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Movie Interloper

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  • spark654@aol.com
    In a message dated 12/30/02 8:05:59 AM Eastern Standard Time, ... I ve never had such a problem with any book-to-movie translation. Why would it take up space
    Message 1 of 9 , Dec 30, 2002
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      In a message dated 12/30/02 8:05:59 AM Eastern Standard Time,
      mythsoc@yahoogroups.com writes:


      > But it still bothers me, for two reasons: first, LOTR is the novel I
      > cherish most, while the film is just a good fantasy film, and I resent
      > having to let this interloper take up valuable space in my mind and
      > heart. Second, the better I know the film, the more vigilance I have to
      > apply to keep from confusing them myself.

      I've never had such a problem with any book-to-movie translation. Why would
      it take up space in your mind and heart unless you allowed it to? I can
      think of several books that have been made into bad movies, and I've never
      allowed the poor translation or miscast actors to violate my personal vision
      of the books.

      You're actually making the point of the person whose criticism you dislike.
      I mean, if someone so well-versed in the books cannot lump them together, why
      should the critic you mentioned do a better job of it?

      From my point of view, a lot of Two Towers criticism is by people who are
      angry not that the movie didn't match the book but that it didn't match THEIR
      interpretation of the book. A book can be quite faithful to a book's
      text--its decriptions, character motivations etc. I think we'd all agree
      it's almost impossible for a book to be a perfect or even near-perfect
      translation of a book; I haven't read anyone here expecting that. But I
      haven't read anyone admitting what is pretty clear to me: Those Tolkien fans
      who seem infuriated with the movie are so because all that money and effort
      was expended on Jackson's idea of the book, not their own.

      Anyone who has read a large number of film scripts understands the gap
      between any written story and a finished product. One of the most faithful
      filmings of an original script in years past was The Fisher King--the writer
      and director have both said as much. Still, I have come across people who
      loved the script and HATE the film because of the liberties taken. Yet, the
      guy who wrote the scipt praises the movie's faithfulness to his work.

      The only answer I can come up with is that when you read a book or script,
      your own interpretation is the "unfaithful" one, in that we all add
      elements--that's part of what makes the reading experience so intimate, we
      can instantly "cast" the players and locations, for example, as WE see them.
      Any effort to make such things literal--even if we each had the skill and
      money to make a film--would not correspond directly to our imaginings.

      I guess I don't resent someone's interpretation of a beloved book because
      I've been there too often. As for a movie I dislike "taking up" valuable
      space in my head and heart--well, I just don't get that at all.

      Sparkdog


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • David S Bratman
      ... I answered that question in the paragraph previous to the one you just quoted. I have to know the movie in order to discuss how the book is different. And
      Message 2 of 9 , Dec 31, 2002
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        At 05:03 PM 12/30/2002 -0500, Sparkdog wrote:

        > > But it still bothers me, for two reasons: first, LOTR is the novel I
        > > cherish most, while the film is just a good fantasy film, and I resent
        > > having to let this interloper take up valuable space in my mind and
        > > heart. Second, the better I know the film, the more vigilance I have to
        > > apply to keep from confusing them myself.
        >
        >I've never had such a problem with any book-to-movie translation. Why would
        >it take up space in your mind and heart unless you allowed it to?

        I answered that question in the paragraph previous to the one you just
        quoted. I have to know the movie in order to discuss how the book is
        different.

        And it's not a matter of "allowing". Have you never had a tune you
        disliked stuck in your head, and you couldn't get it out and stop thinking
        of it? If not, you're probably the only person who never has. The rest of
        us humans don't have such iron control over our mental associations. It
        took me ten years to excise the images and voices of Bakshi's film from my
        mind when re-reading the book, and I don't think that's unusual or bizarre.

        A couple weeks ago - perhaps this was before you joined the list - Susan
        Palwick suggested that maybe I should just not see the films. But that
        wouldn't be enough to keep them out of my head. Not only would I have to
        abdicate all my credentials as a Tolkien expert in the outside world, but
        I'd have to drop off this list and abandon Tolkien fandom altogether. Oh
        yes, and I'd have to stay out of bookstores and avoid watching television
        for six months around the release of each film. That's not practical.


        >You're actually making the point of the person whose criticism you dislike.
        >I mean, if someone so well-versed in the books cannot lump them together, why
        >should the critic you mentioned do a better job of it?

        I don't follow this at all. Perhaps you mean "if someone so well-versed in
        the books finds it difficult to avoid lumping them together ..."

