Adaptation Paper

The Tempest: The play

William Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a play that explores a theme of burgeoning English imperialism, and a good bit of history is needed to fully grasp it. The play was written in the beginning of the 17th century, at a time when the English were starting their conquest of New England, while also conducting a brutal colonization effort in Ireland. The concepts of race and prejudice were being shaped by experiences with the white and pagan Irish, in a sort of ironic prelude to the introduction of the “savage” brown Native American and the “inhuman” African slave. The play explores these ideas in a time frame where they were still growing and developing, a concept wholly alien to our society today. But to transport oneself to this mindset is to fully understand what Shakespeare means in his commentary on colonization.

Colonization, at the time, was a very new word and a concept that was still being understood. The Irish were considered by most to be pagan and grotesquely savage, but Ireland was considered an unspoiled and beautiful land that deserved a chance to develop through Christianity and participation in the English economy. These ideas, developed during Shakespeare’s life, are explored through Trinculo and Stephano’s interactions with Caliban, and Gonzalo’s monologues, respectively. Trinculo and Stephano represent the idea of exploitation and gaining status and wealth in the homeland. They reject the idea of advancing principles, and instead favor advancing their status in the preexisting society of England (2.2.18 “The Tempest”). Trinculo does this by pondering taking the “fishman” back to England and showing him off to people for silver pieces. Stephano outright enslaves Caliban for personal use, by giving him wine and promising to free him from Prospero. This represents the imperial mindset to colonization. This mindset seeks to enhance the motherland, with no regard to the native population. This idea can be seen used in the European colonization of Africa, and parts of the Americas. Gonzalo, however, represents an idealized way of approaching colonization. He seeks the inherent beauty of the unspoiled land, where the possibilities for settlement and creation are endless (2.1.162 “The Tempest”). But the folly of his idea exists in his belief that work would not be done by the “men and women.” This curious and seemingly foolish idea seems to make no sense; how can a colony, which is intended to become a nation, be created without work? As Ronald Takaki says in his essay, “The ‘Tempest’ in the Wilderness,” the answer lies in Gonzalo’s verbal segregation of the islanders and the “human generation” of Naples (3.3.34). The belief during the Irish colonization effort was that the Irish were “savages” and unable to have human qualities. For instance, laws were passed that kept marriage between English and Irish. A precedent of hatred was set that exists today (to a lesser degree, of course). Gonzalo represents the assumption that the gentry would not work, and the natives would jump at the chance to help build this nation while remaining subservient to the colonizers.

A more muddled combination of these ideas can be found in Prospero. He and his ward represent the reality of the situation. They have been banished by their greedy “brothers” to find fortune elsewhere. This represents a more intricate working of Shakespeare’s play that the economic system of the English was such that the exploration of new lands was imperative, as stagnation was unacceptable. Jonathan Gil Harris brings up the point that mercantilism was not a sustainable economic policy and the conquering of new lands was required to remain a strong nation. Prospero represents the explorers that were sent by a society that demanded more wealth. Pressures from society, in the form of the promise of high wages or the lack of alternative jobs, “banished” them, just like Prospero (however, he was banished due to the greed of his brother), and when they arrived at their mysterious destination, they convinced the natives, with “magic,” to build their empires (in Jamestown, to an extent, and then in many other European colonies), which Prospero did as well, albeit with Caliban.

The “magic” in the play is the power to convince and manipulate. There is no definitive proof that Prospero ever has magical powers, and in fact, there are hints to the contrary. The infamous monologue at the end of the play is supposedly a display of his “powers,” but no sorcery exists that convinces the audience to “fill his sails,” yet audiences invariably acquiesce to his demands.

 

The Tempest: The Film

The film version of this Shakespearean classic has the difficult task of recouping million dollars with a script that is 400 years old. For better or worse, modern audiences do not respond favorably to the language of Shakespeare, and the stories do not necessarily guarantee box office success either. The film’s solution to the challenge of drawing big audiences is a heavy reliance on computer-generated imagery. Presenting interesting visuals and compelling locales, the crew uses modern solutions to modern problems. This solution is hampered by one thing, a relatively small budget. The grandiose nature of the tempest, Ariel’s magic, Caliban’s grotesque nature, and all the exotic scenery of the island demand a suitably beefy budget, and the director could not secure it. This problem extends in multiple directions, as the director was chosen during a precarious time in her career (her Broadway Spiderman was in a downward spiral) to head a movie that was intended to be a relatively low-budget film (20 million dollars). The resulting CGI is also low budget, and even though the impressive promotion poster has visuals that seem to be in line with modern special effects (nowadays almost exclusively CGI), the resulting CGI is sub par.

