The significance of editing techniques in the adaptation of play texts into film

Heslinga, Margaretha Elizabeth (2014-04)

Thesis (MDram)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis sets out to provide comparative analyses of selected play texts and their film adaptations in order to demonstrate the significant role that editing techniques play in translating the play text’s dramatic elements into the visual language of film. The purpose of a film adaptation is to present a new interpretation of the play text that audiences will find engaging. In order to establish how the film medium is potentially able to enhance or alter the audience’s understanding of the original source text, the study turns to the field of semiotics to determine how the play text’s themes, plot and characters – embodied in a verbal sign system – are adapted into the audio-visual sign system of film. While cinematography, production design and music are critical elements in film making, editing can be regarded as the distinctive and fundamental signifying practice in the construction of meaning in a film. This will be the point of departure in analysing how meaning is “translated” from one sign system into another in the process of adaptation. By manipulating the key relations between shots, editing is able to guide the audience’s understanding of the film narrative, amplify character development, and generate intellectual and emotional responses. Different editing conventions have therefore been developed to amplify the dramatic effect of the narrative and the filmmaker’s vision. The different effects that editing conventions create in the interpretation of a play text are demonstrated by comparing two cinematic versions of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The use of continuity editing techniques in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is compared to Baz Luhrmann’s use of modern MTV conventions in his William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996). Zeffirelli and Luhrmann both employ different editing conventions to amplify their “readings” of Shakespeare’s play text, thereby presenting an adaptation that their target audience will find engaging. The film adaptations of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet therefore demonstrate the significance of different editing techniques in conveying meaning within a specific reception context. The series of reinterpretations of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin (1939) illustrates how editing techniques are able to transfer Isherwood’s themes and political commentary on the rise of Nazism in Weimar Berlin across various texts and mediums, which include the film adaptation I am a Camera (1955) directed by Henry Cornelius, the Broadway musical Cabaret (1966) directed by Joe Masteroff, and finally Bob Fosse’s musical film Cabaret (1972). The comparative analyses of the above-mentioned source texts and their subsequent film adaptations demonstrate how different editing techniques are able to highlight new perspectives on the source material. Editing conventions are therefore highly significant in the creation of cinematic representations of the play text as they lead audiences to “read” the dramatic narrative within new contexts, using the visual language of film to create new insights that will complement the audience’s understanding and appreciation of the play.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Vergelykende analises tussen gekose speeltekste en hul verwerkings vir film word in hierdie tesis uiteengesit om die betekenisvolle rol wat redigeertegnieke in die vertolking van die speelteks se dramatiese elemente in die visuele styl van die film speel, te demonstreer. Die doel met ’n filmverwerking is om ’n nuwe interpretasie van die speelteks aan te bied wat gehore vasgevang sal hou. Om te bepaal hoe die filmmedium die gehoor se begrip van die oorspronklike teks potensieel kan versterk of verander, gebruik hierdie studie die veld van semiotiek om vas te stel hoe die speeltekste se temas, intrige en karakters – beliggaam in ’n verbale simboolstelsel – aangepas word in die oudiovisuele simboolstelsel van die film. Terwyl filmfotografie, produksie-ontwerp en musiek kritiese elemente in die vervaardiging van films is, word redigering as die onderskeidende en fundamentele belangrike praktyk in die konstruksie van betekenis in ’n film geag. Hierdie is die vertrekpunt in die analisering van hoe betekenis “vertaal” word van een simboolstelsel na ’n ander tydens die verwerkingsproses. Redigering kan deur middel van manipulering van die sleutelverwantskappe tussen skote die gehoor lei om die narratief van die film te verstaan, karakterontwikkeling uit te brei en intellektuele en emosionele reaksies te skep. Onderskeie redigeerkonvensies is dus ontwikkel om die dramatiese effek van die narratief en die filmvervaardiger se visie te versterk. Die verskillende resultate wat deur middel van hierdie tegnieke in die interpretasie van ’n speelteks verkry word, word toegelig deur die twee filmweergawes van William Shakespeare se Romeo and Juliet te vergelyk. Die gebruik van kontinuïteit-redigeertegnieke in Franco Zeffirelli se 1968 filmverwerking van Romeo and Juliet word vergelyk met Baz Luhrmann se gebruik van moderne MTV-konvensies in sy William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996). Beide Zeffirelli en Luhrmann gebruik verskillende redigeerkonvensies om hulle “lees” van Shakespeare se speelteks toe te lig en daarmee ’n verwerking wat hulle teikengehoor vasgevang sal hou, te bied. Die filmverwerkings van Shakespeare se Romeo and Juliet demonstreer dus die belang van verskillende redigeertegnieke in die oordra van betekenis binne ’n spesifieke konteks waarin dit ontvang word. Die reeks herinterpretasies van Christopher Isherwood se Goodbye to Berlin (1939) illustreer hoe redigeertegnieke in staat is om Isherwood se temas en politieke kommentaar aangaande die opkoms van Nazisme in Weimar Berlyn oor verskeie tekste en mediums oor te dra. Insluitend hierby is die filmverwerking I am a Camera (1955) onder regie van Henry Cornelius, die Broadway musiekblyspel Cabaret (1966) onder regie van Joe Masteroff, en laastens Bob Fosse se musiekfilm Cabaret (1972). Die vergelykende analise van bogenoemde tekste en hul daaropvolgende filmverwerkings demonstreer hoe verskillende redigeertegnieke nuwe perspektiewe op die oorspronklike materiaal na vore kan bring. Redigeerkonvensies is uiters betekenisvol in die skep van filmiese voorstellings van die speelteks aangesien die gehoor daarmee gelei word om die dramatiese narratief binne nuwe konteks te “lees” deur gebruik te maak van die visuele styl van die film om nuwe insig te skep wat die gehoor se verstaan en waardering van die stuk aanvul.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86533
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