After many people read novels, and then watch the film, you hear them leave the theater saying that movie was nothing like the book. That can be true, but a movie has to be judged while keeping in mind that it has both a budget and a time limit, which only allows most movies to focus on the crux of the story. However, where books attempt to give a depiction of their characters and capture their essence, a good director can encapsulate and portray the fundamental nature of the characters clearly for the viewer with visualization.
Books attempt to give descriptions of their characters through long descriptive details, from whether his hair is black, to the kind of things he eats, to how he acts. Although this can be very explanatory for the readers, I feel that a film’s ability to allow its viewer to actually see, and not attempt to visualize the character in one’s head, is a clear benefit. One master of film that I have a great respect for is Alfred Hitchcock, and one of his many great works was Rear Window. One example of how a film can show us characterization very quickly, but still allow us an understanding of every character, is when L.
B. Jeffries, in Rear Window, is talking to his girlfriend Lisa Freemont and his insurance caretaker Stella, and goes around the entire courtyard displaying his neighbors for us multiple times to get a better understanding of them throughout the film. We also get more detail about Jeffries in Hitchcock’s movie than we do about him in the novel. Jeffries in the story is insinuated to be a gimp, “Sure, I suppose it was a little bit like prying, could even have been mistaken for the fevered concentration of a Peeping Tom. That wasn’t my fault, that wasn’t the idea.
The idea was, my movements were strictly limited just around this time. I could get from the window to the bed, and from the bed to the window, and that was all (Woolrich, 5). ” On the other hand Hitchcock displays for us Jeffries sitting in a wheelchair with one of his legs in a cast, and later getting a phone call from his boss, needing his best photographer back, where the audience is given a wide window into mind of Jeffries. Another film where we get brilliant characterization is in Barry Levinson’s The Natural. Audiences have been formed with a need for heroes. We want to elieve in someone, to look up to someone, and Levinson has given us such a character in his adaptation of Malamud’s novel. The Roy Hobbs of the movie is utterly heroic. He is quietly confident, without overconfidence or malice. Levinson goes out of his way to show that Roy is courteous to his fans, and in return they stand by him loyally. A scene in which Roy is signing autographs, surrounded by younger fans, adds a paternal and affable facet to his personality. The Roy of the movie even goes to far as to help the batboy make a bat that resembles Hobbs’s own bat, Wonderboy.
Levinson’s adaptation, an uplifting battle of good and evil, characterizes Roy Hobbs as a hero in order to recognize America’s value system. We like seeing people with a special talent fulfilling their dreams. Characterization isn’t the only element of filmmaking that can help a film differ from the book. Cinematography is probably one of the most important aspects to a film, and a director needs a keen eye and a good imagination to master it. A Scandal in Bohemia by Paul Annett is a great example of cinematography.
When the fire alarm is sounded and Irene Adler goes for the picture Sherlock Holmes is looking for, she sees the elderly man looking at her and realizes the elderly man is Sherlock Homes in disguise. In the story we only know what Sherlock tells the reader, but here we are shown that even the great detective can make mistakes. Barry Levinson’s The Natural shows another facet of cinematography with the use of lights. Unlike the novel, when we meet the judge for the first time we get an idea of the character that he is just by the lighting.
When Hobbs walks into the judges office, the lights are off and we cant really see the judge. This use of lighting is intended for the audience to get the feeling that he is going to be the antagonist in this film. Earlier in the film, when Roy takes on The Whammer, dramatic “golden hour” lighting is used to portray Hobbs as the movie’s heroic figure. One of the most dramatic examples of cinematography is Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Shadows are seen everywhere in the film, and almost every character’s face is only half-lit at any given point in time.
As the expedition into the jungle goes on, literally into the heart of darkness, the stark contrast between dark and light becomes even more pronounced. Nowhere is it more distinct than on the faces of Captain Willard and Kurtz. The divergence is heightened when Willard reaches Kurtz’s compound. While Kurtz’s face is almost always hidden in the shadows, Willard has both light and shadow on his face. During the climax of the film, the distinction is too extreme to ignore, as Willard kills Kurtz in a view backlit so that the actors are silhouettes.
While the actual act of murder is shown in total darkness, the blinding light behind it suggests an escape; the difference is the audience’s choice. Although many films are not perfectly true to the novels they are portraying, films are meant to give a bona fide visual aspect. Books spend pages upon pages of pouring out details, so that the reader will try to imagine what the author is envisioning, but a good film director can epitomize this revelation with his choice of characterization and cinematography.
Works Cited The Natural. Dir. Barry Levinson. Perf. Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, and Glenn Close. TriStar Pictures, 1984. Rear Window. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Paramount Pictures, 1954. Apocalypse Now. Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Perf. Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, and Robert Duvall. Zoetrope Studios, 1979 A Scandal in Bohemia. Dir. Paul Annett. Perf. Jeremy Brett, David Burke, and Gayle Hunnicutt. Granada Television, 1984.