In a 1990 conversation, film critic Gabriel Garcia Marquez asked Kurosawa:*
Q: Has your method also been that intuitive when you have adapted Shakespeare or Gorky or Dostoevsky?
A: Directors who make films halfway may not realize that it is very difficult to convey literary images to the audience through cinematic images. For instance, in adapting a detective novel in which a body was found next to the railroad tracks, a young director insisted that a certain spot corresponded perfectly with the one in the book. “You are wrong,” I said. “The problem is that you have already read the novel and you know that a body was found next to the tracks. But for the people who have not read it there is nothing special about the place.” That young director was captivated by the magical power of literature without realizing that cinematic images must be expressed in a different way. [Underline mine]What an astute observation! YOU may know, but don't assume your reader knows.
So how do you convey to the reader "this is a special place/person/thing of significance"?
Take the time to SHOW it in how people act or react.
In the scene below, two riders approach the witch's house in the woods.
Watch how we get the first clue from the horses, then the unease in the men:
ex. "Two men galloping, shrouded in lightning, in thunder and in strange laughter. Two men galloping. [The writers set the atmosphere: threatening and spooky.]
Their horses suddenly stand erect, and cannot be pressed forward. The frightened eyes, gasping sounds, and trembling ears of the horses, YOSHIAKI suddenly stops spurring his horse. Looking ahead he shouts involuntarily. [The horses sense danger first.]
YOSHIAKI: My god! What's that? [Dialogue conveys shock.]
TAKETOKI looks hard to the front. Ahead of them is a place rather sparsely wooded, leaving a small open space of grass. There stands a small straw-thatched cottage, deserted. The thunder and lightning, which were so violent a moment ago, have mysteriously abated. A beam of light falling through the trees calmly shines upon the cottage. [More unease because it's odd to have a cottage here.]
YOSHIAKI: Have you ever seen that cottage?
TAKETOKI: No, I have never seen such a cottage. This also must be the work of an evil spirit.
TAKETOKI: Behold, our horses! Their fright is real.
TAKETOKI fixes an arrow to the string and draws it to the full, aiming at the cottage. At that moment, a delicate, sad song reaches them from inside the cottage." [Odd sounds further the unease.]
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: In literature, there's more leeway for expression (external, internal).
ex. A character's reaction to a shocking incident may only be in his internal thoughts.
In film, we must express the same emotions but in a different way. It's mostly external, i.e., to be seen externally.
ex. A character's reaction to a shocking incident may be an uncharacteristic move (fainting), an inconsistent behavior, etc.
Throne of Blood (1957)
by Shinobu Hashimoto & Ryuzo Kikushima & Akira Kurosawa & Hideo Oguni
Translated by Hisae Niki
*Yes, THAT Gabriel Garcia Marquez.