Another aspect of the film that was critical to its creation was the attachment of big name actors. An actor or actress of notable repute plays every part in the film. The film benefits from this by having professional players (these people are of notable repute for a reason) and by giving audiences another dimension to understanding the characters. For instance, Helen Mirren is a stately actress that is perhaps best known for her Academy Award-winning performance in The Queen. She brings that same royal air to Prospera. Regardless of the time constraints of film, her casting gives the audience a leg up in understanding the character. Helen Mirren allows the audience to know that even though Prospera is a wretch living on an island after being thrown out of her own country, she is still qualified to take back her dukedom and lord over Naples once again.

 

The Tempest: The Adaptation

The adaptation of the play inadvertently applies the conclusions that modern society has drawn to the questions brought up by the 400-year-old story. As Roger Ebert notes, the themes of prejudice and race are changed with the casting of Djimon Hounsou as Caliban. Caliban is originally a nationless foreigner. The Irish were treated terribly, and they were white and converted to Christianity. Djimon brings, like Helen Mirren, connotations to his character via his previous work. His breakout role, which he was nominated for several awards, was an African slave in the film Amistad. His position as Caliban draws the lines of prejudice as heavily racial, as they are widely held to be today. But in the original play, Alonso is coming back from marrying his daughter to a prince in the Algiers, a man that was most certainly of a darker complexion. Prejudice in marriage rights, as mentioned previously, was created without the delineating factor of race. So Djimon now forces Caliban, a representative for the injustices done to the native, to be of a different color, at least in the minds of the audience. This implicit hegemony changes the meaning of the play in a very large way, but also in a way that is not readily apparent without careful analysis, which is not really possible in a two-hour film.

Prospero’s change to Prospera for the film also plays off of modern temperaments. In Shakespeare’s day, only males were allowed to act. So for a female to not only act, but to be a duke (or at least a duchess that holds the powers of a duke) would be a very strange occurrence. Modern days have ushered in an era of striving for equality, but the reality of the situation is very different. While the swap is a very inexpensive change that would garner attention and explore an interesting retelling, it does leave out some of the themes of the play.

These changes turn the story from one that examines a motif of the effects of colonization to a story that makes great attempts to garner attention amongst the myriad of adaptations of Shakespearean stories. Regardless of the success or ease of making these differences, the adaptation loses some of the things Shakespeare tried to say. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Modern audiences would most certainly detest a story criticizing, and in US society, making prejudice about color makes the theme much more recognizable.

Works cited:

Ronald Takaki

The Journal of American History
Vol. 79, No. 3, Discovering America: A Special Issue (Dec., 1992), pp. 892-912

Jonathan Gil Harris. Sick Economies: Drama, Mercantilism, and Disease in Shakespeare’s England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. Project MUSE. Web. 27 Jan. 2014. <http://muse.jhu.edu/&gt;.

Roger Ebert, . n. page. <http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-tempest-2010&gt;.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest: A Case Study in Critical Controversy. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/Saint Martin’s, 2009. Print.

edited by Gerald Graff and James Phelan, see Shakespeare

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Blog Response – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (ENGL329B)

1. HPatPoA is the third book in the Harry Potter series. The book follows Harry and co. as they try to solve the mystery of Sirius Black and Professor Lupin. The book has darker tones than the previous two. This is most likely because the targeted demographic has grown up in the space between entries. The story also shifts into one that starts to answer questions that were brought up by the basic premise of the series. Where the first two books introduced elements, the third starts to resolve said elements.

2. The film version adopts the same whimsical visuals of the previous two movies, with some updating that goes along with the aging of the targeted demographic. The film also welcomes Michael Gambon into the role of Albus Dumbledore after the tragic death of the original Dumbledore actor, Richard Harris. The film’s style follows a little more “experimental” motif, as the director, Alfonso Cuaron, wanted to push the boundaries of what the film was going to present.