        If that's what you mean, I'm not blaming this critic, I'm just pointing out
        the problem in criticism that the film's existence creates.


        > From my point of view, a lot of Two Towers criticism is by people who are
        >angry not that the movie didn't match the book but that it didn't match THEIR
        >interpretation of the book. A book can be quite faithful to a book's
        >text--its decriptions, character motivations etc. I think we'd all agree
        >it's almost impossible for a book to be a perfect or even near-perfect
        >translation of a book; I haven't read anyone here expecting that. But I
        >haven't read anyone admitting what is pretty clear to me: Those Tolkien fans
        >who seem infuriated with the movie are so because all that money and effort
        >was expended on Jackson's idea of the book, not their own.

        That is absolutely untrue, at least in my case. Here's what I wrote about
        that point in _Beyond Bree_ in October of 2001, before the first film was
        released, and discussing only the trailers:

        "I do not insist that the film express my vision, and I don't care what
        Peter Jackson's vision is, so long as it's also Tolkien's vision. This is
        less paradoxical than it sounds. After Tolkien's Arda, there is no fantasy
        creation I revere more than Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast. The set design of
        the recent BBC adaptation was not my vision. But within the freedom of
        artistic creativity it was unquestionably true to Peake's vision, and I was
        content. If Jackson is true to Tolkien's I shall likewise be content. But
        on the evidence of the trailers I have reason to expect that he will not."

        And the films bore this prediction out. They've dumped just about
        everything that makes LOTR a strikingly unique work, and reduced it to
        generic sword-and-sorcery.


        >I guess I don't resent someone's interpretation of a beloved book because
        >I've been there too often. As for a movie I dislike "taking up" valuable
        >space in my head and heart--well, I just don't get that at all.

        If it were just an interpretation, no problem. As for taking up space, I
        explained that in the post you're responding to. I have to let it in, in
        order to talk about it. If I didn't know its scenes intimately, I couldn't
        call them to mind to explain how they're different from the book.


        The James Cain story you present in another post - "The book is still on
        the shelf" - is a tired old argument that completely and utterly misses the
        point. Here's what I wrote about that in _Beyond Bree_:

        "Will the book [survive]? In some cases, alas, it does not, and novels from
        which films have been made are sometimes replaced in bookstores by
        novelizations of the film. The Tolkien Estate's vigilance, and the
        voluntary restraint of the filmmakers and publishers, will prevent that in
        this case. But the copies of LOTR in the bookstores today have photos from
        the film on the cover. It is deliberately difficult to buy a new copy of
        the book today while ignoring the film. But what about the long run?
        Members of the audience cited _The Wizard of Oz_ as a book which has
        survived a film very different from it. But though the book is there to be
        read, it's been buried by the film, and so in a sense it has not really
        survived. That film has so pervaded our culture that it is impossible for a
        reader to come to the book now with a fresh eye. I regularly see articles
        attempting forlornly to unbury Baum's Oz from assumptions based on the
        film, and introduce it afresh to readers with no idea what a very different
        experience it is. Unless Jackson's film is completely unsuccessful and
        sinks without trace like Bakshi's, which is most unlikely, it will change
        utterly our views of the book."



        - David Bratman
      • SusanPal@aol.com
        In a message dated 12/31/2002 5:37:58 AM Pacific Standard Time, ... Oh, dear. David, what we need for you and others is some sort of Jackson exorcism rite!
        Message 3 of 9 , Dec 31, 2002
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          In a message dated 12/31/2002 5:37:58 AM Pacific Standard Time,
          dbratman@... writes:


          > A couple weeks ago - perhaps this was before you joined the list - Susan
          > Palwick suggested that maybe I should just not see the films. But that
          > wouldn't be enough to keep them out of my head. Not only would I have to
          > abdicate all my credentials as a Tolkien expert in the outside world, but
          > I'd have to drop off this list and abandon Tolkien fandom altogether. Oh
          > yes, and I'd have to stay out of bookstores and avoid watching television
          > for six months around the release of each film. That's not practical.
          >

          Oh, dear. David, what we need for you and others is some sort of Jackson
          exorcism rite! Anybody got any ideas?

          Susan


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • David S Bratman
          ... If everybody agreed they were dreadful and stopped talking about them, as happened to Bakshi, that would work. But as long as those films aren t going
          Message 4 of 9 , Dec 31, 2002
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            At 11:16 AM 12/31/2002 -0500, Susan wrote:

            >Oh, dear. David, what we need for you and others is some sort of Jackson
            >exorcism rite! Anybody got any ideas?

