It should be extremely difficult to play on all the themes Stoker awakens within Dracula so the best form of adaptation would be to borrow such themes in a way to create a new story. Nosferatu does this splendidly, with its play on shadows and using the technology of the day to play with the negatives and light exposure. Because the genius lies in the filmic technique and less on the storyline let's focus there.
To begin, the music score follows the progression of the plot. There is a theme for Johnathan and another for Nosferatu, which does what it means to do, which is to scare the wits out of the audience. The music helps in conveying the idea of spectatorship because the music that signifies Nosferatu is invoked before he is actually seen so there is always that idea of being watched. The techniques used just to portray Nosferatu as a creepy monster are amazing. For one, he has big hands and is an extremely skinny man. To help this, when he walks his arms stay below his waist and do not move and his long legs barely move. It gives this idea of him gliding way before the techniques could be used. Nosferatu's confined movements give this idea that he is an extremely constrained character, even more so than his limitations to the light of day.
Instead of showing Nosferatu claim his victims straight on, the camera instead turns to the wall and his shadow instead is used to portray how he engulfs his victims. Besides Nosferatu, whose characters exists within itself, the other characters must be overexaggerated to portray emotion because the film is silent and text can only do so much. Within the light and dark motif differences are made between nature and civilization, between old and new and prisonment which is seen in various ways through the movie.
First there is the constrained nature of Nosferatu himself, and the physical imprisonment of Renfield, to the actual imprisonment of Johnathan, to the figurative imprisonment of Nina. There is also the dichotomy of movement and constrainment which is portrayed in various ways from the wagon speeding to the castle, to Nosferatu's ability to barely move at all, to Nina who is later entrapted in the room while Nosferatu is watching. Happiness is portrayed through movement and likewise fear in this film is known to barely move at all. To help this idea of entrapment, a circular lens is used. Also, transitions are the old familiar circular fade in and out. This film is the starter to other Dracula films that follow similar portrayals of shadows, light and staggered movements.
Overall this film is an example of older movies that pay alot more attention to detail to get the point across. More recent 19th Century British films do not do fairly as well because emphasis sits on the sexual or romantic. Usually, until Dracula, the romantic which was this whole progression of propriety to sexuality and bizarre.

Nosferatu Clip

Bram Stoker's Dracula

To say the least, this film represents the greatest, but necessary, deviation from 19th Century based films. The film featured everything that 19th Century was and was not which is an important distinction to make because it is relevant to recognize the difference of Stoker's novel as compared to all other novels. Bram Stoker's Dracula was overtly sexual, horridly vivid, and greatly disturbing. To say the least it is a work unto itself once you get beyond all the nitty gritty blood play because to do Coppola credit there are some very clever techniques used which everyone pushes aside because they do not understand the filmmaker's intent.
For one, the film shows Dracula's dissertion of religion which is seen throughout the play. Dracula does not adhere to any religious icons, he recognizes them yet it is evident that he not be a part of them. Unlike his brides, the cross still means something to Dracula which is why he shies away when it is revealed on Johnathan's chest. Superstition also plays an important role which is seen with the importance of the garlic, the cross, and any other religious icons. In this film because of his inability to adhere to any transcendent hope in God he becomes a matryr. There is this desire to be born again, which we see with his love interest in Mina, who apparently in this film was reincarnated to meet him again.
Science, or any advancement to reflect the culture of the times is also used effectively. There are tools used, with the transfusion of blood, the early film which was a clever way to relate to the times and the phonograph which we see John Seward use to record his diary. This film give a distint idea of place, that the film does exist within the 19th Century, however expounding the boundaries, but the open busy city cet does well to reflect the place.
Let's get to Coppola. We can not discount the fact that he is an extraordinary director and because of this there are very clever parts in the play that reflect his genius. Forget the horrific acting. Forget the brutal blood play and whatever theme was used to make the film creepy. That is the point. We need to look at the film objectively to see where the genius lies. Let's also push away the sexual elements because yes they're there and we acknowledge that and it is evident that Coppola specifically wanted to objectify the women so forget breasts.
Let's go back then shall we where we don't look at the breasts but at the man behind the camera.
To help the understanding of this scene, it is listed below on the previous blog so do not fret in checking it out! The scene opens with Jonathon narrating from his diary. Already we see the play of light and darkness. A light illuminates his face while the rest of him is cast in shadow. A subtle shadow of the hand moves down a column before the camera turns below to look at Jonathon following his silhouette and shadow. The importance is darkness, obviously and do not forget the music which is also eerie. Light flickers around the room which again emphasizes the importance of darkness. Inside the room, to give a sense of oldness there are cobwebs and beautiful ancient bottles of perfume.
Note the way Coppola relates the perfume to the brides, they first speak after Jonathon notes the bottles so the perfume acts as a signifier for the women’s presence. Now we get to the sexual. We hear moaning and see a bed. which is evident is all about sex. The audience should know by know what Jonathan is getting himself into. To create the mood, not that mood (well, perhaps that mood), fog hovers over the bed and you can’t really see where the bed ends which is good for the ladies because they can just hover themselves out of it. Now we have the blatantly sexual, the boobs, the tongues, the voices which we can all discount because the point is sex. At least we’re not objectifying the women, the focus lies on their faces and what they’re doing to Jonathan. It is interesting to see how Coppola pick up this objectification from the novel because in the novel the women are portrayed as sexual, Coppola is just taking sexuality to the level that Stoker could not because of the times. Cut to Dracula entering. He flies into the room, smoke and all, to assert his power over the women. So there is this duality of sexual power and then male dominance which both imprison Jonathan. The costumes are pretty well done, the women are decorated in jewels and muslin from the waist down, and Dracula is pretty blatantly dressed in red. His hair does have sexual undertones but we get the idea that he is old and creepy.
It is interesting how the movie sometimes has Dracula and his wives move in such an erratic way as to suggest this mobility that exists outside the social norm. So again, forget about the sexuality it is only there to make a point so recognize the way Coppola is making the film creepy. In making this film it is as though Coppola knew of his directing achievements and had no qualms about making a film he knew would make society gag. So remember, the colors used, the costumes, the light and darkness and the sexuality are all used to portray horrific traits in mankind so in a way the film is meant to be bad because it is so different.

Coppola Clips

Coppola, the filmic genius gone wrong but oh so right.

Oliver Twist

I have to say that sometimes after reading a novel it becomes extremely difficult to watch the film adaptation because the more recent films focus more on maintaining the essence of the novel. That means, most of the story is bypassed in trying to do too much with the plot so it seems more of a way to fit things in than it does to make an actual film. That said, there is not much freedom in this film because much of it is to follow the novel to a T. So instead I mean to follow how Polanski uses Oliver Twist as a means to reawaken Dickens' sentiment. One thing to note is the differences between the wealthy and the poor. The colors change once Oliver runs off to London and then again when he gets to the city. Earlier than that, the workhouse is all gray with God is Love stamped on the back wall of the cafeteria. So there we see early Dickens sentiment, the idea that God will do well by you.
One significant part that I marked in the film was the scene where Oliver demands some more food. Yes, we all know that scene but this one I found markedly different because it portrayed Dickens' irony by contrasting the workhouse cafeteria to the wealthy benefactors who are eating a great feast of pretty foods. Mr. Bumble dashes in to announce that Oliver has demanded more food in which the reply he receives is one that considers it completely unnecessary and selfish to demand more food. Ironic, huh?
What I liked best in this film were the many notions of family. You first see the hostile female and benevelonet husband that take Oliver in. Then there is Mr. Brownlow and the maid, Fagin and the boys, Nancy and Bill Sikes. The film gives this idea of belongingness which is constantly reversed as Oliver switches hands throughout the film. It also gives this idea that Oliver has choice with where he decides to stay and he picks those that he most belongs to. Which is interesting because Oliver belongs most to Mr. Brownlow because he is a kind, intelligent old man, completely disregarding the fact that he is wealthy. Nancy, Sikes and Bulls Eye are most removed from the dynamics of family because they work towards their own selfish needs, although Nancy does redeem herself by helping Oliver find a home. Fagin and the boys work more as a pseudo family because you get the vibe that Fagin means well by the boys and wants to protect them but this is completely disregarded when he has a need to protect himself.
The film itself, apart from adapting a novel that has been quite overdone, has little to say in originality. The film is inconsistent in keeping with the story, it does so well as to render key points confusing unless you've read the novel, and other points are too dark to display as a true family movie. For one, the death scene of Nancy was way too brutal for kids to see and could have been glossed over, and the death scene with Bill Sikes is also too much for children. Oliver's upward mobility in social classes is also questionable because there is no explanation and because there was no narrative to be used as an explanation, as is the case in the novel. Oliver is not portrayed as a child, in fact he can barely be characterized at all because the actor is so lackluster.

Oliver Twist - The Artful Dodger

Vanity Fair

Seductive, sacrificial, martyr are all characteristics that define Becky Sharp in Mira Nair’s Vanity Fair. Characters in this adaptation are heroes; they have spines and are quite unlike the one dimensional characters in the written form of Vanity Fair. Besides the behavior which transforms Becky and Amelia to victims of wartime and gambling, there are signifiers in dress, decorum, and music. Becky is assigned the color red, she is most striking, or seductive, when dancing or singing which allows Becky more freedom while constraining her at the same time. There is juxtaposition in the film between the idea of freedom and entrapment, this idea that no matter what the class distinction there is still the idea of an overarching patriarchy. Becky is free because she has choice but this choice she gains within the salary of the wealthy benefactors she meets along the way. In this way, Becky Sharp is objectified because she becomes a purely sexual object in the realm of wealthy society. The extravagances in her dress, which contrast the other women who are almost always dressed in white, offset her deviant nature which is quite outside society. In Mira Nair's film, Becky becomes are purely sexual object, which is helped with the colorful motifs that relate more to an Indian culture than to the English culture that focuses on propriety and manners.
What is interesting in the film is the way Becky is used to fight sexual objectification in her clever ways of using the gentleman and also the way she is portrayed in the end as a matryr. The end explains it all with the choice to end the film right at India, which appears to be Becky's goal throught the film. Atleast, that is how it seems with the bright colors and wondrous peacocks that make their way through the film. In the film it seems as though Becky's ending is deserved, that she has earned her place by Joseph Sedley's side. Her migration from England to India is just another way of saying that she was too much of an outsider to exist within that society so the solution was to displace her within in a culture where she could fit in. Her evil nature is completely misunderstood as somebody who does not fit in so forget all those hideous portraits of her in darkness slowly killing her husband. In the ending it is also interesting to see how irrelevant Amelia's life is. It was kind of the screenwriter to give her a bit more character but in doing so they had to cut her significantly from the plot. Amelia is no longer the poor innocent angel, she is a slightly boring young woman who follows along the plot.
Becky, instead, drives the plot and runs it along with her ambitious, not to say malevolent, desire to get ahead in life. She is a tease, a wonder and talent to look at which is why in this film Becky is the victim. She is too much objectified to be protagonist because she is the manipulater and the manipulated in the great scheme of playing men off to gain a fortune.
Now that the themes have been established its important to see how filmic techniques were used to create such a visual. Color has already been discussed as a means to show Becky's deviance from the social norm, and also the means in portraying India as the other culture that dimly exists within England. Thus, color is used to portray a progression, to show that Becky does not fit the norm that exists with all the women wearing the extremely familiar white gown that offsets her blood red. Besides color, even the camera is used in a way to objectify Becky and make her into a sexual object. One shot goes to show her looking at herself through the mirror while her husband stands behind her. Many of the shots focus first on the breasts, on the hands and the whole portrait of her body instead of her face. Men are seen always in the full body shot in a way that reflects their economic superiority. Becky is always dressed in extravagance and the men always dressed impeccably as if there's no other way to stand next to Becky. Even the soundtrack and dance have Indian undertones and Becky's dance spoke more of the nature of women and the dance in Pride and Prejudice than it does elsewhere as compared to other 19th Century related films. In all, Becky is an overtly sexual object, and is used by women and men as a means of spectatorship and objectification which is portrayed through filmic techniques.


