Posted 11.20.07

Adaptation Series Films Highlight Literary Works to Film Translations

A new series of films will shine a spotlight on how literary works are translated onto screen.

The newly-created Adaptation Series, sponsored by the Center for Film Studies and Olin Library, will begin Nov. 29 with a talk by screenwriter and alumnus Stephen Schiff. Schiff will speak about his screen adaptation of Nabokov’s Lolita, filmed in 1997 by director Adrian Lyne. The talk will be preceded by a screening of the film, starring Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith and Dominique Swain.

This is the inaugural event of the Adaptation Series, which has been designed by Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and Barbara Jones, University Librarian.

“The purpose of this series is to bring screenwriters to campus to discuss the difficulties in adapting literary works to the screen, laying out the differences between novels and screenplays, problems of censorship, budget, casting and condensing larger works into a shorter running time,” Basinger explains. “The series is sure to be thought-provoking, entertaining and educational simultaneously.”

The Film Studies Department has collaborated with the Olin Library staff in the past, putting together screenings that address issues of importance and are interesting to the general campus, community and Friends of the Library. The two departments decided to continue their collaborative efforts with the Adaptation Series.

“The idea of looking at famous and/or successful books that had been turned into movies seemed appropriate for both film and the library, and of great general interest,” Basinger says. “Furthermore, people often don’t understand the difficulties of screen adaptation, and we have alumni, such as Stephen Schiff, who are very articulate screenwriters on the subject.”

Schiff, a former staff writer for the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, also is known for his work as the Film Critic of National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" and as a correspondent on CBS-TV's prime-time newsmagazine West 57th. His more recent screen adaptations include “Leatherheads” (a '30s-style romantic comedy for George Clooney currently being edited for release in April, 2008), "The Deep End of the Ocean", "True Crime," Don DeLillo’s “White Noise,” “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” Patricia Cornwell’s thriller “Cruel and Unusual,” Nelson DeMille’s “The Charm School,” and an upcoming Keanu Reeves romantic thriller for Warner Bros.

"I am thrilled with the selection of Lolita as our first 'adaptation' because I am fascinated by the censorship issues surrounding both the publication of the book and the production of the film," Jones says.

New York Times writer Janet Maslin praised “the imaginative fidelity” of Schiff’s screenplay for “Lolita” and NYT writer Caryn James wrote, “[Lyne’s] direction and Stephen Schiff’s discerning, faithful screenplay, are sensitive to Nabokov’s wit as well as his lyricism.”

“Steve is extremely witty and a great speaker. Hearing him discuss screenwriting in any form is always both fun and enlightening,” Basinger says. “He’s not only a Nabokov expert, he’s the perfect person to discuss all the various problems he had in adapting Lolita to the modern screen, one of which was, of course, censorship.”

The screening will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Goldsmith Family Cinema, Center for Film Studies.

The Friends of the Wesleyan Library and the Center for Film Studies are co-sponsoring the event. Upcoming Adaptation Series films will be announced at a later date.
 
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor