observer," presenting to the audience a view of the characters as large as their Rocky Mountain background. We subconsciously see them as larger than life. This is film semiology. The filmmaker is manipulating our minds to see a perspective that influences judgment.
For literature, the language for its presentation is grammar and syntax. For film, we move to the shot, a series of single frames making up a sentence or paragraph. For the episode or incident, film may substitute the scene. Keep in mind that film is a sequence conveying action, dialogue (words), and background, with each functioning independently and together as a single unit. Sequences are then spliced together, creating a plot. A sequence will merge many camera perspectives. As an active observer, the camera lens, within a single sequence, may show us faces, hands, wide angles, deep perspectives, actions, reactions, background sights and sounds, symbols, or any other visual or audio possibility the director or cinematographer feels will enhance the concept he or she is trying to provide.
Although this concept tends to oversimplify the comparison dramatically, it does provide a perspective suitable for comparative discussion. Paradoxically, motion pictures are much more and at the same instant much less. An author using words, is limited to the number of words that will apply to the presentation. For the film director, the possibilities for the use of multiple cameras and angles, real and created settings, artificial lighting, and film technology are unlimited. Consider the denouement (literally the "untying of the knot"; the solution, explanation, or outcome) in a recent film, A Few Good Men. The trial has been concluded, and two young marines have been exonerated of murder, yet because of their actions, they will receive a dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps. The protagonist, a naval officer played by Tom Cruise, stops the young and very dedicated marine corporal before he exits. Prior to this moment, the negative tension between these two characters has been very strong. That was before Cruise, as the marine's defense attorney, had placed his own future in jeopardy by accusing a marine general on the witness stand of dereliction of duty, thereby doing what the marine corporal had failed to do. Cruise faces the young man who has been told his marine career is finished and states: "You do not have to wear a patch on your arm to have honor." The camera goes to a medium shot of the marine, and you see him realize the truth of the moment. He seems to swell to attention and in a very steady and commanding voice calls, "A-ten-hut! Officer on deck." He follows this with a very precise and smart salute, holding it until Cruise returns it just as militarily and, for his role, totally out of character. The line was meant
for both of them, and at that moment the characters and the audience know it. In a few seconds of film, the camera captured a moment it might have taken an author a page or more to describe. The statement is made, language is unnecessary. This brief scene speaks volumes though its images. It is its own language. It is the archetype of spring: the birth of a hero and the defeat of the powers of evil and darkness. It makes the audience feel good even though it ends the corporal's career.
This brings into focus what may well be the most complex and important aspect of filmmaking: film editing. This is truly where film, literature, and art come together. There are two editing techniques applicable for evaluation. The first, mise-en-scčne, is that part of the filming that takes place on the set. We have all seen pictures of a film director getting ready to shoot a scene, where he makes a square frame with his hands and peers through the square at the setting and actors before adjusting the camera or the actors. Or he or she may have a monocular hanging from his or her neck that will identify precisely what each camera lens will photograph. All of this allows the director to fashion the scene with the perceiver in mind. At this point, the director is concerned with what the audience will see and hear. This includes placement of the actors in relation to the camera, the location of the camera regarding angle and distance, the actor's directions, or any other immediate choice the director makes at the moment the scene is being filmed. Modern cameras have amazing capabilities regarding distance and focus. Camera lenses can telescope for close-ups or open to a wide angle incorporating large vistas. They can invert to give the appearance of a distance. A cinematographer may photograph as much or as little as is selected. In addition, with modern techniques of graphic enhancement, a computer may place an object or character into a scene at a later time. Forrest Gump can be seen shaking hands with a dead president; a more elaborate example of this technique is Steven Spielberg Jurassic Park. In all but two scenes involving dinosaurs, the actors performed without the presence of any animals. All of the chase scenes involving Tyrannosaurus rex and the velociraptors were added by computer graphics during the editing process. The actors are running from an empty space, to be filled at a later date.
The second form comes when the many pieces of film are spliced together into a single unit. This splicing is called the montage. During this process, the director, the film editor, the cinematographer, and selected staff will review all of the film and piece it together using various types of transition. One of the most famous and successful montages came in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. The shower scene, in which a young women (Janet Leigh) is murdered, is filmed using six cameras from different angles, and produces several minutes of film. The final splicing the audience sees lasts seventeen seconds. This was the final montage. The transition Hitchcock uses is the quick or flash cut, switching quickly from one viewpoint to another.