Abismos de Pasion

It is always difficult to consider the value of a film when stood next to its hardback counterpart. Bunuel points out that the purpose was to keep in spirit with Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights which becomes extremely more difficult the denser the translation. Bunuel does splendidly in portraying a mad love, which Bunuel artistically reveals through the lenses’ perspective. The camera's point of view speaks for the narrative by giving a spectator perspective, which is revealed through a voyeuristic following of actions and situations that almost feel like they should not be watched since the interaction is so intimate. It seemed as though the audience was spying on the other characters, which becomes the case for a few of the characters to help convey their reactions to the situations and also give insight to the internal perspective of the character. Most of the scenes that deal with spying put Alejandro in the victim's seat with Catalina overlooking the interactions between Isabel and Alejandro on the cliff. Eduardo listens at the door when Catalina and Alejandro argue over Isabel and Isabel spies on the return of Catalina and Alejandro. So a central focus is forced on Alejandro through all the character's watchful eyes which help convey his untrustworthy nature. There is always the continuing sense of distrust because Alejandro’s immediate past is clouded with uncertainty and there is the basic assumption that his means to attaining wealth were less than honorable. Only in Catalina does the movie portray a softer side to Alejandro, but after she dies he falls through a momentary lapse of demonic rage in which his face is hidden in the shadows thus hiding the worst part of him from the audience. Bunuel shadows Alejandro is many scenes but it is only during his desperate call from Catalina after her death that he is completely shrouded in darkness.
The relationship between man and nature, or more specifically man and animal also do much to convey the internal workings of each individual character though the only character that does not give any relation or opinion towards animals and possession is Alejandro. Instead, he is referred to as a canaille which can be considered as a dog, riffraff or the proletariat so this representation of him by all the other characters externalizes him from the inward workings of normal society. Discovering this meaning only contributes in the sympathy for Alejandro who does try to justify his behavior by emphasizing his treatment in the past. All the other characters are portrayed as hunters. Catalina kills a buzzard in the opening scene and with that mentions how it is better to kill with one shot. Eduardo, in killing a butterfly, says it is the only humane way to kill the creature while still keeping its beauty intact and Isabel flutters at both for treating the creatures so poorly. Thus Eduardo is focused on preserving the beauty of his object, Catalina of killing it fast and quick, and Isabel by treating it soft and compassionately. All follow suit in their concepts of love. Catalina also gives the funny point of justifying the imprisonment of a bird because she loves it. So again you see her treatment of both men in the same way she treats the animals. Her love for Alejandro can only exist in death and Eduardo's in imprisonment. Again, mad love is brought to mind because there is that sense of hopeless passion and discontent for love on all sides.
Although the movie does follow an extremely dense version of Bronte's plot lines, the movie does do well in keeping the fervent passion alive between Alejandro and Catalina. The ending does Alejandro a great justice for humanizing him by reacquainting him with his perpetual soul mate. The idea of love after death is maintained from print to screen in keeping the spirit of Bronte's vision alive. The only diversion is the new representation of nature in the form of animals though keeping alive the wild and free atmosphere of the open environment in which Catalina and Alejandro escape to profess their love. A simply grotesque scene that keeps alive the animalistic nature of the characters is the scene that shows the death of a pig which is just hideous and barbaric, even with the obvious sound overs of the pig screeching in the film. The spirit of Emily Bronte and the passion that is seen throughout the novel is translated into an animalistic sort of passion that brings out man’s primal instincts towards love and possession which only heightens the sense of darkness within the love story.

Playing around with Multimedia!


Wuthering Heights

Where to start. On immediate perception I noticed how dramatics were put in play concerning the weather, the lighting, the music, and the landscape. Secondly, I appraised the way in which the film followed the novel from a narrative standpoint that looked beyond Ellen's involvement and focused more on Heathcliff and Catherine in a way that would do Emily Bronte proud. I was however disappointed in the choice to not include little Cathy but nonetheless impressed in how truly the film followed the novel. The film maker obviously took important note of details within the novel to truly humanize and justify Catherine and Heathcliff away from Ellen's judgemental and slightly biased perception. Yet the film did just enough to still be true to Bronte's characterization of the two characters which I considered quite a feat in their efforts to soften the extremely dim tragedy of the two lovers.

