How to Use Film Adaptations

The procedure of using film adaptations of literary texts just for entertaining reasons still occurs. However, there are several ways teachers can employ in order to incorporate film adaptations into the EFL classes and these ways are to be revealed in this article. If used correctly film adaptations can encourage students to become both critical readers of the literary texts and also film viewers.

Lawrence Baines focuses and makes a comparison on the use of language in literary novels and that of films. In order to do this he analyses three novels which were adapted into films, too:  Of Mice and Men, To Kill A Mockingbird and Wuthering Heights. Baines claims that films lose in terms of lexical diversity, the use of words with three or more syllables and complex sentences. Nevertheless, Baines underlines the fact that any film adaptation will display some omissions because, unlike the novel, the film concentrates its entire plot in approximate two hours. Consequently, Baines says: “as dialogue is simplified for film, plot, setting, theme and characterization are correspondingly less complex.” (Lawrence Baines, 1996: 618)

Though Baines states the fact that films lack the lexical diversity, the sentence complexity and the linguistic strength of the literary text, he goes further and explains that despite these omissions, films can represent an effective method to engage students into reading: “Lesson plans that capitalize on students’ well established sense of the visual and aural world seem especially effective places to spark enthusiasm for reading. Once students get hooked on topics via non-print media, the chances are much greater that they will actually pick up the printed page and read.” (Lawrence Baines, 1996: 619)

John Golden also examines how to use film adaptations in the EFL classes in his book:  “Literature into Film (and Back Again): Another Look at an Old Dog” and similarly to Baines he claims that: “film and literature are different animals” (John Golden, 2007: 24) and he insists on the fact that teachers should avoid: “the notion of a rivalry between print and film” ( John Golden, 2007: 25) .

Nevertheless, unlike Baines, Golden suggests a different approach. He urges the importance of making students familiar with the literary and cinematic elements of films. He refers to the cinematic effects, more precisely to the movement of the camera and to the literary elements, such as the topic, characters, setting, symbols and so forth. He proposes this approach in order to make the students more analytical when it comes to reading the literary text.

Following Golden’s approach, Vetrie also reveals a comparison between the literary and cinematic signs. For instance, the equivalent of the word is the image: “The word book is a signifier. What it represents is the signified.” Similarly: “the image is a visual representation of a book, almost identical to the source. It is much closer to a book, conceptually, than the word. Signifier and signified are almost identical.” (Michael Vetrie, 2004: 41)

Golden also suggests that while teaching with the use of film adaptations it is not very important to focus on the differences between the film and the novel or on: “the scenes that were cut, the changes made, and the ridiculous casting” (John Golden, 2007: 24). He suggests that instead of involving students in conversations about “why changes were made” (John Golden, 2007: 27) discussions should revolve around “what is gained and lost in translation”( John Golden, 2007: 28) Through this approach, Golden proposes to encourage students to perceive the film not only as an adaptation but as a transformation of a literary text.

He intends to encourage students to select passages from literary novels and identify the excerpts that are either: “directly filmable…which are words and phrases that can be readily translated to film with little interference from the director” or “indirectly filmable aspects of a print text, where a director needs to rely on a variety of cinematic and theatrical elements to translate the print text to the screen” ( John Golden, 2007: 26) Therefore, Golden observes that in order to do this students have to “to do a close reading of the print text and to visualize it which will lead to stronger analyses when they begin their comparisons [of the text and the film]” ( John Golden, 2007: 26)

Thus, the above researchers demonstrate that film adaptations of the literary texts can become a valuable teaching tool in the EFL classes.



prof. Raluca Sârghie

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