This scene is considered a masterpiece. A more common form, and one to which we have become accustomed, is the manner in which we see and hear a conversation between two or more characters. The camera may show us the speaker, or we may hear the speaker and see the reaction of the listener. There is no limit to the possible variations in just one conversation. This technique is available in all scenes where multiple cameras are used.
Transitions occur within scenes and between scenes. Other techniques to facilitate scene changes include the fade, where one scene appears to go to black slowly. A good example of a unique fade occurs in Steven Spielberg The Color Purple. Rather than simply fading to black, the camera focuses on an open mailbox, moving slowly into the darkness of the inner box until the screen is in total darkness, opening on a new scene in Africa. Metaphorically the audience has just been mailed to Africa. Another method is the dissolve, where one scene fades as another enters and for a brief second we, as viewers, are mentally moving through time and space into a memory, a simultaneous occurrence or perhaps just a new image. A dissolve can be accomplished very slowly or extremely fast. In Field of Dreams, a young Archie Graham is very quickly converted into seventytwo-year-old Doc Graham by the camera's focusing on a pair of baseball spikes stepping over a rock path and becoming a pair of well-worn wingtips. As the camera opens its lens, we see first his medical bag and then a full body shot of the doctor moving quickly to aid the choking child.
A third method of transition is multiple imaging, by which we see on the screen more than one image. This technique is frequently used to place us into the mind of a character. In older films, inserts are used to move the audience in space or time: the clock with the hands turning, newspaper headlines, dates falling from a calendar, subtitles, and fireworks exploding or waves crashing on the rocks following a love scene.
The motion picture is not limited to strictly visual images; action is accompanied by sound. In filmmaking, there are three types of sound present in practically every scene. First, and probably most important, is the dialogue. It is important the audience hear and understand every line. A good sound mixer can separate each track and augment where necessary to heighten and control communication. A second use of sound is musical accompaniment, for which there are two types. Orchestral background music is generally written to enhance the mood and action of the film. A second type of musical background has recently become very popular. The film American Graffiti (1973), instead of using orchestral music, used contemporary music as it would be played on a radio. This started a trend that is both popular and in many ways more economical for the production. Stop into any record store, and you will find a category of recorded sound tracks--music in both forms that accompanied the film. The third type of sound is natural sound in whatever setting the scene is being performed--
automobile horns, or trains, or traffic, or voices, or whatever else would be present in reality. Sound is always within the control of the director and audio engineer. Special effect sounds are categorized under the umbrella of total special effects. One real advantage that film has over other media is the ability to add, subtract, augment, or rerecord sound at any time prior to presentation. Everyone has seen the opening of The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews singing with full orchestral accompaniment while romping alone on a mountaintop. The actual sound recording was made in a studio and later dubbed into the film's action. The dubbing process is a major part of filmmaking, particularly for outdoor and action scenes and in every case, singing.
In evaluating the quality of film, one must consider the actors beyond the descriptions that appear in the literature. Characters, whether developed by literary authors or screenwriters, are creations. Authors may pattern a character after a living person or persons, but they are just as likely to develop a character to fit a particular set of functions, both physically and psychologically. In casting a film, the casting director does not have that prerogative. He or she must select a living person to portray the literary creation. Sometimes the actor chosen fits and other times does not. Actors may be chosen to play a role because of their celebrity value as well as their talent. In some cases an actor may select a particular story he or she wants to play, secure the story, and develop the project. One fact must be accepted: incidents and characters in a novel are not the characters and incidents we view on a screen. Jack Nicholson, regardless of the fact he won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Randle P. McMurphy in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, is not "red headed with long red sideburns . . . as broad as papa was tall, broad across the jaw and shoulders and chest." Nor is Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption a "short, neat little man with sandy hair and small, clever hands." Unlike literature, where the reader develops his or her own mental image of the character based on whatever physical description an author may provide, the director selects the person he or she believes fits the role or, in some cases, the film's commercial requirements. Who plays the lead roles may or may not determine the success of the film at the box office.
