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Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2015 3pm

#Transcendental: Connecting Texts - Literature, Theater and Cinema.

It is clear that cinema, theater and literature are connected in more ways than one.

To examine some texts that have made their way onto the widescreen cine-going experience, we have to start with the absolute classics.

There are classic books like ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo that have had multiple interpretations on stage as well as on screen.

There have been at least 4 different cinematic adaptations of Les Miserables.  ‘The Iliad’ by Homer has been made into ‘Troy’; Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ has seen multiple cinematic adaptations in 1944, 1970 and 1996 by different directors and with different cast members.

Mario Puzo’s ‘The Godfather’ has been made into a three-part cinematic odyssey.

Great modern cinema franchises are also based on books, which have made the movies and the books ever popular.

Good examples of these would be the Lord of the Rings series of books by J.R.R. Tolkien, made into 6 films by Peter Jackson.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer and Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle into both television series and a movie franchise as well. These book series have been made into exceptionally successful cinematic franchises, earning a lot of money not only for the authors but also for the production houses that have financed these films.

Most classic animated 2-D films were based on children’s fairy tales and storybooks.  Other similar examples of great books that have made into movies are the crime films ‘Scarface’ and ‘Goodfellas’ – both critically acclaimed – in the classic 70s and 80s categories and ‘No Country for Old Men’ and ‘Fight Club’ in a more modern setting covering the similar genre in the 90s and the 00s.

On the online website IMDB.com, their top 250 movies consist of many movies based on books.

Incidentally, the film that is number 1 on their list is ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ which is also based on an acclaimed non-fiction book.

If we look at the situation the other way round, far fewer movies are translated into books.  However, this is not a rarity. 

Great movies are often made into comic books and graphic novels.  In general however, books made about movies rarely achieve the same status that the movies did.

For example, books based on Steven Speilberg’s ‘E.T. The Extra Terrestrial’ and ‘Jaws’ were properly written and expertly marketed.

But the audiences and fans of these movies rejected the resulting books.  It is clear that the magic of books can be translated perfectly into the visual medium, but when it is the other way round – the general audience is far less forgiving. Disney has a great reputation of turning their famous movies into books.  George Lucas’ ‘Star Wars’ was also turned into a very successful series of books. 

Although the books never managed to reach the hype that was surrounding it, it added depth and detail to an already existing fantasy sci-fi universe.

Theatre is something completely different.

The target audience is different; the way the books or the movies have to be translated is also different.  A lot of great books have been translated into theatre, bypassing the cinematic angle that it could have taken.

Some great examples are E.L. Doctorow’s ‘Ragtime’, Charles Dickens’ ‘Oliver Twist’, Miguel De Cervantes’ ‘The Man of La Mancha’ among many others.

London’s West End and New York’s Broadway have been home to plays translated from a wide array of books and movies.

‘Frankenstein’, ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘The Kite Runner’, ‘The Adventure of the Dog in the Night-Time’, ‘Dracula’ etc are some of the great examples of theatrical productions that have been inspired from books and movies.

In recent times, more and more plays are being inspired by movies than ever before.  Film musicals have often been taken onstage.  For example, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘High School Musical’, ‘Singin in the Rain’ and one of the most famous theatre productions running on both West End and Broadway, Disney’s ‘The Lion King’.

A lot of non-musical films have also been transformed into musical plays.  Some of the more popular ones include – ‘Catch Me If You Can’, the horror exploitation ‘Evil Dead’, ‘Silence’ – an unauthorized parody of ‘Silence of the Lambs’, even a superhero ‘Spiderman’ adaptation entitled ‘Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark’ – which was an off-Broadway sleeper hit.

Some non-musical productions have also been made including – ‘The Pink Panther’, ’12 Angry Men’, ‘War Horse’ etc.

It is clear that literature, cinema and theatre have a relationship, which is extremely exciting, interdisciplinary and overlapping.

It is clear that none of these fields would be complete without the other as supporting systems.

Cinema does its part to keep classic literature alive, as more and more of the newer generations are becoming technology oriented and forgetting the magic of books.  Popular movie franchises based on books are increasing book sales as well by getting the audiences to go into the book store and buy a book of the movie that they have just seen.

Theatre is an incredibly real medium, on the other hand. There is a kind of visual magic to theater that even cinema cannot replicate.

The magical realism of theatre brings people closer to the movie or the book – whichever source material has been used. And finally, there are comic books, mangas, animes, graphic novels and a wide range of readable paraphernalia associated with movies and theater which brings the audience to engage in a literary form of entertainment which has not been satiated by the film or the theatre production.

Literature, cinema and theater are indeed great forms of entertainment, when taken separately.

But when taken together – they are transcendental.

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