You know why I love plants? Because they're so mutable. Adaptation is a profound process. It means you figure out how to thrive in the world. People can't sometimes.
Well, it's easier for plants; they have no memory. They just move on to what's next. For a person, it's almost shameful to adapt. It's like running away.
- Charlie Kaufman, Adaptation
Part II of my mighty pastoral meditation is still in the works. But this is somehow relevant, and can placehold for the time being.
The Hollywood Madam stamps three laws of adaptation from an Asimovian mold. But first a bit of background for those unversed in the classics, or unaware of upcoming, Will Smith star vehicles:
1. A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by the human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict the First or Second Law.
Meditates tinseltown's tart:
The rules intrigue me because they establish a clear hierarchy of importance - the human's well-being over the robot's, the human's will over the robot's. But they don't imply that the robot is insignificant in comparison to the human - merely secondary.
Intrigue begets adaptation. Thus:
1. A film adaptation may not, through omission or direct action, undermine or reverse the meanings and morals of the source material.
2. A film adaptation must adequately capture what made the source material compelling, as long as it does not conflict with the first rule.
3. An adaptation can make the changes necessary to work as a product of its medium, as long as these changes do not conflict with the first or second rules.
I am truly charmed. But truth is dearer. Two lines of inquiry suggest objections.
1. Is it, after all, permissible to adapt books into films? If so, why, and what does this say about patient, process and product?
2. If it is permissible to adapt books into films, what aesthetic principle of filial piety could it be that enslaves child to parent so absolutely? Why is the child not free heir to the parent's estate?
For everything already is what it is, not another thing. So adaptation is an inadvisable kicking against ontological pricks. Or, just possibly, some things are not what they are ... yet; and to them is allotted the divine Nietzschean task of becoming what they truly are. But then there is no natural presumption that what they truly are, since it is their divine task to become it, is something else that happens to be lying around ... let alone something lying around tempting us with spare parts for the divine task at hand.
Here are two seminal texts of philosophy to help you arrive at the correct solution:
Round to the Gaiety there last week (I say 'round' because I live on the NCR and my approach was necessarily more circuitous than tangential, to see a piece of Mr. Mac Liammóir entitled - if memory fools me not - 'The Packed Ewer of Doreen Grey'. There was not much in it that I would criticise. Or should I say criticize? For the piece was described in the programme as a 'dramatization of Oscar Wilde's only Novel'. Wilde I never met; though the father and I were close friends in the early daze.
One thing rather puzzles me. Wilde wrote a number of plays and also this 'only' novel. Unless he was mad, he must have intended to write 'Doreen Gay' as a novel, otherwise he would have done what was for him the customary thing - written it as a play. Since, however, a man of the calibre of Mr. Mac Liammóir does not hesitate to reverse Wilde's judgment in this regard, I fear we are faced (unless we also are mad - a thing that would not astonish me in the least) with teh theory that Wilde fully intended to write it as a play. He couldn't think of the word, went ahead writing, and the thing turned out to be a novel!
But ... is there not then a complementary theory? If Wilder mixed up the dissimilar modes of play and novel, how can we be satisfied that he did not intend to be a novelist only - that his plays were so written in error? If his novel (and we do not admit it is a novel, m'lud) if his novel be a play .... em ... a play manqué, then why not a novelization of his 'plays'?
I am terribly serious about this, because it involves a major problem in aesthetics. I go to an exhibition of 'paintings'. I am astounded by what I appear to see with my (own) eyes. The 'message' of this or that canvas eludes me, sometimes I am distressed by the frames. (You see, I too am an artist.) It does not follow that I denounce the author of these ... these ... practices. This painter, I say, can it be that he is a novelist? A poet? A worker in exquisite enamels? A musician in the manner of Ravel? For certain it is, that painter he is not.
There can be a fusion of artistic activities directed towards the communication of a single artistic concept. Example: a song - a poem sung to an air. But is artistic function interchangeable? Can a play be made a novel? Some people are chronically incapable of appreciating a thing in terms of itself. (My wife thinks I am a husband, for example - whereas, of course, I am a philosopher.) Show a cobbler a cow. Note his trade union obtuseness in relation to all kine! He simply cannot see how fine they are! 'Ah yes,' he will say, 'there's many a fine pair of shoes in that animal.' Show this or that patriot an equestrian statue and he will say 'Hah! Pretty big job that. That'd take the 24-foot ladder and a double-handled gauge-4 saw.' Tell a Hollywood man about the Kabbala, or the Koran, and he will ask you whether you could get 34 thousand feet out of it. Show a certain type of funny (?) writer something sincere, serious, and he will mutter: 'I wonder how we can make a laugh of this.'
- Myles na Gopaleen, The Best of Myles
The person who cannot set himself down on the crest of the moment, forgetting everything from the past, who is not capable of standing on a single point, like a goddess of victory, without dizziness or fear, will never know what happiness is. Even worse, he will never do anything to make other people happy. Imagine the most extreme example, a person who did not possess the power of forgetting at all, who would be condemned to see everywhere a coming into being. Such a person no longer believes in his own being, no longer believes in himself, sees everything in moving points flowing out of each other, and loses himself in this stream of becoming ... Or, to explain myself more clearly concerning my thesis: There is a degree of insomnia, of rumination, of the historical sense, through which living comes to harm and finally is destroyed, whether it is a person or a people or a culture. In order to determine this degree of history and, through that, the borderline at which the past must be forgotten if it is not to become the gravedigger of the present, we have to know precisely how great the plastic force of a person, a people, or a culture is ...
The stronger the roots which the inner nature of a person has, the more he will appropriate or forcibly take from the past. And if we imagine the most powerful and immense nature, then we would recognize there that for it there would be no frontier at all beyond which the historical sense would be able to work as an injurious overseer. Everything in the past, in its own and in the most alien, this nature would draw upon, take it into itself, and, as it were, transform into blood. What such a nature does not subjugate it knows how to forget. It is there no more. The horizon is closed completely, and nothing can recall that there still are men, passions, instruction, and purposes beyond it. This is a general principle: each living being can become healthy, strong, and fertile only within a horizon. If he is incapable of drawing a horizon around himself and too egotistical to enclose his own view within an alien one, then he wastes away there, pale or weary, to an early death. Cheerfulness, good conscience, joyful action, trust in what is to come—all that depends, with the individual as with a people, on the following facts: that there is a line which divides the observable brightness from the unilluminated darkness, that we know how to forget at the right time just as well as we remember at the right time, that we feel with powerful instinct the time when we must perceive historically and when unhistorically. This is the specific principle which the reader is invited to consider: that for the health of a single individual, a people, and a culture the unhistorical and the historical are equally essential.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, "The Advantages and Disadvantages of History For Life"
So what you've got to ask, before setting out to adapt a thing into a thing: what's this thing? Plant, robot, or animal of some sort? If animal, how much plastic force in its inner nature? We don't want any falling short of latent potential, even if it means carving against the grain. "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" was quite good, for example. As Nietzsche said of Montaigne, so Alan Moore might say of many things: I pluck a wing here, a limb there. On the other hand, it's not as though we need another "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" just standing around with that 'what do I do with my arms?' look on its face.
Excuse me: "League of Extraordinary Gentlement", apparently. Honestly, did no one associated with the project even visit the website to check out whether anything was spelled wrong?