            If everybody agreed they were dreadful and stopped talking about them, as
            happened to Bakshi, that would work.

            But as long as those films aren't going away, I'm not going away.

            - David Bratman
          • SusanPal@aol.com
            In a message dated 12/31/2002 8:21:28 AM Pacific Standard Time, ... No, no, please don t misunderstand -- I wasn t suggesting that you go away! But I suspect
            Message 5 of 9 , Dec 31, 2002
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              In a message dated 12/31/2002 8:21:28 AM Pacific Standard Time,
              dbratman@... writes:


              > But as long as those films aren't going away, I'm not going away.
              >

              No, no, please don't misunderstand -- I wasn't suggesting that you go away!
              But I suspect there may be some method by which you can share the planet less
              painfully with Jackson and his fans than you've felt able to do so far. I
              mean, people who get songs stuck in their head *do* manage to get them out,
              eventually.

              Would simply rereading the books help? Replacing bad with good? Or do you
              have the books so thoroughly memorized that it wouldn't make any difference?

              Susan


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            • Joan Marie Verba
              This discussion on visualization brings up an interesting point: there are a myriad of perspectives and a myriad of ways of reacting to any particular film.
              Message 6 of 9 , Jan 1, 2003
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                This discussion on visualization brings up an interesting point: there
                are a myriad of perspectives and a myriad of ways of reacting to any
                particular film. One person on the list reacts one way, another person
                reacts in an entirely different way.

                Here is how my mind reacts (whether I want it to or not). To give an
                illustration, I'm a Star Trek fan. I've seen all the Star Trek movies.
                There were 2 different versions of both Star Trek: The Motion Picture
                and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I know each version very well. When
                I watch the revised movies, my mind insists on pointing out, whether I
                want it to or not, where changes were made. Therefore, though I enjoy
                the revised versions, watching them will never be a "smooth" experience,
                because there's a "bump" whenever a change in the original versions
                comes in.

                It's the same with the Peter Jackson films. I know Tolkien's Lord of the
                Rings text so well, there's always a "bump" whenever Jackson deviates
                from it. The first time I watched PJFR, it was a very bumpy ride. Since
                then, I've grown used to the bumps, and the experience is much less
                wrenching for it.

                In other words, for me, there will never be any danger in the movie
                intruding on the books. My mind simply doesn't work that way. It
                separates them definitively whether I want it to or not.

                One reason that I remain keenly interested in Peter Jackson's films is
                that it helps with visualization. In my view: Hobbiton was exactly
                right. Gandalf is exactly right. The Balrog was impressive (and I'm of
                the "wingless
                balrog" persuasion). My mind reacts to the movies by bringing me back to
                the books (as in Jackson did it this way, but I remember Tolkien did it
                this way) and therefore I recollect the books every time I see the film.
                That's not such a bad thing.

                I also wish to add that I thought that Sauron's depiction at the start
                of the film worked well for me. It didn't spoil or diminish my notion of
                Sauron as evil in the least. After all, he WAS there: he killed Elendil
                and Gil-galad. And he had to be SEEN in order for Isildur to cut the
                ring from his finger.

                In The Silmarillion, the words "And Morgoth came" nearly made me jump
                with fright. His coming on stage in that scene (where he kills
                Fingolfin, I believe) and in the scene where Luthien faces him didn't
                diminish his evilness to me, either.

                Another matter of perspective: Different people have
                different ideas as to what constitutes being "true" to the books. Many
                people who worked on the films say that they believe that they were true
                to the books, in form and in spirit. We may disagree, but they believe
                it. David B. mentioned an instance of how an adult and a nine-year-old
                reacted differently to the books, and theorized that Jackson's view was
                closer to the nine-year-old's in the example. Others may differ in how
                "true" to the books the film has to be, to be acceptable to them. Some
                viewers may be satisfied if the film contains only a small part of the
                original; others may wish for the film to reflect a larger portion. This
                may explain why so many loved the film unreservedly.

                Makes for interesting discussion, anyway.