Fundamentally, there are two types of actor. A personality actor, such as John Wayne, Jack Nicholson, Goldie Hawn, and Roseanne, has a personal quality that dominates his or her presence on the screen. John Wayne could not believably play a hairdresser or Goldie Hawn a nuclear physicist. The public would not accept them even if their skills would allow them to play the role. Technically this type is known as presentational: they present themselves as the character an author creates in fiction, be it a play or a novel. Robert Duvall, on the other hand, can play a reformed alcoholic country singer in Tender Mercies, for which he won Best Actor, or Major Frank Burns, an oversexed religious zealot in the film M*A*S*H, and be
quite believable in both. He is a character actor, attempting to internalize the role in order to "become" the created character. This division of acting style is present in both male and female actors and does not in any way determine the quality of a performance. Two females noted for their ability to create character are Meryl Streep, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of a holocaust survivor in Sophie's Choice, and Jessica Lange, winner of the 1994 Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a woman losing herself in Blue Sky. These actors are representational. They attempt, as physically and psychologically as possible, to represent the character an author has created.
According to Konstantin Stanislavski (1863- 1938), a Russian stage director who literally wrote the book on acting,
While the art of living an image strives to feel the spirit of the role every time and at each creation, the art of presenting an image strives only once to live the role, privately, to show it once and then to substitute an externalized form expressing its spiritual essence; the hack actor disregards the living of the role and endeavours to work out once and for all a ready-made form of expression of feeling, a stage interpretation for every possible role and possible tendency in art. In other words, for the art of living representation, living the role is indispensable. The hack manages without it and indulges in it only occasionally. (qtd. in Pudovkin246)
In film and on the stage, it is the job of an actor to so completely "live" the role that a viewer does not see the person playing the part but sees the character an author created. For a John Wayne, it would happen rarely; for Dustin Hoffman, it happens most of the time.
What is important to remember is that when we are looking at films constructed from a novel, we must consider the choice of actors as well as the quality of performance in portraying the roles created by the author. Does the actor's physical presence overshadow the story, or by giving a poor performance harm the story? Or was the actor simply miscast, rendering the original story ineffectual?
Or perhaps the story or the characterization is altered to conform to the actor rather than the cultural archetype. One very well-known story involves John Wayne in his final film, The Shootist. The novel, written by Glendon Swarthout, was successful as a western novel. When production rights to the book were purchased by Wayne's company, there was a discussion regarding changes. Swarthout wanted final script approval and apparently felt he received it. However, when the film was shot, the ending of the novel was considerably altered to fit the image of John Wayne the actor rather than the novel's character. This was also true of the ingenue role played by Ron Howard. The novel portrays Howard's role as a loss of innocence into a future of gun fighting, but one could not expect to find our little Opie or Richie Cunningham descending to such an evil end. In
The Shootist, he is "forced" to use a gun, but then dramatically casts the gun aside, implying a gunless future. John Wayne, true to his image, goes down in a blaze of glory, heroic to the end as he disposes of the two evil men who might otherwise threaten civil society. A court suit attempted to prevent the opening of the film, but failed. The movie opened on schedule and met with reasonable success. An interesting sidelight to the making of the film was that Miles Hood Swarthout, son of the author, adapted the screenplay, emphasizing how little control the screenwriter has in the final editing.
In many films, it is not the stars who ultimately determine the overall quality of the presentation. In many cases, it is the smaller parts that when done extremely well make the overall picture memorable. For example, while Whoopi Goldberg was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Celie in The Color Purple, Desreta Jackson, who plays the teenaged version of Celie is rarely mentioned, yet she did a superb job in establishing the character in the minds of the viewers and certainly provided the audience a base for Goldberg's characterization. Whatever accolades may go to the star, a film's ultimate success, as in any other group endeavor, will require the supporting cast to perform equally well. Anyone who has seen Coppola masterpiece Apocalypse Now will remember a very small scene in which a young black actor (Herb Rice), moving slowly and deliberately, turns off a blaring radio, calmly listens to a distant voice, and quietly loads and fires his grenade launcher, silencing the taunting. What haunts the screen is that his expression never changes. All we know about him is his expressionless face, his native-like adornments, and his title, ghost. When we leave the theater, we take with us his image. Perhaps he as much as any other character in the film is Coppola's symbol of the Vietnam War. A stage director's mantra as he prepares the cast for performance is an old cliché and is as true for film as for the stage: "There are no small parts, only small actors."
