Deliverance and the genre of Film Adaptations
March 14, 2019 at 8:43 pm #1358Ian OxmanParticipant
It often seems that films based on novels rarely live up to the expectations set by their inspired work. Even the best film adaptations still feel like they miss out on something. This is not to say that one medium of storytelling is worse than the other, just that each medium has its strengths and shortcomings. Along with the pressure of remaining true to the source material, adapting scenes can be tricky. What works through writing can be lost in film, or a certain scene may be too expensive to shoot in a way that does the original writing justice, or what seemed like an important detail in the book might have to be left out in the interest of a simpler more consumable film. John Boorman’s Deliverance was an entertaining film on its own, and as an adaptation in my opinion was better than most. However, there are areas in which the film fails to capture strong messages I felt were present in James Dickey’s novel.
One such instant where I felt disappointed in my movie-going experience was the film portrayal of the first canoe crash, right after Ed, Lewis, Bobby, and Drew bury the first mountain man. This was my favorite scene to read in the book, but in the movie it is reduced to purely visual shots of Burt Reynolds and John Voigt being tossed around in the rapids of the river. What we miss out on from the novel is the narration from Ed Gentry as the river pulls and tosses him around, his transformation of character during the ordeal as he learns more and more to rely on himself for survival, and the small split-second decisions he makes that perhaps save his life. In the end, what in the novel was a powerful scene evoking the undiscriminating wrath of nature as well as a massive change in Ed’s character becomes (to me) a couple of cool stunt shots.
This is understandable as the written scene simply doesn’t translate to a Hollywood film, because most of what’s important about it goes on in a characters head, non-verbally. Perhaps Boorman could’ve had Voigt do a voice-over similar to the opening shots of the movie (and we might’ve seen this in an indie film) but I doubt it really would have had an impact on the enjoyability of the shot. Instead, a good director needs to find other ways to visually show character change.
Did anyone else at times in the movie feel the same dissatisfaction I did when viewing this scene or any other scenes? And is an absolutely faithful film adaptation possible, or something we as viewers even want, or will the book version forever be better?March 24, 2019 at 10:22 pm #1360Kelsey KwandransParticipant
I agree that many times what may carry the message of a novel is the internal thoughts or decisions a character makes, which is more inconvenient for filmmakers than when these moments happen through dialogue or action. Besides the scene you mentioned, I thought that Ed also gained a lot of character through his way of viewing things that happened to him as a movie, and the men as filling roles. In the novel he would also have almost out-of-body experiences where he visualized something happening that differed from reality or connected a current experience to a past memory, like the model’s eye. These were strange moments that I thought added depth to the character, but I do not have any suggestions for how they could have been included in the film. I did think the movie had a much different mood, like you mentioned, feeling more like an action film, so I guess it makes sense that they chose to cut all of these instances rather than force only one.
Something that interests me, as a frequent movie-goer but someone who rarely watches Netflix, is the trend or idea of turning a novel into a TV show, with episodes being given for chapters or a few books in a series. I wonder if this will continue and if it is really always a better option than capturing the feeling of a novel in the medium of a film.March 25, 2019 at 3:04 pm #1364Valeria GuarnerosParticipant
This is a topic that I think many people can agree with, including myself. When I watched the film, I was also disappointed that certain scenes from the novel were left out or changed. For one, I would’ve liked for the film to have ended differently. It was very abrupt and it didn’t feel like it should’ve stopped there.
I’m sure that there are films that do their respective novels justice, but I do think there should be more films that are more true to the plots rather than changing them, even slightly. You made very good points regarding budgeting as a reason why some films might fail to leave certain aspects out, but perhaps, there should be another way of portraying such scenes.
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