                Joan
                ******************************************
                Joan Marie Verba
                verba001@...
                http://www.sff.net/people/Joan.Marie.Verba
              • David S Bratman
                ... I have the same bumps . For years, I felt a bump in reading Chapter 8 of _The Hobbit_, because I first encountered the book read aloud to my school
                Message 7 of 9 , Jan 1, 2003
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                  At 06:50 PM 1/1/2003 -0600, Joan wrote:

                  >It's the same with the Peter Jackson films. I know Tolkien's Lord of the
                  >Rings text so well, there's always a "bump" whenever Jackson deviates
                  >from it. The first time I watched PJFR, it was a very bumpy ride. Since
                  >then, I've grown used to the bumps, and the experience is much less
                  >wrenching for it.
                  >
                  >In other words, for me, there will never be any danger in the movie
                  >intruding on the books. My mind simply doesn't work that way. It
                  >separates them definitively whether I want it to or not.

                  I have the same "bumps". For years, I felt a "bump" in reading Chapter 8
                  of _The Hobbit_, because I first encountered the book read aloud to my
                  school class, and I was sick the day that chapter was read. Naturally, by
                  this measure watching a Jackson film is like tearing down a washboard road
                  at 80 mph. And it doesn't get smoother.

                  But that's how I react watching the film. It says nothing about whether
                  the movie intrudes on the books. And it does. I don't mind the images of
                  the Jackson film as much as those of the Bakshi film, fortunately.

                  >I also wish to add that I thought that Sauron's depiction at the start
                  >of the film worked well for me. It didn't spoil or diminish my notion of
                  >Sauron as evil in the least. After all, he WAS there: he killed Elendil
                  >and Gil-galad. And he had to be SEEN in order for Isildur to cut the
                  >ring from his finger.

                  It doesn't make Sauron any less evil: it diminishes his threat to be, as
                  Sparkplug put it, a tubby guy in a Sauron suit.

                  >Another matter of perspective: Different people have
                  >different ideas as to what constitutes being "true" to the books. Many
                  >people who worked on the films say that they believe that they were true
                  >to the books, in form and in spirit. We may disagree, but they believe
                  >it.

                  They believe it, but they're wrong. This is not a matter that can be laid
                  down to opinion: they're wrong.

                  - DB
                • disneylogic <disneylogic@yahoo.com>
                  On Wed, 01 Jan 2003 23:31:12 -0800 David S Bratman wrote in part: [snip] ... So, Dave, you disagree with Tom Shippey, then, in his review of a
                  Message 8 of 9 , Jan 2, 2003
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                    On Wed, 01 Jan 2003 23:31:12 -0800 David S Bratman
                    <dbratman@s...> wrote in part:

                    [snip]

                    >They believe it, but they're wrong. This is not a matter
                    >that can be laid down to opinion: they're wrong.

                    >- DB

                    So, Dave, you disagree with Tom Shippey, then, in his review of a
                    sort?
                    (Already referenced here, but see

                    http://www.portal.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jht
                    ml;$sessionid$QVAPP2BCCH1YRQFIQMGCFFWAVCBQUIV0?xml
                    =/opinion/2003/01/02/do0201.xml&sSheet=/portal/200
                    3/01/02/por_right.html)

                    If LOTR is that specific--that is specific enough to be able to make
                    these judgments without question--I wonder how it can succeed in
                    being such evocative myth?

                    --jtg

                    [snip]
                  • David S. Bratman
                    ... Not really, no. Shippey spends most of his article discussing differences, and concludes that the message survives the change of medium. By message he
                    Message 9 of 9 , Jan 3, 2003
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                      At 03:29 PM 1/2/2003 , jtg wrote:
                      >On Wed, 01 Jan 2003 23:31:12 -0800 David S Bratman
                      ><dbratman@s...> wrote in part:
                      >
                      >>They believe it, but they're wrong. This is not a matter
                      >>that can be laid down to opinion: they're wrong.
                      >
                      >So, Dave, you disagree with Tom Shippey, then, in his review of a
                      >sort?

                      Not really, no. Shippey spends most of his article discussing differences,
                      and concludes that "the message survives the change of medium." By message
                      he means the necessity of courage; and "survive" does suggest that it gets
                      through against all odds.

                      What I said was wrong was the statement that the films are "true to the
                      books, in form and in spirit." That's a mighty broad statement, and I've
                      read what the filmmakers have actually said, in detail. They believe they
                      accomplished something a lot truer to Tolkien than letting a basic broad
                      message survive the transition. That's what they're wrong about.

                      >If LOTR is that specific--that is specific enough to be able to make
                      >these judgments without question--I wonder how it can succeed in
                      >being such evocative myth?

                      I don't see how the evocative quality of LOTR - that is, its ability to
                      make you think of other things - is at all limited by the simple question
                      of whether a film translation is true to the book.


                      - David Bratman
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