Adaptation Analysis: The Passion of the Christ

For Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, a plethora of texts and even paintings were consulted by Gibson and the screenwriter, Benedict Fitzgerald. In the documentary, By His Wounds We Are Healed: The Making of ‘The Passion of the Christ, Gibson claims “faithfulness” to his source material. The “faithfulness” that Gibson claims comes from his and the screenwriter’s use of the “canonical” gospels to make sure they had not contradicted the authority of those texts. For John Desmond, co-writer of Adaptation: Studying Film & Literature with Peter Hawkes, “faithfulness” comes with various questions attached to it. The Passion of the Christ is an adaptation of multiple sources, so the question comes of “faithfulness” by what standard. In the text, Desmond states, “If we leave aside the problem of identifying what is essential in the text, we are still left with the difficulty of judging the degree to which the essential has been transposed.” (40). In the film, it is clear that Gibson took artistic liberties to The Passion. Some of his inspirations are Renaissance painters, some of whom were referenced in the documentary. Paintings by Bosch, Rembrandt, Carravagio, and Grunewald, could all be taken as visually influencing Gibson and his Cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel. Desmond states another problem, which pertains to the language of fidelity: “The reviewer claims the adaptation is ‘faithful’ or ‘unfaithful’ and that this degree of faithfulness is either good or bad. The problem with this language is that it tends to imply that the book is better than the movie.” (41). For the depiction of the Passion, it seems that using multiple texts while simultaneously having Mel Gibson’s assert “faithfulness’ would cause difficulty in determining what was essential to the adaptation. Suppose a filmmaker uses artistic renderings from a variety of time periods. In that case, it does not seem reasonable to assert faithfulness in the sense that it is an exact replica of the document. Besides, the four Gospels have differences in focus for each event leading up to the crucifixion. If Matthew, Mark, and Luke all focus on different aspects of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, what would Gibson consider more authoritative and important to depict in his adaptation? The three Gospels similarly portray the events, while John is distinctly different, so what authority does Gibson go by? By looking at Gibson’s use of The Stations of the Cross, and the abundance of texts outside of the Gospels, in his portrayal of the crucifixion, The Passion of the Christ becomes a loose adaptation of the Gospels.

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Adaptation Analysis: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

For Adamson’s adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he chose to expand on scenes that would particularly fit the cinematic medium. For many moments in the film, he shows scenes that were merely mentioned in the novel and dramatizes them. I find the dramatization of the opening scene adds stakes to the film compared to the opening line in the book, “This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the war because of the air-raids.” (3). As the children are in the professor’s home, it is evident that the reason for the characters going into the closet and reaching Narnia is quite different from the novel. Both versions focus on Lucy’s dilemma of not being believed by her siblings and Edmund lying that he did not visit Narnia. However, in the novel, the children go into the wardrobe while attempting to escape the housekeeper Mrs. Macready and her house tours. In the film, they shatter a window while playing ball, which causes them to seek refuge in the wardrobe. Much of Adamson’s transformation of the story goes after expanding upon what would be more visually appealing for the film. In Lucy’s encounter with Tumnus, as a crucial scene for Narnia, it had the feeling of the chapter through its visualization. The look of Tumnus is spot-on:

 “He had a strange pleasant face, with a short pointed beard and curly hair, and out of the hair there stuck two horns, one on each side of his forehead. One of his hands, as I have said, held the umbrella.” (10).

The character is spot-on; however, there are differences in his speech and the dialogue. Through this scene, and the rest of the film, Adamson’s adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, seems to be fairly close but on the whole intermediate. Adamson employs some techniques John M. Desmond highlights in his Adaptation: Studying Film and Literature. In the chapter on the novel, some of the techniques in the scene when Tumnus meets Lucy are adding dialogue, cutting, and finding correlatives. 

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Adaptation Analysis: “Killings” & In the Bedroom (2001)

Like my previous entry, my focus is again on Adaptation Analysis, which I will continue to categorize as either close, loose, or intermediate. This week my goal is to compare the short story “Killings” by Andre Dubus, and the film adaptation, In the Bedroom directed by Todd Field. The basic premise of the short story and the film is straightforward. Our main character, Matt Fowler, seeks revenge after his son, Frank Fowler, is murdered. The story is a look at what drives an ordinary person to kill. For this analysis, I speculate Field’s strategy to adapt such a short story into a film. Adaptation: Studying Literature and Film by John Desmond, defines the common methods a filmmaker may use to adapt a short story as:

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