Tuesday, February 5, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) - One Way to Adapt the Unadaptable

[Quick Summary: An actor and actress pretend affair for a film shoot parallels their affair in real life.]

Last week's read was disappointing.

The next three Pinter scripts in the queue* only got a brief skim.

(I didn't get them. Anyone care to chime in?)

This brings me to the only script I wanted to read: the Oscar nominated The French Lieutenant's Woman.

The story is about Charles, an engaged English gent.  He gets involved with Sarah, a shunned woman who walks the undercliffs.

Here are a few challenges that Pinter faced:**

- It is a 445 pg. unfilmable novel.
- It has three alternate endings and a narrator.
- It switches between Victorian and modern periods.
- It had been unsuccessfully developed for 8-9 years.

So what did Pinter do? He inserted a construction that is NOT in the book.

How did he do it?  The story of Charles and Sarah would now be a movie being filmed.   "Mike" is an actor who would play Charles. "Anna" would play Sarah.

Mike and Anna are having an affair, just like the roles they are playing.

This construction enables the audience to see the Victorian story, but also the modern comment on it. (Easy in a novel. Not so easy in a film.)

When Charles and Sarah have problems, it emphasizes the same ones between Mike and Anna.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  I agree with Fowles about Pinter:

"[H]is genius ...seems to me to be his truly remarkable gift for reducing the long and complex without distortion." ***

*The Quiller Memorandum (1966) - cold war spy
Accident (1967) - tragedy in flashback
The Go-Between (1970) - forbidden love affair
** For more, read author John Fowles' foreword to the script.

***Also, Fowles praised Pinter's approach to this adaption as "the only way."

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