3. The adaptation is fairly faithful, but key details about the series are revealed through the visuals. Mr. Cuaron wanted to present faithful visuals of the Hogwarts ground, and because of this, the film inadvertently includes hints and foreshadows events that involve objects on the grounds that would not normally be detailed in the books. This is a very interesting and curious aspect of the adaptation, but is only apparent to those that have finished (or at least know the conclusion of) the series.

4. http://www.salon.com/2004/06/03/prisoner_azkaban/

This review goes into the differences in art style between this film and the previous two. It talks about how this film goes into the whimsical nature of the set pieces. Even the swirls of paint are accentuated to show the audience the wonders they expect from an HP film.

http://www.moviemistakes.com/film3738

This site does not really add to the story but it details mistakes that occur in the film, and it is incredibly interesting.

http://www.cinemablend.com/dvds/Harry-Potter-and-the-Prisoner-of-Azkaban-758.html

This review talks about how much the CGI has improved (I have not seen the previous films so this was news to me).

5. The cuts Mr. Cuaron made to the story make this adaptation seem more like a cohesive film, and this makes it much more interesting to watch. The previous two films were faithful retellings of the books, and this created a more pedantic experience; if you did not read the books, the films would not be as good. The third film cut much of the extraneous (to the main story) material, and by doing so, the director was able to craft an enjoyable film that focused on aspects of the story that would be a joy to watch, as opposed to going into every slight detail (like The Watchmen). While not a “faithful” adaptation, Mr. Cuaron can cause us to marvel at the beauty that can be found in even the smallest of features in the world of magic, and remind us of why this is the most successful novel series of all time.

Blog Response – The Watchmen (ENGL329B)

1. The Watchmen is a graphic novel that follows a group of costumed individuals as they deal with a post-“hero” alternate reality. The graphic novel uses dark imagery and “adult” themes to develop the plot. The graphic novel also gives a very grey tint to every facet of the story; nothing is ever black and white. The heroes do some terrible things and the villain has good intentions.

2. The movie evokes a dark and gritty style that causes one to harken Zach Snyder’s previous graphic novel adaptation, 300. The film flies in the face of other superhero movies by avoiding bright colors and presenting such iconic locations as New York City in grimy tones. A good way to view this contrast is by looking at the difference between the NYC in Spiderman 2 and The Watchmen. Where Spiderman swings on web through a sunlit city that is worth saving, the Watchmen fly their ship through a town that is ultimately “cleansed.”

3. The adaptation is faithful, to a fault. The costumes are carefully brought to life, and the actors suffer in return. They seem stiff, akin to Batman in the first Christopher Nolan film. The film also runs for just under 3 hours, hopping from locale to locale in order to fit the entire story in one movie. The gritty look of the film is lifted straight from the graphic novel, as neither presents a very pleasant outlook on the alternate reality.

4. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/21/superheroes-cultural-catastrophe-alan-moore-comics-watchmen

The author provides a very interesting defense of his inclusion of sexual violence in his work (namely The Watchmen). He states that sexual violence exists, as abhorrent as it is to acknowledge, and to not include it is to pretend it does not exist. He goes on to say that in the real world, the number of murders per year pales in comparison to the staggering number of crimes involving sexual violence, and that the under representation of these crimes allows society to avoid the very difficult task of addressing the issue.

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/watchmen-20090304

This review talks about Zach Snyder’s past, which gives an interesting view of the movie.

http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-before-watchmen-did-watchmen-really-need-a-prequel-20130730,0,2293282.story#axzz2rZM6mvsy

This article goes into the prequel that was created only recently, it details some of the stories and they flesh out the stories of the characters in the film a little more.

5. The film version of The Watchmen cuts the amount of time needed to digest the story, which in turn warps the meaning and themes of the graphic novel. The novel takes time to read because one must take time to physically turn pages, read and then look at the panels, and etc. This format allows the reader more time to digest and ponder the story, which leads the imagination to go on sojourns of what could happen with the facts presented. This is the magic of the written word. The film, with its compressed time frame (and even then the film is relatively long), holds the viewers’ hand throughout the story, and must use visuals and sound to make the viewer feel a certain way. A great example of this is when Dr. Manhattan explains (if that is even the proper verb for what he does) to Jupiter how she came to be. The music causes the viewer to have certain feelings about what has happened, and the compressed nature of film (the entire sequence takes maybe 3 minutes) precludes the viewer from pondering how he or she should feel about the very complicated circumstances presented.

