UBC Theses and Dissertations
La bête humaine : an examination of the problems inherent in the process of adaptation from novel to film Wright, Barbara Irene
In this thesis the process of adaptation from novel to film is examined. La Bête humaine by Emile Zola and the film version by Jean Renoir provide specific examples. The starting point is the assumption, often made by cinema audiences, that the film should be "faithful" to the novel upon which it is based. A statement made by Renoir regarding his efforts to be true to what he describes as the "spirit of the book" is quoted to illustrate the prevalence of this attitude. Novel and film are then compared in order to test Renoir's claim to fidelity. What is revealed are the differences between the two. Through an examination of character, action, and space some of the reasons for the director's departure from the novel begin to emerge and it becomes increasingly clear that Renoir was obliged to adopt a different approach. Theme and form are then examined and the organic nature of their relationship suggested. Finally, the departure of the film from the novel is traced to the very different ways in which the two media function — linearity in the written medium as opposed to simultaneity in the cinematic medium — and the indelible nature of the association of theme and form is confirmed. In conclusion, the view that the media should and do correspond is found to be mistaken, and Renoir's statement is re-evaluated and assessed as an attempt, by a director sensitive to the public's insistence on fidelity, to disarm criticism.
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