Most of the camera shots were taken up close to give a whole perspective of the profile that gave the audience a feel that they were close spectators of the fall. Lighting was manipulated any time the mood changed, from the opening scene which is extremely dark, Ellen takes you right into a happy extremely lighted mood that is all happy which changed upon Heathcliff's arrival. It is interesting to note the changes in the reception of Heathcliff, the gifts were given in one piece, the wife was more than happy to welcome the horrid child. I had to say I appreciated how detail made an effect on the mood, especially the ghost scene which I fearfully watched out of the side of my eyes and I felt it relevant (given the time period) that though the scene was softened a bit it still aroused enough fear to portray to the audience what the character was feeling at that particular time. I thought it interesting that though Ellen is always present within the novel, she be placed to the side and only on screen when her prescence was especially necessary. I thought this helped give a non-judmental perception of the two lovers. The novel was followed fairly literally in the play which little changes to both reflect the mood of the time and censor any over the top moments from the novel.

Well, not to certainly say censor but especially soften the mood. Catherine was not so nearly as tempermental as she was given to be in the novel, nor Mr. Heathcliff as horrendous. Ellen actually attributed an affinity for her mistress and seemed extremely supportive of the match. Even the dance scene attributed to reflecting the time period in which the movie was made, whether intentional or no. It did well in portraying a certain civility that was otherwise extremely lacking in the novel.

The continuous music I did find frustrating because I understood the relevance of the music in portraying the mood but on the same point the music never stopped throughout the first 15 minutes and I felt that more detracted from the story instead of amplifying it.

To accertain this point here are the first 9 minutes of the movie.

All in all I was extremely proud of this rendition of Wuthering Heights because it did amazing justice to the novel and brought of the characters in a true manner that was conveyed through the author's characterization. This movie insights pangs and awes and does justice to their tragic love.

Bride and Prejudice

If it were not for the cheesy dialogue and the many references to american stereotypee, Bride and Prejudice could pass for a decent romance.

Forgive me, I don't mean to be harsh but I found the discourse unlikeable and extremely ignorant (or satirical) of the american language, and the scenes a little cliche. I found the dance scenes a little enjoyable and I did appreciate the humor but overall I felt that the film was a deadpan for what could pass as a weak satire on american imperialism.

What I found most painful were the several references to stereotypical american life. Cokes were referenced way too often and I felt it odd that all the beverages in the movie were american and were literally called out by name. Ashanti was a nice addition to the overall theme of american versus indian but let's focus more on why the movie could have been insulting and more on the actual thematics of the movie.

That the lead was fair and blue eyed was curious. There were many references to the traditional modern woman which I found an interesting twist on the film. The film offered an opposition of American and Indian which gave insight to the actual practices of marriage in India. Pride and Prejudice would especially be interesting to transform for Indian audiences because of the ability to sympathize and relate to marriage practices.

To focus on the Bollywood aspect of the film, I felt a few of the scenes could do little better than soft core porn. The colors were ecstatic and overwhelming, the choice in words during the musical numbers grating, and the acting above all else was horrendous. Part of Mr. Darcy's job in the film is to portray himself in a consistent manner as to give light to his softer side. Mr. Darcy is not just pretentious in the film, he is also greedy, monetarily focused, and extremely selfish in the "I'm going to please myself and damn any other response." I did find the film maker's choice to give Mr. Darcy a mother, or any semblance of a family when in the film there were none. I felt this choice did little but overcast the cliched stereotype of a rich mother trying to suit her son with the perfect (wealty) daughter. I would have enjoyed Georgiana more had the actor contained a little more of the character's charm and of all the characters I would argue that only Mr. Wickham was true to character, even through a modernized version.

Sexual undertones are apparent throughout with the sexual movements of the women in all of their dances, and even the puns are so ridiculous as to leave the audience cringing in their seat in a "I can't believe they said that" moment. There is even a small reference to Lolita but not to the story, only the name. The film was in many parts close to being effective but seemed unable to make the whole connection.

Again, the soundtrack choices outside the musical numbers were curious because they were chosen to offer an opposition between American and Indian. The color did enough to over emphacize the flamboyant nature of the women which was waaaay off point when considering the subtle Austen. Also, the references to a global dating service and any sort of technical references does little but detract from the romance which was already made cheesy with the horrible one liners. All in all the romance was died and buried within Bride and Prejudice. All that survived were semi political implications and oppositions of traditional versus modern. Had the movie not portrayed the stereotypical america I might have been less insulted but I am still confused on the point of whether or not the movie was a satire on american life or was indeed and romantic appeal to the marriage plot.

To get other insights here is the review of this film on the roger ebert website

Note how the main focus is on the main actress and her beauty.

