Literature and Cinema from "Adaptation" to Re-creation: Coping with the Complexity of Human Recollection

  • Carlo Testa University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Keywords: Italian cinema, Literature and cinema, Adaptation, Re-creation, Visconti, Dostoevskii, Film noir


Early 20th-century avant-gardes put a premium on the notion of "originality" and so created a cultural context in which "adaptation" -- in particular, lit-to cinema adaptation -- later came to be construed by film theory as a kind of derivative, inferior notion. This article offers the proof, based on work on the little-known original Russian sources, that none other than Èizenshtein opined differently, so much so that he preferred to argue instead for the use of the term "re-creation"; and that later semiotic theory, especially thanks to Iurii Lotman, provides us with the tools to develop the "re-creation" concept fully.

In the process of re-creation, which is always a process of cultural re-contextualization, the original literary complexity lost in the transmutation must be made up in specific cinematic ways, in order to offer a final re-created artefact worthy of recollection by human society. In times of an overburdened human ability to remember historic sufferings, re-created artefacts that lose information vis-a-vis the original will be quite justly forgotten.

On this basis, the article concludes with an elaboration on contemporary Italian cinema -- especially some commercially successful noirs -- drawn from literature (or rather, books of fiction) and pinpoints the nature of one of that type of cinema's recurrent shortcomings. The essential defect of such films is identified in their inability to make up by cinematic means for the loss of complexity which they endure in the transition from one medium to another. This is all the more true when, as in the case of the noirs examined here, complexity is already scant in the original books in the first place.


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Author Biography

Carlo Testa, University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Professor of Italian
Advisor, Italian program (UG)
726 Buchanan Tower

French, Hispanic and Italian Studies (FHIS)
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z1


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How to Cite
Testa, C. (2013). Literature and Cinema from "Adaptation" to Re-creation: Coping with the Complexity of Human Recollection. Between, 2(4).