Blog Response – A Scanner Darkly (ENGL329B)

1. The novel A Scanner Darkly follows Bob Arctor as he navigates a group of drug users in order to find their dealers, so his “Agent Fred” persona can take them down. This is a Philip K. Dick novel and it explores the drug culture of the USA, and how it perpetuates itself. The novel is semi-autobiographical because Philip K. Dick became dependent on amphetamines while writing it, and used his experiences with “street people” in his real-life house as a basis for the relationships in the novel. Bob Arctor’s stint in the New Path rehab center is also drawn from real-life, as Philip K. Dick spent time in a Canadian rehab center posing as a heroin addict.

2. The film, A Scanner Darkly, is portrayed in interpolated rotoscope, an animation technique that is based on the real actions of the actors. This technique allows the viewer a “trippy” viewpoint that further drives the drug culture portion of the film home. Keanu Reeves (nee Ted from Bill and Ted) also allows the viewer to become fully immersed in what this film is supposed to be about. Kind of like A Requiem for a Dream, the film follows these people as they go through their drug addled lives, but we maintain a sober viewpoint of what they are actually doing. This allows the viewer insight into what drug use looks like, and in this film, it is not pretty.

3. The adaptation is somewhat faithful. The most glaring difference is the year, instead of the novel’s 1994, the film is set in a future where extensive surveillance exists (which we know was definitely not 1994). As mentioned in the film essay, the film follows the story at hand a little more, while the novel looked at the culture revolt of the story. The film still includes this revolt, but it does it implicitly, through the general attitude of the characters as opposed to devoting resources (in the novel this takes the form of words) to its portrayal.

4.http://movies.about.com/od/ascannerdarkly/a/scannerrl062906.htm

In this interview, Linklater says that it takes 500 hours to do 1 minute of rotoscoping.

http://brightlightsfilm.com/blog/a-scanner-darkly-linklater-gets-pkd-right/208#.UuAs6PZOky4

This review talks about how well the rotoscoping technique works for the scramble suit and drug addled performances of some of the actors.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/movies/reviews/2006-07-06-scanner-darkly-review_x.htm

This article brings up a point that I did not really think about while watching the film, all the actors are cast because they are well-known slackers. Keanu Reeves, enough said. Robert Downey Jr. was a drug using slacker back in the day, Woody Harrelson has been on the front of “High Times” for a few covers, and Winona Ryder is a crazy person. All these actors personal lives translate into an added bit of info into each of their characters, blurring the lines between who they play and who they are, much like the “Substance D” in the film.

 

 

5. Scanner Darkly can be described as an example of the stoner picaresque genre, in that it derives humor from watching people act out after taking drugs. How does Scanner Darkly compare to other stoner picaresque films such as the Cheech and Chong films, the Harold and Kumar films, Fear and Loathing in Las VegasDazed and Confused (also directed by Richard Linklater), or other examples of the genre you can think of?

A Scanner Darkly is less stoner picaresque, and more about the horrifying reality of hardcore drug use, like in the movie Requiem for a Dream. Where the films listed above all have the characters resolving their issues and being able to choose their next actions, ASD and RfaD show the permanent effects of this kind of drug use. Bob Arctor is a vegetable, damned to work in the fields to pick flowers for the rest of his very short life (and even if his secret flower gets to the police, his mental facilities will not change). But in, for instance, Fear and Loathing, the characters go on their sojourn through Las Vegas, and then come back to their normal lives with nary a scratch. In fact, Hunter S. Thompson finds the ability to write a book about his experiences, in a way that makes it seem funny. The endings to Scanner and Requiem are anything but funny, and show a flip side to the comedy of the stoner movie.

Blog Response – No Country for Old Men (ENGL329B)

1. The novel No Country for Old Men follows Llewelyn Moss as he finds, and attempts to abscond with 2 million dollars worth of drug money. He is followed by the hit man Anton Chirugh, who attempts to recover the money. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell follows the trail of destruction and gives monologues on what this new type of world (created by Chirugh) is doing to “old men” such as himself. The novel reflects on the conflict between self-governance and freedom.

