Read a post entitled “It’s All About the Story” on the Austenblog relating the controversial remarks the Welsh filmmaker Peter Greenaway made recently in an international film festival. He criticised modern blockbusters like the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series, dismissing them as “not films but illustrated books”. As for all the Austen movies sprouting up in recent years, Greenaway said:
“Cinema is predicated on the 19th-century novel. We’re still illustrating Jane Austen novels—there are 41 films of Jane Austen novels in the world. What a waste of time.”
This is my response. I recognize that not all attempts of turning books into films are successful, many far from being effective. However, a good movie should be the portrayal of a vision, not mere illustration or graphic representation of the written words. As I have commented in that post, let’s just say a film is the visualization of the novel, not mere illustration.
And there is a major difference between vision and illustration: the former is seeing through an interpretive lens, rather than simply transferring images from one medium to another like the latter.
That’s why we may like a certain adaptation over another of the same Austen novel, and that’s why there can be more than one movie on the same story… Just as Bach had created Theme and Variations, we can have Story and Adaptations. That’s the reason why we still go to the concert hall and listen to different masters playing the same pieces of music, infusing into their performance their own unique persona and interpretation. As an art-house filmmaker, Mr. Greenaway should have grasped this very fundamental notion.
As for future endeavors to turn Austen novels into films, I say, “All the best!”