Film technology includes a point of view, which in most cases is the camera lens. However, it is possible to film in such a way as to present the scenes from a character perspective. For example, in both the novel and film, The Shawshank Redemption, Red, a long-time prison inmate, functions as its narrator and as a major character in the story. This allows the director to use Red as voice-over, providing transitions connecting scenes that are years apart. This technique is also used in Spielberg The Color Purple, a novel conveyed in letters. Films that are presented from the viewpoint of a particular character provide opportunity for both transition and perspective. In both cases, the "objective" observer is the camera, while the subjectivity results from our knowing, that the story is being told from a single character's memory. A voice-over occurs when a disembodied voice makes observations about the scene, filling in gaps in time or as a motivation for the action. The voice-over is a kind of vestigial soliloquy, a theatrical device occurring when a character speaks directly to the audience,
providing information the audience needs to know in order to follow the plot. The voice heard is generally that of the protagonist, although it can be another character, as when a letter is being read by its author. Subjectivity primarily enters in the editing of the film rather than the filming.
Originally a camera position was stationary and could only pan vertically and horizontally. As technology expanded, the position became extremely mobile through the use of tracks, dollies, hydraulic arms, aircraft, automobiles, balloons, and even a bicycle. A more prominent upgrade came with the advance in the quality and type of camera lens. A camera with a telephoto lens and fast film can focus on a single feature of the actor, such as an eye or a tooth, or it can pull back and photograph a very wide angle. However, because film, like literature, is dependent on character, there are stock shots conveying a total characterization: head shot or close-up; medium shot, which includes the torso; a full body shot called a long shot; and a two-shot covering two people in the same frame. These shots make up the majority of most films, but there are as many variations as the imagination of the cinematographer or director will allow.
One important perspective is to view the camera as an eliminator. The camera becomes a directional viewfinder as a director focuses on a specific aspect, eliminating from sight all extraneous objects or action that might distract an audience from seeing precisely what he or she wants them to see. This is a major difference from stage performance. During a play, the entire space in which a scene is being performed is always visible to the audience. Every character within the scene is also visible. Film has the ability to eliminate everything except whatever specific object or action is desired--a rear, slowly descending a cheek (accomplished by using a drop of mineral oil, since tears, being water, descend rapidly), or perhaps an object. In The Color Purple, Steven Spielberg, during a romantic scene in which Shug and Celie kiss, the audience is treated to a view of a pink wind chime. Its delicacy of color and sound adds a rather sentimental innocence to the encounter. Chances are that if the camera had not eliminated all other aspects of the scene, the audience would not have noticed the wind chime.
Lighting, like sound, has advanced dramatically as equipment, particularly the quality of film and cameras, has been technologically improved. From the beginning of motion pictures at the turn of the century until the late 1930s, almost all films were black and white. It was believed even into the 1970s that black and white film had an advantage over color because it seems more real. However, by the mid 1960s and the proliferation of color television, if a film was to make it to television, it had to be in color. American filmmakers (with few exceptions, one being Peter Bogdanovich The Last Picture Show, 1971), producers, and directors would not take the chance on losing that commercial reward. (To be accurate, it is most notably the investors who demand the insurance of video options.) Peter Bogdanovich had great difficulty in convincing the studio that black and white
was appropriate for his film. In the end, he was proved correct, but his success has not led others to attempt to film in black and white.
Quality of film is the determining factor with regard to lighting. The two technologies are interwoven. The faster the film, the less lighting is required to illuminate the shot. Technicolor, the first real color process, was invented in 1935. The difficulties it created had to do with its high light requirement, which created problems of where scenes could be shot. With today's highspeed color film, the director can use less light and use filters, altering the tint in order to create a mood. Audiences who have viewed any of the Dick Tracy or Batman films will recognize this process. For our purposes, we will concentrate on the color values presented in two general categories. For black and white films, we need to be aware of the amount of shadow and gray the film uses--how much contrast exists between white to gray to black. This will also relate to the amount of backlighting (lighting behind the action) the director uses in filming the story. An interesting technique recently developed for commercial television has found its way into motion pictures: inserting color into black and white frames for communicative purposes. Pleasantville (1998) interweaves color as reality with black and white, which is fantasy. As characters discover reality, they are seen in natural color. It does make sense; the real world is in color, and we certainly think of emotion as color. When we are angry we see red, or we become green with envy. Computer graphics now allow the cinematographer to color a face or hand or whatever else and leave the rest of the frame black and white. We will certainly see more of this rather than less. Color becomes a trope enhancing meaning within the structure of the story.