2. The film creates an uneasy representation of times that could be construed as the present, but in an isolated desert town. The film does not shove period pieces into your face, making the viewer constantly question the year. While it is no secret that the story is set in the 80’s (as per the set pieces and dress), one could easily make the mistake of thinking the film is present day, albeit in the middle of the desert in Texas. Anton Chirugh’s hair is certainly something that could be brought to the contrary, but the pure evil he exudes could also lead one into thinking that the ease of maintenance for such a cut could have been at the forefront of his mind. Being a son of the greatest state in the Union (Texas, of course), the sights and (lack of) sounds in the film brought me visions of towns I have visited only recently.

3. The film is a fairly faithful adaptation, with a few minor caveats to fit into the Hollywood dynamic. The greatest difference is the “resolution” of Moss’ wife. In the book, she is given the chance to call the coin flip, which she does, and she is killed when she calls it wrong. In the film, she refuses to call the coin, and the viewer is never explicitly told what happens to her. Her fate is hinted at when Chirugh checks his shoes after leaving her house. The unapologetic brutality of this scene in the novel is not conveyed in the film, and Mrs. Moss’ determination and courage could have stopped the nihilistic Chirugh in his tracks, but we do not know for sure either way.

4. http://cinema-scope.com/currency/currency-no-country-for-old-men/

This review also touches on Mrs. Moss’ last stand against the unstoppable Chirugh. It talks of her as evolving past the “hands-wringing housewife” stereotype and turning into a source of courage. What the review does not talk about is how she is dealt with. Granted, the viewer is never told what exactly happens to her, but to leave summarize her role as that is to leave out a huge component of what the novel is about.

http://www.filmcomment.com/article/extended-readers-poll-results-best-movies-of-2007-list

A comment from a reader talks of the movie as being a “pretentious Terminator,” which is a very interesting counter view to consider.

http://www.filmsite.org/greatfirstlines4.html

A list of best opening lines includes Sheriff Bell saying, “I was Sheriff of this county when I was 25 years old. Hard to believe.” which sets the tone for the movie fairly well.

5. At one point in the film Sheriff Bell relates the case of people who tortured and killed seniors for their Social Security checks. Wondering why they tortured people, Bell says “maybe the television was broken.” Is this comment meant to reflect a criticism of violence in entertainment media (TV and film)? Or are the film-makers saying that graphic violence in entertainment media will somehow make violence less prevalent in society?

The comment Sheriff Bell makes about the people who tortured seniors is not a reflection on violence in the media, but rather a comment regarding the new facilities of life boiling aspects of living down to such a degree that we, as a species, have become so bored that we constantly search for new outlets for our time. Sheriff Bell comes from a time where cowboy and Indian shows on the radio or television were not considered damaging to children, and no themes behind the shows existed, besides the fact that the struggles presented in the medium caused a lasting psychological impact on the society that participated in them, which led to the shows existing in the first place. So to comment on these modern beliefs would be unlike him. He also comes from a time where abattoir guns did not exist; where a man had to devise crude and time-consuming methods to slaughter cattle. But the ease of the abattoir gun (this item from the film represents my point perfectly) allows man to slaughter cattle at an efficient rate, which leaves him with time on his hands. The question now becomes, what will he do with this time? I believe Sheriff Bell’s comments are more in line with the inherent propensity of man towards violence, and the ease of modern times has allowed man more time to do things, which would tend to be violent. The television is the epoch of the extra-time crisis, as it serves no purpose but to fill in a period of time. And Sheriff Bell’s comments are questioning what happens when this time consuming device breaks in this new world of extra time.

 

Treatment Paper

            Diana McCaulay’s Dog-Heart analyzes themes of income inequality and poverty in the Caribbean nation of Jamaica. In light of the current economic situation of the United States of America and its prominent political implications, a film adaptation of this novel would hit on these themes and would find a receptive market.

            The film follows two characters, Dexter, a poor black boy living in Jacob’s Quarter, Jamaica, and Sahara Lawrence, a relatively affluent restaurant owner.  The story is split between these two people and follows the course of 4 years, the passage of time being marked by Dexter’s grade changes and physical portrayal from 12 year old boy to 16 year old “man.”

