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Rushdie no cree en las adaptaciones

Escena de Slumdog Millonaire. Fuente: the guardian

Salman Rushdie no está nada feliz con el Oscar a Slumdog Millionaire, la adaptación de Danny Boyle de la novela Q&A de Vikas Swarup. Al hablar de las adaptaciones literarias en el cine, y su complejidad, dice en una columna en The Guardian:


What can one say about Slumdog Millionaire, adapted from the novel Q&A by the Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup and directed by Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan, which won eight Oscars, including best picture? A feelgood movie about the dreadful Bombay slums, an opulently photographed movie about extreme poverty, a romantic, Bollywoodised look at the harsh, unromantic underbelly of India - well - it feels good, right? And, just to clinch it, there's a nifty Bollywood dance sequence at the end. (Actually, it's an amazingly second-rate dance sequence even by Bollywood's standards, but never mind.) It's probably pointless to go up against such a popular film, but let me try. The problems begin with the work being adapted. Swarup's novel is a corny potboiler, with a plot that defies belief: a boy from the slums somehow manages to get on to the hit Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and answers all his questions correctly because the random accidents of his life have, in a series of outrageous coincidences, given him the information he needs, and are conveniently asked in the order that allows his flashbacks to occur in chronological sequence. This is a patently ridiculous conceit, the kind of fantasy writing that gives fantasy writing a bad name. It is a plot device faithfully preserved by the film-makers, and lies at the heart of the weirdly renamed Slumdog Millionaire. As a result the film, too, beggars belief. It used to be the case that western movies about India were about blonde women arriving there to find, almost at once, a maharajah to fall in love with, the supply of such maharajahs being apparently endless and specially provided for English or American blondes; or they were about European women accusing non-maharajah Indians of rape, perhaps because they were so indignant at having being approached by a non-maharajah; or they were about dashing white men galloping about the colonies firing pistols and unsheathing sabres, to varying effect. Now that sort of exoticism has lost its appeal; people want, instead, enough grit and violence to convince themselves that what they are seeing is authentic; but it's still tourism. If the earlier films were raj tourism, maharajah-tourism, then we, today, have slum tourism instead. In an interview conducted at the Telluride film festival last autumn, Boyle, when asked why he had chosen a project so different from his usual material, answered that he had never been to India and knew nothing about it, so he thought this project was a great opportunity. Listening to him, I imagined an Indian film director making a movie about New York low-life and saying that he had done so because he knew nothing about New York and had indeed never been there. He would have been torn limb from limb by critical opinion. But for a first world director to say that about the third world is considered praiseworthy, an indication of his artistic daring. The double standards of post-colonial attitudes have not yet wholly faded away.

Pero se equivocan las notas de prensa al comentar esta columna, como si fuera un simple ataque a Boyle y a la novela de Swarup. Lo cierto es que la columna de Rushdie es muy interesante, llena de ejemplos de adaptaciones erradas y de grandes logros en la unión cine-literatura. No es la de Swarup, por cierto, la única adaptación que estuvo tentando al Oscar. También El extraño caso de Benjamin Button lo es, a partir de un cuento de Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Sobre esta película y su cuento que le precede, dice Rushdie:


In 1921, F Scott Fitzgerald wrote an odd little story called "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", about the birth, to "young Mr and Mrs Roger Button", of a male baby who is born as a 70-year-old man and who then lives backwards, getting younger all the time, until at the end of his life, baby-sized and shrinking slowly in his white crib, he is sucked away into nothingness. In 2008, this little squib of a tale was turned by Brad Pitt and the director David Fincher into a $200m film. However, the difference between the story and the movie is unusually great. In Fitzgerald's story, Benjamin is born as a full-sized septuagenarian male. It is never explained how Mrs Button managed to give birth to such a large baby without being torn in half. Indeed, Mrs Button never gets a look-in. In the story, Benjamin's life is lived largely in the private sphere, apart from an excursion to fight in the Spanish-American war, while in the movie he becomes involved in so many of the public events of his time that the picture might almost have been called Zelig in Reverse, or perhaps Forrest Gump Goes Backwards. (The screenwriter of Forrest Gump, Eric Roth, who adapted that screenplay from the novel by Winston Groom, is also responsible for Benjamin Button Perhaps the biggest difference between the two works is that, other than sharing the idea of a man who lives backwards in time, their stories are entirely different; the film is not really an adaptation of the book, but almost entirely Roth's creation. And while Roth and Fincher's film is essentially a bravura special-effects performance helped by two fine acting performances, by Pitt and Cate Blanchett, it doesn't finally have anything in particular to say. Fitzgerald's story is at least a comedy of snobbery and embarrassment which, while maintaining a deliberately frothy and light tone, enjoyably satirises the social attitudes of late 19th and early 20th-century Baltimore.

También menciona las terribles adaptaciones de los libros de Gabriel García Márquez (uno de los escritores favoritos de Rushdie) y la que considera algunas excepciones a la norma de las terribles adaptaciones: Volker Schlöndorff y su película sobre El tambor de hojalata de Gunter Grass o los hermanos Coen adaptando a Cormac McCarthy:

The films of García Márquez's masterpieces, in particular, are travesties, replacing the writer's imaginative precision with a lazy exoticism that betrays the originals profoundly without even knowing it is doing so. However, Schlöndorff's Tin Drum stands as a magnificent exception with, at its heart, the electric performance of David Bennent as Oskar Matzerath, the Peter Pan among the million lost boys and murderous pirates of Nazi Germany: little, stunted Oskar, the other boy in classic literature who never grew up. I've tried to find more films that disprove the British producer's dictum, and could add, for example, the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men, a film that succeeds by keeping very close, scene by scene, line of dialogue by line of dialogue, to Cormac McCarthy's novel, and There Will Be Blood, which succeeds by the opposite method, making a free, loose and largely successful adaptation of Upton Sinclair's novel Oil!; but the failures are so much more frequent than the successes.

En fin, el artículo es muy extenso pero vale la pena leerlo todo y varias veces. Un gusto para los cinéfilos y los literatos. No se pierdan las anécdotas sobre la propia experiencia de Rushdie con las adaptaciones en el cine o el teatro.

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11:37 a.m.

Muy bueno el artículo, pero le faltó comentar sobre las adaptaciones de Broadway a la pantalla: ¿South Pacific, West Side Story, Phantom of the Opera, mejor en cinta que en vivo? ¿Qué hay de Grease, que se tragó todas las canciones de la obra original para complacer a la generación del 78? ¿Algo sobre la infeliz adaptación cinematográfica de A Chorus Line, la (por el contrario) brillante adaptación de Cabaret, o el desastre de Evita, tal vez?    



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