Re: RARA-AVIS: Hanson's "L.A. Confidential" Versus Ellroy's (Spoilers)

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 26 Aug 2003

Chris wrote:

"A PROPOSAL IN RESPONSE TO DOHERTIAN "BOOK/MOVIE" ISSUES What would you say to a differentiation between "adaptation" ad
"translation"? A "translation" can be a direct, blow-by-blow, reproduction in film terms of what occurs in the book. "Adaptation," by contrast," can involve changes to make the material work in its new circumstances. Sorta like the difference between "Messiah" involving Handel's own orchestrations and the version put together by Mozart. My basic feeling: They're two differing approaches. One is not *better* than the other, they're just contrasting methods of dealing with material-to-be-filmed. Direct translations are very nice -- WHEN THEY WORK. But, then, imaginative play with the material is fine, too. I love both "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" and the Ridley Scott/David Peoples
"Blade Runner", f'rinstance ... and they have virtually nothing to do with each other."

Has any PK Dick adaptation ever had much to do with the source material?

Chris, I like your translation/adaptation distinction, but I'd like to go one further. How about interpretation, as in jazz? The source material, the notes on the page, is nothing more than a starting point for a performer, who is supposed to offer his/her own reading. There is no one, true version. It's considered boring and extraneous if the performer adds nothing new, does nothing more than copy a previous version of the song. Much the same goes for rock -- why record a version of an old song if you have nothing to add to it?

True, these examples do not involve a shift from one medium to another, like book to film, but I think it could be used to distinguish between approaches. So translation could apply to those filmmakers who try their hardest to offer the same experience as the book, just adding pictures. Adaptation would apply to those who try to honor the book, but see the film as a collaboration with the writer. Interpretation would describe those who only consider the book as a starting point, to do with as they will, for instance, Blade Runner, as you noted, Diva, Long Goodbye and Kiss Me Deadly.


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