The major task on film and literature adaptations is whether fidelity can be a useful concept for analyzing and evaluating screen adaptations. This concept is looked into by two good authors Berman and Armstrong, writers of the American Splendor and My Brilliant Career set books respectively. To begin with screen adaptations are discussed majorly on their literary references or sources. The terms infidelity or faithfully are literally inevitable in film review of screen adaptations and in educational circles too (Armstrong, 77). Fidelity arose in the contemporary environment particularly in the 19th Century as a result or a respectable work of art. It brought with it the terms of author and copyright which led to the works of art being led to the cinema for screen adaptation to the public eye view.
Fidelity in screen adaptations is a criterion that is opposed to scientific quantification and in one way or another it is inaccurate (Armstrong, 78). The major argument is to totally do away with it especially when the screen adaptations being worked on are wholly new creations which are inspired by and not the same as the pre-existing source (Armstrong, 85). This means that the new generation screen adaptations are motivated by a written script but they do not entirely depend on it so as to complete a production. This form of fidelity or faithfulness has been termed as inaccurate and unreliable due to its imprecision. It also tampers with the historical settings which in one way or another is a fundamental aspect in screen adaptation.
Historical settings play a crucial role in enhancing screen adaptations as it generally combines non factious spectacle and reality (Berman, 40). Moreover, this discussion is set in the framework of faithfulness or fidelity which is established between the film makers and the television producers. Fidelity in particular is not given the required publicity or exposure but rather it is given a problematic structure.
To elaborate this further the similarity between screen adaptations and non factual films is that they are both adapted to a script and in one way or another they are both adaptations. However, adaptations differ to some extent with fiction films in how they reveal the total performance included in the placement of the script on the screen (Berman, 49). The fidelity on this aspect is made clear in the incorporation of the story and other fundamentals like characterization, costume and scenery. In each case prescribed the difference between the source and the film itself or the various versions of the equivalent source formulates a gap where we can view the production of fiction.
According to Berman author of the Film American Splendor acquisition of an impeccably faithful screen adaptation is impossible. This is because it includes the systematic replacement or substitution of verbal signifiers with cinematic or film signifiers (56). There are no possibilities by which we can equate these two that is verbal and cinematic signifiers as they both are completely different mediums of language. Berman looked into this issue in not to understand how we can equate these two elements but how to comprehend the relative position that they both occupy in their particular domains.
He further illustrated that different systems can not be matched correctly all the time insisting that the sound of a rock varies with that of a string or the roar of a bear when compared to the whistling of a bird. The viewer of these elements must analyze completely the non-equal signs. This involves pure personal reading criteria where he is exposed to the same channel of uses and meanings of the signs presented in the new screen adaptation. This results in a total failure of the entire system and the reason is explained below.
First of all there is no international dictionary which is mandated for decoding purposes which relates various mediums with their signs or offering proper analysis to the signifiers employed in fidelity (Berman, 90). It forces an adaptor to generally create an assumption that all his viewers are experienced consumers of signs and secret language in the relevant medium and analyzes his individual adaptation from a position that is similar to his or her experiences. To understand this much more clearly an adaptor of fidelity expects his viewers or those perceiving his work as having the same analysis as his in relating the source of the film or screen production with every detail of the film. In this case it mainly depends on assumptions and in reality it is very difficult assuming that every body will relate performance according to a written referential material.
Nevertheless, attempts have been made to ensure hierarchies of screen adaptations have been instilled as well as theorizing the whole issue of fidelity. One way of categorizing screen adaptation was formulated by Armstrong author of the book My Brilliant Career in 1979 through three modes of adaptations:
- Transposition: it was the most faithful form of adaptation as far as fidelity of screen adaptation was concerned in terms of cinema production (Armstrong, 47). The adaptors view the outcome of the film or television production as a direct illustration of the source and its medium. When novels are considered this approach is exemplified by film productions that have an opening caption of the original book. As the movie commences the pictured actor is shown as the book reader and the caption delays on the title page of the book. The title page is turned and it shows an illustration of an image in the book that is coming to life and the action begins (Armstrong, 48). In this case the book that is used by the adaptor is used in illustrating how the film is wholly dependent on it such that it begins from the title page and of course that is how it is expected to carry on. This is direct plagiarism of some sorts as far as production of the movie is concerned. In this case the locations, time and all chronological aspects used in the film are exactly the same and there is no difference the film has with its source.