            The general plot is derived from a chance meeting between the two characters outside of a movie theater. Dexter and his friends beg outside of this movie theater that is frequented by rich folks. They target people based on what they wear, what cars they are going to, and how they react when they see the boys walking towards them. When Dexter approaches Sahara and her son, Sahara gives more money than he has ever received, and asks for his name and where he lives. Dexter is apprehensive and gives only general information. Carl reveals himself to be entitled and admonishes his mom throughout the film for caring for this poor, “worthless,” boy.  Sahara searches Dexter out and finds his family, consisting of Dexter’s mom, his 9 year old brother, Marlon, and his baby sister, Lissa. They live in a squalid plywood “house” in a shantytown, in sharp contrast with Sahara’s beautiful home in a nice neighborhood. Sahara strikes up an agreement with the family where she would provide money so the children can go to a real school and would bring groceries to the house, but only if the children do not beg anymore. The family agrees and the plot follows the kids’ difficulty in assimilating into a new culture. In one of the food deliveries, Sahara meets Lasco, a friend of Dexter’s with a truly evil demeanor that frightens Sahara to no end. Lasco is the eponymous “Dog-Heart.” Marlon and Lissa excel, while Dexter finds it too difficult to overcome the social differences. He does well enough to go on to high school and Sahara sets him up in an elite school for the gifted. Almost immediately after starting school, Dexter starts to give in to social pressures and trepidatiously follows his now teenage friends, Lasco and Boston, from the shantytown into a life of crime. He attends school only sparingly. They perform several menial crimes, stealing from various shops, acting as lookouts for drug deals, and more, and make a little money. After a few jobs, it is revealed that Lasco has used his earnings to buy a gun, and tells the boys that he wants to join a gang. To join the gang, he must first capture and kill a rich white person of such socioeconomic importance that the crime will make it into the newspapers. Before they can start to plan such a crime, a lookout job goes bad, and the police go looking for the boys. The boys run to Dexter’s house and hide, his mom tries to kick them out but the police are right behind them. The cops bust down the door and Boston and Lasco escape, but Dexter is arrested. In the confusion, Marlon is mistaken for one of the escaped boys and is shot and killed by the police. Dexter goes to jail. Sahara finds out what has happened from the newspaper the next day and goes to visit Dexter in jail. After seeing the horrendous conditions of his imprisonment, she goes to Carl’s father, a prominent white lawyer in Jamaica, and gets him to have Dexter released. At this point, Dexter severs all ties with moving down the straight and narrow path and finds Lasco and Boston. They now plan on joining the gang. Lasco, Dexter, and Boston go to the movie to find an unwitting victim. Carl has since gone to college and Sahara is attending a movie on her own. As she leaves, the boys kidnap her and tape her up. She is thrown into the trunk of her car and the boys take her to an abandoned building. When Lasco moves to kill her, Dexter has a change of heart and takes the gun and kills Lasco. He tells Boston to run away and then releases Sahara. Sahara drives away in a panic and Dexter leaves the city for the mountains, where he hopes to live in peace.

            Dexter is poor boy of great intelligence. He has the raw horsepower to succeed in the “white” world but cannot escape his poor “black” background. His family needs him to beg, as his father is never known, and this limits his ability to better his own future. The nature of providing for his family also puts him in a mental rut that does not allow him to ever think of himself as anything but a poor street rat. He will have mental monologues in patois, and will struggle with talking “normal.” He is fiercely protective of his brother Marlon and commands influence in his family, which he does not realize until he is older and attempts to assert himself over his mother, which will result in him recoiling from his intimidation of the woman who raised him. Dexter, at his heart, is a good person who just wants to escape the conditions that make him and his loved ones suffer, and he is forever apprehensive to accept Sahara’s help, as he cannot see from his position how enduring the hardships of school will ever help him and his family escape squalor. He also questions her motivations, which are never known to him.

