Adaptations should take artistic liberties


From iconic films like Tod Browning’s Dracula in 1939 to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, book-to-film adaptations have proven an effective way for producers to gain credibility and draw in larger crowds. Inevitably, though, while adapted films often appeal to the general audience, some literature-lovers are left disappointed when producers deviate from the source material.

This disdain for artistic liberties stems from the misconception that all deviations within an adaptation are an insult to the author’s work; but in reality, a director’s wealth of artistic vision can often complement the author’s initial premise. Artistic liberties, when harnessed properly, can greatly contribute to beloved stories and should therefore be encouraged in book-to-film adaptations.

It is true that producers walk a fine line when it comes to artistic liberties. However, it is easy for directors to avoid overstepping their bounds by simply having a respect for the author’s original vision.

An adaptation has no obligation to follow the original material to the letter, but a film should capture at least the essence of the novel upon which it is based; otherwise, the artistic vision of the writer goes entirely disregarded.

Even author Stephen King has admitted in interviews with the BBC that his largest complaint with the film adaptation of his novel The Shining was director Stanley Kubrick’s failure to capture the mood and atmosphere of King’s novel. King felt as though his own vision was overlooked in favor of Kubrick’s.

For some, The Shining may be used to support the conclusion that artistic liberties have a negative impact on page-to-screen adaptations. But upon further inspection, one can see that the issue in such disastrous scenarios is not artistic freedom, but rather, respect.

The results of authors and directors cooperating in the inclusion of artistic liberties have proven phenomenal, and many loosely interpreted page-to-screen adaptations have gained widespread success. For example, HBO’s Game of Thrones boasts 250 awards and 422 award nominations according to IMDB, and The Walking Dead TV series held the place as the number one show on television for several years according to AMC.

In contrast to King and Kubrick, writer of The Walking Dead graphic novels, Robert Kirkman, works closely with the TV series as an executive producer. While the show differs vastly from Kirkman’s original work, the author and the creators have developed a respect for one another’s creativity. Kirkman allows for variations on his work and the producers work to remain true to Kirkman’s vision.

Rather than expecting a carbon copy of one’s favorite novel, it is important to keep an open mind when it comes to artistic liberties. Directors, much like writers, are artists, and the changing interpretations of a well-loved source material is often a benefit rather than a detriment. When creative minds come together, the results can be stunning. Therefore, audiences are encouraged to look past deviations in an adapted plot in order to see the artistic genius of writers and producers alike.

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