- Commentary is the second criteria by Armstrong: It illustrates how an original copy is taken and in one way it is altered or twisted so that it acts as a re-emphasis or reorganization procedure. In this case the locations, time and all chronological occurrences and periods are altered (Armstrong, 45). This format can alter even the ending of the film in the sense that fidelity is slightly contaminated. Here the adaptor of the film creates a scenario that is somehow but not totally different from the original document. It is however, worth noting that apart of the differences that have been outlined there is major similarity that still exists between the film and its source.
- Analogy is the third criterion and its procedure is explained as creating chronological changes to the film totally and a good example is in the works of Shakespeare which were done during the Elizabethan duration (Berman, 58). Most films that have used this creation end up transferring the details to the modern era in a fashion that is commonly referred to as analogous adaptation. This adaptation creates a new work of art and truth be told it is not a breach of the original literary as there is no attempt to reproduce the original format. In this analogous form of adaptation the new work of art that is created is completely different from its source and at first it may not easily comprehended by the viewers or audience as being similar or concurrent with its source. The only common thing is that this analogous adaptation can retain the original title of the document under reproduction and it will not create any confusion in its production.
Different screen adaptation types have been put across and they have been referred to as literary translations (Armstrong, 567). These translations can either stay close to the original context, act as reinterpretations of the source but maintain its core agenda and thirdly they can form a new work of art altogether. All these methods were referred to as adaptations that borrow materials, ideas or thoughts in order to form a successful text which is engaged by the adaptor.
Fidelity to the original source document in screen adaption is actually treated in accordance to each and every letter of a text. It is also related to its characters as well as their inter relations and their aspects of narration which brings out a point of view that is quite tense and also the hard spirit of the text itself. The borrowings or copying that is done owes much to all the characters or actors of plays and films but they the borrowing does very little to the original text that is laid on the script (Armstrong, 86).
Modern forms of fidelity have been taken as forms of deconstruction or destroying what was originally created to the screen adaptations. The contemporary forms of fidelity have advanced in a sense that it is beyond the destruction of texts which define the cultural history involved but it only creates new works of art and stories that are re anticipated and re interpreted (Armstrong, 678). Their major role is to advance or improve the narratives so as to establish a counterbalance as well as put the narrative in the reality context. Not adhering with fidelity in the modern era has been defined as an act of disrespect and a way to destroy the stories of history.
However, not adhering to total rules of fidelity in screen adaptation has served as an eye opener for creativity and innovativeness. When a film maker evades from fidelity in the real sense he or she gives room for inventiveness and this is bound to cause excitement among the audience and not disarray as is most expected by adaptors. According to Armstrong the reaction of the audience in most cases will be them being thrown into a mix of awe and wonder. In many cases the film acquires a mix of bright colors, hyperactive dancing and music which at most is not perceived in novels or original documents (Armstrong, 987).
According to Berman author of the Film of American Splendor a filmmakers vision is to deviate mostly from the darkness that is generally created by an original production an enhance his ideologies as far as achievement concrete entertainment is concerned. In this context there is utmost removal of too much dialogue in the plot enhancement exercise, change of tongue and costumes worn by characters as a film or television production shifts from a historical culture to that of a modern set up (Berman, 23). For example when re deigning works of one Shakespeare the major aim is not to create a different scenario but its aim is to produce a tinge or sensation of familiarity to the original text but in an improved context. His language is heightened according to the Elizabethan era and the characters are well known so it only involves text enhancement so as to develop the plot further (Berman, 27).
There are theorists who have come up with adaptations on the most faithful forms of fidelity that have been recorded all through history and according to Berman they are used to prove that fidelity has run been out paced. They include transposition adaptations which were discussed earlier, interpretive adaptation and finally intersecting form of adaptation. There is also a form of adaptation called analogous adaptation that was discussed earlier which involved formulation of an entirely new work of art. This is a total deconstruction but its major role is that it acts as a viable way of improving innovations.
Transposition adaptation on its part was the most faithful form of adaptation as far as fidelity of screen adaptation was concerned in terms of cinema production (Berman, 67). The adaptors view the outcome of the film or television production as a direct illustration of the source and its medium. When novels are considered this approach is exemplified by film productions that have an opening caption of the original book.
True to say this form of adaptation in enhancing fidelity has served to degrade filmmakers and thus the audience will not be at all motivated when watching the film that they know has the same setting, characters and original text that is in a basic novel.
Fidelity in this picture has led to creation of a totally boring film production. The context has to have a twist so as to enhance anxiety in order to make the viewers anticipate for its release. Faithful adaptations or those with fidelity like interpretative adaptations which interpret texts that have been employed by an author as well as the meaning of the framework of the novel.
In this perspective fidelity should not be used to analyze and evaluate screen adaptations considering it maintains similarity of texts without any form of analogy that aimed to create a new work of art which is needed.