For color, we will become aware of contrasts, hues, and tints within a scene and as an overall picture. The English Patient was partially filmed in North Africa, much of it conveying the vastness of the desert. Color and shadow are used to enhance the open space, forming a background that is integrated into the action demonstrating the smallness of humans in relation to their environment. This is further enhanced by the actor's costumes and makeup. Everyone in the desert seems to blend into the surroundings conveying one of Michael Ondaajte's themes: man is not the center of the universe but simply one of its many features.
Color film, even high-speed film, requires more light than does black and white to bring out the contrasts.
APPLYING THE ARCHETYPE TO NOVELS AND FILM
Art, in whatever form it may be presented has been defined as "the embodiment of the spiritual matured to the point of revelation" (Jaffe qtd. in Jung MS250). It is an act whereby the artist creates a work that will reveal to the public an aspect of human spiritual nature. An artist sends a message; a reader, viewer, or listener must be present to perceive or art cannot exist.
One way to perceive and comprehend is to analyze the work within the context of a previously defined set of standards and approaches to it. For literature and film, there are available some general categories into which a work may be placed that will provide a form for analysis and evaluation.
Realism is a fidelity to actuality in its representation in literature or film, or its level of verisimilitude. A third term, coined by Edgar Allen Poe, added the ingredient of probability. No matter a story's setting, characters, or plot, the reader must be able to believe in a level of probability. What matters for each of the terms is to create within the mind of the reader or viewer a sense of believability. In drama, whether stage or film, this requires suspending disbelief on entering the theater. In a theater the audience sits in the dark and, for the time there, suspends awareness to the obvious and accepts that what is happening on the stage or screen is real. In literature, it means being willing to accept the story on the terms supplied by the author. This implies the reader or viewer will place his or her imagination under the control of an author. Rod Serling, writer and narrator of a 1950s television, show labeled this the "twilight zone." In this application, realism (with a small r) applies to the level of believability the author or director communicates to the audience.
A more literary application of the term is for an entire genre of literature--the school of realism. This can be defined only in comparison with its adjunctive terms, romanticism and naturalism. These terms have very broad and overlapping meanings when applied to either literature or film. A very simplistic but workable explanation is that when the character seemingly controls the environment, or the environment is shaped in such a way to conform to the needs of the characters, it becomes romantic. When the environment appears to control the character, it is naturalistic. Realism appears in between, allowing some control over and some influence by the environment. Historically, romanticism is generally associated with idealism, as in creating an environment as you would like it to be rather than as it is. In an ideal world, a world of spring and summer, good always triumphs over evil, and for the moment, it appears that everyone will live happily ever after. Nineteenth-century England is most noted for its romantic literature, particularly the novels of Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice and Emma) and the Brontë sisters Charlotte (Jane Eyre) and Emily (Wuthering Heights). The great adventure stories, past and present, also are a major romantic genre. America contributed Edgar Allen Poe and his many stories of the grotesque along with Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter), Herman Melville (Moby Dick), and the bridge between romanticism and early realism, Mark Twain (Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer). Each of these has been made into film, some of them several times.
A major difference between the novels listed above and modern romance novels and films is that contemporary stories generally incorporate elements of realism in even the most romantic of stories. There are several devices
each medium possesses in order to connect romance and realism. One example for film is the use of actual locations, particularly with familiar settings. Alfred Hitchcock did this frequently; his famous North by Northwest finale was filmed on the faces of the presidents at Mount Rushmore. A novel or a film may incorporate real people or actual historical events or places to enhance believability. Robin Hood, one of the most famous mythological heroes, occupied an actual forest, Sherwood Forest in western England. Romanticism by tradition also includes all imaginative literature-when imagination overshadows reason, focusing instead on horror, fantasy, or adventure, and including those films relying on special effects rather than plot or character to attract an audience. Romantic novels make no attempt to present the world realistically but instead create a world to fit the needs of the story. In American literature, romance is most often associated with the movement west with the novels of Zane Grey and Willa Cather, and present-day authors Larry McMurtry and Louis L'Amour. As can be readily seen by the diversity of romance writers, the genre is alive and well represented throughout both centuries. Its popularity remains high as contemporary novels and films continue to rely on romantic characters and settings, and while they may be in one sense mythical, they are not bound to maintain a mana identity. The general focus of modern romance literature is primarily directed toward entertainment and caters more to satisfy our popular culture.