And for another enjoyable piece that should gain a laugh or two here is the infamous dance in the opening scene.

The women do appear to have a curious power over the men, no?


Pride and Prejudice: A Comparison of Literature to Film Adaptation

Ambition begins for any film producer the moment he decides to take literature from it's pages and showcase it on screen. What's important is not to criticize the film for what is lacking but instead to realize why the film was adapted as it was. Pride and Prejudice does for a wonderful romance novel, even though there's a catch to Austen's satirical humor on marriage and class structures. As a movie the film does as such to emphacize on the romance because sex sells. And yes you might be right that it would be hard to give angst to a movie that's set in the 19th Century but you can be assured that it has been done. Anybody catch that one awkward scene with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth when they positively looked like they were about to jump one another? The actors and film makers themselves assure that there was a certain sexual tension between the two with the hand up to the carriage and certain close scenes. But why? Anyone can imagine that within Austen's contextual world propriety would have been of the first importance just behind manners and all other social designs. Not that I want to focus on the sex here, I do understand that at some point the film makers do have to sell tickets and although the ending is enough to make my heart melt there's an audience out there that desires a little more.
But beyond that I want to focus on the transformation of literature to film. Each has their own art within them and what I was most impressed with was the way in watch Austen's humor and literary style were translated in a way to still give character to the film. I'm glad the dialogue did not change much, which marked the tension between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy well enough to make the narrative insight unneccessary. The film did not do justice to Pride and Prejudice as a satire but again that would be a pretty lofty acheivement. There were some undertones to suggest that Elizabeth fit outside the social standards in her refusal to marry anybody but a person she loved. The characters really had to step up to bat without Austen's narrative and I found that while some of the actors hit the mark others fell short. Jane, instead of representing her kind and shy character, was shown as bland and easily unnoticeable. Mr. Bingley, failed to show some of the humor and offhandedness that was offered in the novel but he still had an endearing smile. I understand Mr. Darcy would have been a hard attempt considering he must first be hostile and proud but then show that instead of pride he was shy and uncomfortable in outward settings. The actor seemed a little awkward for me, his valedictions of love almost missing the point. I especially enjoyed the shrewdness of Elizabeth's character that made it to screen. I could do without all the close shots of Keira Knightley's face, especially when I found them to be extremely unflattering since her eyes seemed to be blank but I think that was more to emphacize the actor's status instead of the character's in the film.

What I did appreciate more than anything else in the film was the one scene where Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy are together practicing for Mr. Bingley to ask for Jane's hand. The scene was especially endearing and offered a closeness of friendship between the two that is not really shown in the book. The closeness between Jane and Elizabeth is also wonderful with the under the cover scene because it represented an intimacy that is also hinted by Austen but again rarely represented. I am sorry to say that as a female and also a student I very much appreciated the film, but then again with Austen I always have a terrible tendency to flip to the back of the book to give myself an assurance of character matches. But who can help it when you're offered a 19th Century film with beautiful scenery and mannerisms that you can't find in the 20th Century? Audiences have a romantic fascination for 19th Century Britain with all it's nobility and class and social structures. I could make a point that 19th Century American Literature is not emphacized half as much though I do need to recognize that the cultural contexts are different. I just find it ironic that what today's audiences are plaguing upon is exactly what Austen was arguing against. Austen has a clear voice that is dead sent on representing the absurdity of matrimony and class which work together as an almost game. This voice really does not translate well within the characters even though Mrs. Bennett was given the opportunity in the book but fell short in the film by perhaps overexaggerating the character and making her so frivolous that... wait... okay... so maybe the actress did well in giving off the sillyness of character but I still feel that something was lacking. Mr. Bennett really could have stepped up more to contrast with his wife.

I do have to say I did love the film and did enough to bring out my imagination of what the film would be even though Austen's character is only the slightest murmer when in the literature shows her voice to be a humorous outcry that can not be ignored.

This preview is an interesting piece to share because I realize that instead of marketing the romance of the story, the focus is actually on the humor and triviality on the story which sort of brings back Austen's voice. I even caught a sexual innuendo from Mr. Collins that was before disregarded as another of his terrible speeches! It's just curious that the filmmakers took this approach to the story when I certainly assumed they would reach for the romance.