Adaptation

1. Analysis of the book

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean is odd in that it covers a variety of things: tracing not simply John Laroche’s theft of the wild ghost orchid, but the history of orchid collecting, the science of orchid growing, the history and place of the Seminole tribe and Florida’s culture and environment. It’s interesting to think whether Orlean intended it this way, or as the book appears, originated from her piece in The New Yorker about Laroche and his obsession with the ghost orchid, but diverts ubiquitously from the topic and soon turns into Orlean filling the pages with fodder gleaned from her experience researching and writing the book. Although the book is basically a collection of different pieces of information, it’s indeed readable—at some points very captivating—with Orlean’s exploration of how an obsession can dictate a person’s life.

2. Analysis of the film

According to lecture, Adaptation has been described as self-referential, experimental, metafiction, postmodern and a “High” art film, and it’s also a film that benefits from great acting and a well-written script. The film is influenced by Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, borrowing bits and pieces from it, as well as merging Orlean’s and Laroche’s world with that of the polarizing Kaufman twins. Part of Adaptation’s genius is that it constantly parodies Hollywood films, subtly and quite obviously, concluding with a spectacular series of events where the Kaufman twins travel to Florida, cross paths with Orlean and Laroche, engage in a night-long standoff in a swamp, Laroche is killed by an alligator, Donald is ejected through the car’s front windshield and dies, Charlie returns home filled with sadness, although that sadness soon turns into a greater vision and promise for the future, as he finishes the movie script and reconnects with Amelia. This ending signifies the successful attempt of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman to make the film “un-Hollywood” by “Hollywoodizing” it.

3. Analysis of the adaptation

The title of the film might be Adaptation, however, it’s anything but an adaptation of Suslan Orlean’s book, The Orchid Thief. Adaptation borrows the story of Laroche and his orchids from The Orchid Thief, using it as the basis for a movie that Charlie Kaufman is designated to write the script. Interestingly, Adaptation parodies Hollywood films and focuses on Charlie’s inner conflict surrounding screenwriting and writing scripts that conform to Hollywood standards. This and the presence of the Kaufman twins represent the influence of the writer, Charlie Kaufman, on the film. His ego freely finds its way into the film and to some critics, the film comes off as pretentious due to the extent it’s based on the writer. Also, the film appears to mock Susan Orlean, portraying her as vulnerable, insecure, unfaithful, a drug user and someone who will resort to murder to protect her secrets and reputation. In this sense, the film isn’t a faithful adaptation and is more of a product of Jonze and Kaufman’s collaboration and imagination.

4. Online research on the film

http://ojs-prod.library.usyd.edu.au/index.php/SSE/article/view/638/680

This essay examines Adaptation in relation to Charles Darwin and the theory of natural selection, however, most of it is extended summary of the film.

http://journal.ufsc.br/index.php/desterro/article/view/1500/1240

This paper examines whether Adaptation is a true adaptation, concluding that it’s an adaptation because just like Kaufman who followed the motto, adapt or die, the film also adapted because it didn’t want to die.

http://eprints.qut.edu.au/1954/1/1954_1.pdf

This is an interesting paper because while it analyzes Adaptation, it talks extensively about the process of adapting films to books, which is the foundation for this class. According to the paper, “This paper outlines some concerns about using film adaptations in the English curriculum, by examining reading/viewing practices, and offers some strategies for developing cineliteracy in theoretical and practical and terms in the classroom.” Also, it lists methods for analyzing movies, such as applying social, symbolic, technical, conventional, representational and ideological codes to the film, which helps viewers unpack text constructedness.

5. Critical analysis paragraph

In Adaptation, the twins Charlie and Donald are opposites in many ways. How do they respectively represent film as art and film as (Hollywood) entertainment? And is this a crude dichotomy that the film subtly undercuts?

 Charlie and Donald Kaufman are different in many ways. For example, Donald is outgoing, has more success with women and writes scripts without considering their Hollywood appeal. Donald is introverted, masturbates a lot, is intelligent and a good writer, but is so concerned about the content of his writing that he always finds himself back at square one. Essentially, as is the case with some twins, he lives in Donald’s shadow. Only when Donald dies are Charlie’s ambitions realized and suddenly he’s a new man with promise, the girl, and a finished script. Sometimes the presence or absence of someone enables people to see things clearer, gain a different perspective on life. Also, they represent film in that screenwriting is about luck, a script that isn’t inherently “good” will be picked over another because it conforms more to Hollywood standards. True art is respected, but there’s a place for it and most times it’s not in the mainstream. Society tends to gravitate towards the commercial, the corporate, the superficial and the extremes of Hollywood. The film portrays this quite well.

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One response to “Adaptation

  1. 9/10. (Point off for lateness). 9/10. JB.

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