It is in the area of realism where literature and film are at one point closest to each other and perhaps semantically the furthest apart. It is paradoxical to discuss fiction, be it novel or film, as being real. Paradox or not, it is in realism, connecting to actual experience, that the idea of film as mythopoiea becomes most closely united. "People only respond to the mythic nature of a story when they recognize the inherent truth of it" (Monaco AFN253). In realism, just as in myth, there exists the aura of truth. The closer the novel or film represents a primeval reality, the closer the story relates to myth. The closer the story connects to myth, the more direct the connection between the story being told and the reader or viewer of that story. "Real myths, those artistic evidences of our collective consciousness . . . spring directly from roots in reality" and are of our genetic inheritance. We cannot resist connecting with these stories as they tend to "heighten reality and condense it" (251). For the moment in time in which we are participating in the story the unknown becomes the known.
In addition, there is a form of realism where fiction and fact come in direct contact. One example is a film made from a "true novel," Truman Capote In Cold Blood. Capote moved to Kansas, the setting of the brutal murder of the Clutter family, and spent a great deal of time researching the events surrounding the crime, the subsequent capture of the young perpetrators, and their execution. Capote was first and foremost a novelist, not a historian. The book that resulted from his research contains much
factual material. At the same time, because of Capote's personal beliefs, the novel presents a strong argument opposing the death penalty. The 1967 black and white film version, directed by Richard Brooks, followed the novel's form by appearing as a semidocumentary in relating the details of the crime, the capture, and subsequent execution. Through excellent performances by the cast, particularly Robert Blake and Scott Wilson as the young killers, the audience was made to feel great sympathy for the youthful criminals during their last moments of life. This follows the book in highlighting and enhancing Capote's theme, that capital punishment is unnecessarily cruel, to a much wider audience than the novel did. The result of this type of narrative is a presentation of the story realistically but not precisely objectively, that is, events were shaded to present a subjective reality. The plot of a story can present a theme of why seemingly good boys become violent killers and simultaneously attempt to sway the audience to a particular ideology. In Capote's mind, there was little difference in how the youthful murderers killed the Clutter family and how the State of Kansas subsequently treated them. As fiction, the story possesses a high level of verisimilitude; as fact, it becomes subjective reality. It also contains all of the elements necessary for myth. Two young men, crazed by alcohol and greed, lose their innocence and commit a multiple murder for which they ultimately try to "redeem" themselves, but society exacts full payment for their transgressions by requiring them to forfeit their lives.
A very contemporary entry into this mode is John Berendt Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a "true novel" about a murder and the subsequent trials in Savannah, Georgia. The novel was published in 1994 and almost immediately rose to the best-seller list, where it remained for over a year. The film version, directed by Clint Eastwood, arrived in theaters in 1997. The film received mixed reviews.
Some other excellent combinations of film and novel based on historical circumstances are Compulsionby Meyer Levin, a story of Chicago's famous Loeb and Leopold crime and trial, and All the President's Men, concerning the Watergate burglary and the ultimate resignation of President Richard Nixon, written by reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Oliver Stone 1991 retelling of Kennedy's presidency and assassination, JFK, according to many critics attempted to rewrite history by rejecting the Warren Commission's conclusions and reviving the conspiracy theory. Another novel that sought to rewrite history is Robert Penn Warren All the King's Men. Although many critics consider the novel biographical in nature, Warren, admitting to similarities between the novel and the life of the late Huey P. Long, colorful senator from Louisiana, assured readers that the connections were present only to provide a realistic base for a fictional story. What he really wanted to show a public emerging from World War II was the dangers of demagoguery. By incorporating actual events or settings in a fictional novel or film the author used a literary device that im-
poses a sense of verisimilitude to their presentation. By attaching fictional rather than real names, the novel has a universal and timeless appeal. By connecting the plots and the characters with a mythical archetype, the novels and films provide that spiritual revelation Aniela Jaffe spoke about.
