From Page To Screen: Visualising Literature 1

There are two strands of research that will be my main focus for the practical side of the MA project. One is the role of the production designer in the science fiction genre, the other is the realisation of film designs from a novel. Many films are adapted from literature and recently  there has been an increase within the teenage/young adult category– The Hunger Games being a good example of a book  developed for the screen. The Hunger Games is the most popular Young Adult dystopian novel to date, still dominating the lists on Goodreads.  https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/12408.Best_Young_Adult_Dystopian_Novels [sourced on 31/01/13]

This is a selection of some of the films that use source material from dystopian books.

pd james  Hunger-Games

Pictures are PD James: The Children of Men  http://www.librarything.com/work/14944#  The Hunger Games http://www.carriesaba.com/blog/the-hunger-games-trilogy-3-books-that-get-you-thinking/

[sourced on 29/01/2014]

I thought I’d look at a few of these books in terms of designing for film before choosing my own source novel, taking on board some of the thoughts and approaches of the Production designers when dealing with literature.  Each film adaption can be different for a number of reasons.

Realism and the director/screenwriter approach

The Children of Men

This film was always going to have a strong guiding force as the director was also the screenwriter. Alfonso Cuaron had definite ideas about where scenes would take place and what details should be included. It was the job of the designers to allow Cuaron’s visions to materialise, solve problems and make sure there was continuity for when the scenes were finally put together.

Production Designer Jim Clay discusses dealing with the screenplay version of the book

Production designer Clay says, “We had to find locations that served all the actions, which are always very clearly in Alfonso’s head from his writing of the screenplay. One of my greatest challenges has been to join all of the pieces together in a convincing way.” http://www.visualhollywood.com/movies/children-of-men/about6.php

Cuaron was also hands on with his approach to the overall vision often adding props to the scene before filming. Actor Michael Caine recalls such a time when the director added  postcards to various areas around the back of the actors ” …It didn’t mean anything to us, but it’s important to him and for the look of his film.”  (www.visualhollywood.com/movies/children-of-men/about6.php)

Detail was also important to the look of the film, particularly when you’re dealing with a near-future England. Here, the director/production designer relationship comes into play as Clay recalls the importance of other creative inputs from Cuaron.

“The job of production designers Kirkland and Clay was to create and provide an expansive, reality-based world full of texture, one with sufficient space to allow for the action of the story. Clay says, “It was very exciting and very challenging for the whole crew, because we were charged with knitting together a series of shots that should hopefully become seamless as one timeless piece of action. Alfonso has a brilliant eye for detail and sometimes, when you’re designing the bigger picture, you forget to put in those detailed elements. He’s constantly reminding us what makes it real.”

There is so much visual information in a novel that it is quite easy to forget important little additions in set dressing. The audience has to be submerged visually from the outset. They have to be told a story through imagery rather than suggested text. Usually in a novel there are descriptions that allow the reader to form elements of scene or props in their imaginations.  Of course each reader will then interpret it in a slightly different way. Readers often flesh out what isn’t always there. (This is often dependent on the wording used in each book as some are more descriptive than others) That’s probably why many readers are often disappointed by the film versions of their beloved stories as they don’t match the images that they have created in their own minds.

Maybe films are and should be treated as  different experiences altogether and it’s the job of the filmmakers and designers to make the story as real as possible. Visually it should speak to an audience on many levels and not just through pure spectacle. Props, visual metaphors and colour palettes help to create a mood and therefore allow the audience to enter the characters heads in a way that might be similar to a book, or as close as possible, through detail and realism.

References:-

Current Young Adult popularity list to date https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/12408.Best_Young_Adult_Dystopian_Novels [sourced 31/01/14]

Images from  http://www.librarything.com/work/14944# [sourced on 29/01/14]

http://www.carriesaba.com/blog/the-hunger-games-trilogy-3-books-that-get-you-thinking/ [sourced on 29/01/14]

Article  information  from   http://www.visualhollywood.com/movies/children-of-men/about6.php [sourced on 29/01/14]

Categories: dystopian film and designers, Literature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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