2010-11-22

Interpretation of Film - A Brief Explanation

It occurred to me as I was preparing a new post that some clarification of my method would be a good thing to have on the site.  There are a few things in particular that I consider extremely important to the accurate interpretation of films.

The first concerns adaptations of novels, memoirs, or any other non-dramatic piece of writing.  A film and a novel are two completely separate art forms, and each has a distinct process for its creation that is unlike the other.  Film is by nature a collaboration.  Literature is by nature the voice of an individual.  I do not consider it good analysis to compare an adaptation to the source material.  The film should stand alone without any supplementary materials needed to enjoy and understand it, otherwise I consider it a fail.  Comparing a book to a film does a complete disservice to both works.  In my interpretation of film adaptations, I do not include this comparison.  I consider all films to stand alone, and those that do not as poor examples of the genre.  It is possible to make a film that strays so far from the original work that it's almost unrecognizable and for such a film to be a masterpiece.  'A Clockwork Orange' is so unrelated to Anthony Burgess' novel, for example, that he claims no link between his book and Kubrick's film.  Yet the film stands as one of the greatest ever made.

Second, a film, like any artistic work, should have merit when taken out of context.  This means that one has to consider how effective the work if there are no trends,fads, or current events to support it.  A single sentence can't be taken out of context and accurately understood, but I can understand 'The Wizard of Oz' even though I didn't live through the Depression.  Good art is timeless.  I'm also fairly critical of derivative work, in which the art is of value only as the sum of its references.  Present day abstract art and even worse, the phoned-in pieces made in the name of Warhol fall into this category.  In the world of film, the main offenders are the ubiquitous 'remakes' of old movies, or for that matter, recent movies.  Based on my memories of college, in about ten years there will be an explosion of Scorsese and Coppola remakes.  Lucas remade his own movies, otherwise he'd be first on the list.  Oh, for shame.  For shame.

So, please keep this rather dry explanation in mind when I don't mention source material and criticize overly trendy films.  

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