Whether a novel or film is romantic or realistic, the author or director must include an element of real truth, which then becomes the means by which the story connects to the audience. When the reality of the story represents a metaphysical truth, the story connects to a recurrent archetypal theme and reaches toward myth. It does not matter if the story is based on actual events or is totally the creation of the author. The critical measurement is in how effectively and to what extent the author or director is able to incorporate truth in his or her work of art.
Our focus is not on the historical content but on the author or director's ability to portray the complete story with a sense of the actual. In a practical sense, realism requires the novelist or filmmaker to stay within the laws of natural science in portraying the character, the action, and the setting. As simple as this sounds, any avid reader or film aficionado knows that nature is often bent to conform to the needs of the story. In reality, seldom does a clap of thunder occur at just precisely the right moment to punctuate the character's statement or action. A stack of cardboard boxes does not always appear in an alley when police are in hot pursuit, and a parked car never becomes a ramp for one car to catapult into the air before exploding. (My personal favorite is the uncanny ability to find a parking place directly in front of the character's destination.) When action, setting, or character become recognizably contrived, verisimilitude becomes lost, which in turn loses truth, which compromises the story's mythopoeia.
By the presentation's incorporating a concrete sense of reality, the story has a base from which the reader or viewer may connect to a truth that provides a base for myth. If it is myth that brings the known (reality) closer to the unknown (abstraction), it would follow that the more realism or truth a fictional story develops, the closer it would bring us to a fundamental metaphysical truth. The more real a spiritual experience (mana) is, the closer we get to whatever exists as ultimate reality. For archetype and myth to connect, "realism [must reach] an artistic critical mass, at which point the record becomes transformed into myth" ( Monaco AFN252).
The final broad category into which we can place literature and film are those stories employing an aura of naturalism. This term is applied to realistic literature or film that tends to subjugate people to the extrinsic forces of culture and nature. It "attempts to describe life exactly as it is, and ends, by the very logic of that attempt, in pure irony" (Frye AC49). John Steinbeck, one of America's foremost naturalistic authors, demonstrated this form in his great American novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Whether you read the novel or view the 1940 film, the dark and violent world of the migrant fieldworker is deeply real. From a literary perspective, it is so real that it
becomes somewhat surreal, attaining a nightmarish quality. The elements of character and setting, through their symbolic reference, create a reality beyond the visible. When what you see in your imagination or on a screen is presented to conform to an exodus from depression- and drought-ridden Oklahoma to a "promised land," California, and manifests itself fully in the humiliation and degradation of a family that was "perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed evil" (Job 1:1), a metaphysical reality is simultaneously created. As such, the story moves into the realm of naturalism. The environment dominates the characters. It is an environment over which the Joad family has no control. Drought, ignorance, poverty, violence, and societal indifference become forces that control the Joads' very existence even though they have seemingly done nothing for which punishment would be deserved. They allegorically represent the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and the story of job.
Naturalism dominated American literature during the 1930s and 1940s. It was also a strong aspect of All the King's Men, as the protagonist, Willie Stark, succumbs to the power of corrupt politics. The theme of the novel and film follows the admonition of British Lord Acton when he warned, "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Willie Stark begins his quest an honest man and loses. When he fights corruption with corruption, he wins. Like the Joads, Stark is consumed by the environment. The characters in these two novels seem physically and intellectually unable to combat the evil influences of the environment and suffer grave consequences. This does not diminish the reality of either story. In fact, The Grapes of Wrath was so real that, when it was published, it had an impact on the social order in the United States. People became outraged that good families were being treated in the manner of the Joads, and in many states, especially California, laws were enacted to protect migrant workers.
When discussing a modern novel or film, it is not necessary to classify the story formally as romantic, realistic, or naturalistic. However, it is necessary to understand the level of influence that extrinsic forces, such as the environment or contrivance, impose on the characters. Be careful not to confuse literary realism with believability. Literary realism is more synonymous with being true to life, as in verisimilitude. A story, such as Interview with a Vampire, can be completely believable to those seated in the theater or reading the novel and not in a literal sense be realistic. A purely imaginative story will always be romantic, for it exists in a world created solely to fit the needs of the characters. For analytic depth, it is necessary to identify the amount of compliance the author of the original story gave to realism. This is an area on which much critical analysis and judgment will be made--how many laws of nature are contrived or subverted to fit the story. We will critically assess the level of believability, realism, and verisimilitude in character, setting, and plot.