            Sahara is a single mother with a mixed race background. Her mother was a poor black woman and her father was a rich white man. Her mother abandoned her when she was young and her father was a missionary-type character. He left for Africa when she was young and her primary caregiver was her aunt in England, who was never fond of black people. Sahara went to school in Jamaica and opened a restaurant with her black best friend. She makes a good amount of money and has a child with her high school sweetheart, with whom she does not have good relationship. Her son, Carl, is at first an entitled young man, who tries to convince her mother to stop providing for the family for various reasons. He goes to Florida State University when Dexter goes to high school but fails out. When he returns, he moves in with his father and has a change of heart, manifesting itself into him helping his father release Dexter from prison. Sahara is shaken at the end of the film because of her experiences, but her initial inclination to help is confirmed when Dexter proves himself to be a good person underneath his failings.

            The income disparity between the two characters is the main theme. Sahara is not rich, but she finds it within herself and her belongings to provide for the poor family. But her intentions are constantly questioned, via internal monologue and Dexter’s point of view. She frequently becomes frustrated at Dexter’s inability to focus on schoolwork, which she attributes to laziness derived from his poverty. But the audience can see it’s because Dexter has to provide for his family. For instance, the family does not even have running water, so he has to walk a mile to and from a communal tap every morning before school, harassed by bigger boys all along the way. The main theme is that poverty is not a symptom, but a condition that causes many other symptoms, which should ultimately beg the inference that to eradicate poverty, you should alleviate all the effects first (contrary to medical logic).

            The two main locations are Jacob’s Quarter, a slum in Jamaica (although not the worst slum, which should be said by Dexter at some point, inviting the idea that even though it is a hellacious place, he has some pride in it), and the “rich” world of Sahara. Jacob’s Quarter should invoke visions of shacks in Haiti (like the ones seen on television commercials after the 2008 earthquake) with functionality prided over appearance. Kids do not always wear shoes because they must save their shoes for going out of the Quarter for instance. The rich world should have palm trees and mimosas, invoking the stereotypical island paradise that many think when they envision Jamaica. The island theme should run through all these shots as they appeal to the rich American stereotype to which we all subscribe. This will lead the viewer to reflect on themselves and their own situation, as they will agree with the island the theme and then realize the dirty truth of what Jamaica really is.

            The scene where Sahara is captured is the climax of the entire story. Three dirty and starving boys creep through the shadows and approach the single mixed-race woman leaving the theater. They hush each other as she approaches her van, and she is deep in thought. She looks through her purse, passing over a can of mace, and fumbles with her keys. She drops them and bends over to pick them up. She is clocked on the head and falls to the ground. She tries to scream but a dirty hand shoves a filthy rag into her mouth and other hands wrap tape around her head. Their frantic and unprofessional movements poke her and drop the tape and empty her bag. This attracts attention and people come over to see what is happening. When the boys see this, they quickly shove her into the back of the van and rush to start it. Bystanders flip open their phones and call the police. The van squelches its tires as they peel out and rush to an undisclosed location. Sahara is in the dark, with a bag over her head, and she is crying and trying to scream. Dexter and Boston are screaming at each other while Lasco has a cool expression, which indicates he is in complete control; he is in his element. The van stops and the boys pull the kicking Sahara out. The bag is removed and she squints in the van’s lights. Her eyes adjust and she looks at Dexter and Boston, each boy refusing to meet her gaze. She then focuses on Lasco, who looks her dead in the eyes, with a look of pure evil, with the look of a soulless heart, a “Dog-Heart.” He relishes the moment and then demands the pistol. A shot rings out and his face contorts in surprise as he falls on the ground. Dexter holds the smoking gun and then demands Boston run away. Boston swears revenge and escapes into the darkness. Dexter releases Sahara’s bonds and throws the keys on the ground. The gun follows the keys and Dexter watches as Sahara collects both and drives away. Sahara watches Dexter in the rearview mirror and gets to her house, where she stops in the driveway and cries.

 

            When Sahara and Carl first meet Dexter outside of the movie theater.

Dexter approaches Sahara and Carl and says, “’Scuse me miss, but I lookin’ for jus’ some change fo’ mi family, nuttin’ much, jus’ a few coins.”

Carl replies,” Mom, come on, we need to get out of here. I have school tomorrow.”    

Sahara rebukes Carl,” Carl, be quiet.” She turns to Dexter and asks, “What’s your name?”

“Mi name ain’t important, miss, I jus’ need some change to feed mi family.”

“I’ll give you 500 dollars (this is Jamaican currency) if you tell me your name and where you live.”

“I… uh, mi name Dexter. I live in de Quarter. Jacob’s Quarter miss. Mi family is hungry and we needin’ some food. That money would help miss.”

“Ok Dexter, as promised, here’s 500. Why are you here begging? Don’t you have school tomorrow?”

Dexter ignores the question and says, “Thank you miss, thank you miss, mi goin’ to school tomorrow. Have a good night miss!”

            This film embodies what many think will be the biggest issue of the 2014 Midterm elections, income disparity. The Democratic and Republican parties have differing views on how to rectify the situation, but the film will not address solutions. It will only show what needs to be considered before a solution is in place. The answer is not a short-term fix that is meant to help one’s own conscience, but a lasting change that acknowledges the vast differences in lifestyles that accompany income disparity. The ending is not feel-good per se, but it does give the audience a glimpse into the humanity of the poor, which is in stark contrast to the label (of which this treatment has been guilty of using).

Blog Response – Adaptation (ENGL329B)

1. The Orchid Thief is a book that was adapted from an article written by Susan Orlean for The New Yorker magazine. The book is essentially a book adaptation of the article, and it expounds upon what was a succinct investigation into John Laroche’s orchid thievery and fiery passions. The book is more an examination of the neutral “passion,” with John Laroche, his compatriots, and the orchids being marginal details to the greater message. It is somewhat ironic that this book was born of a The New Yorker article, as this magazine is known for its sprawling messages and eclectic topics, which seem to flirt with the issues as opposed to exciting any sort of passion.

2. Adaptation is a movie about the creative process of Hollywood that starts Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep. The movie is full of subtle ironies (deus ex machina, Kaufman’s process, etc.) and the cinematography is unflinching. The movie does not revel in the sexual or the grotesque, but scenes involving violence are horrifying and unapologetically brutal, and the sexual activity in the movie is more of a thing that occurs as part of the story, and not made more gratuitous than need be.

3. The adaptation of the film (within the film) follows the guidelines Hollywood has for such movies. This is discussed throughout the entire film, and is actually what the film is about, behind the superficially apparent story. Nicolas Cage’s characters exist within the story Nicolas Cage’s characters are working on, and within the meta film that exists that tries to convey the process of writing a screenplay. The Orchid Thief, with its flowing language and large amount of speculations and inferences, is said to be “unfilmable,” and that aspect alone made the crew want to utilize its existence as the basis for the film. On the whole, however, the adaptation is not truly faithful, as it (ironically) follows the Hollywood screenwriting process for making a successful adaptation.

4. http://www.film-philosophy.com/index.php/f-p/article/view/795/707

This article analyzes the movie, but makes a very interesting musing about the allure of John Laroche. It states the he is “fascinated,” not by anything, but just plain “fascinated.” This explains Susan Orlean’s interest in his person, as he is not necessarily interesting as an orchid thief, but as someone who is “fascinated.” While it does not really explain the meta film narrative of the movie, it does provide some insight into why the book was so “unfilmable.”

 

http://www.imagesjournal.com/2002/reviews/adaptation/

This review brings up an interesting alter-casting scheme where the Kaufman brothers are played by an unknown actor (as if Meryl Streep would be expected to go along with that).

 

http://sensesofcinema.com/2003/feature-articles/adaptation/

The last paragraph of this article talks about the film, in line with Hollywood protocol, answering questions as opposed to asking them, which raises the point that maybe that’s the point of film.

5. The reaction of Charlie Kaufman when Donald tells him that he sold “The 3” for potentially 1.5 million dollars reveals more of his intentions than any of his musings throughout the film. The movie is ostensibly about Charlie’s difficulties to create a script, his motivations are secondary and not really discussed. But when he pauses after Donald’s revelation, the viewer can see his entire demeanor change to that of acquiescence to Donald’s subscription to the Hollywood process, the same process that Charlie previously railed against when confronted by Donald and the development of his script. It cannot be purely coincidental that Charlie overcomes his writer’s block and comes up with a textbook ending to his screenplay when he hears the news of big money coming to Donald. This reveals that Charlie’s process is not derived from a love of producing art (which would be the case if he were a creator of “high art”) but from his love of large quantities of cash.