About Me

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I still feel like a teenager on the inside, unfortunately my children do remind me how old I am!! I have lived for 20+ years as an Irish expat in The Netherlands. My favourite city here has to be Amsterdam.

Writing, reading, authentic living. It's all here at The Writing Process

Welcome to my blog. Let me start by telling you that I love writing. I love the sense of vitality it gives me. I love that it helps me to make sense of the world and to the people in it. I love that it helps me become wiser, more intuitive, empathic, and most of all autonomous.

All aspects - reading, writing and observing - are what make the process complete. The essence is storytelling, and learning about
life and yourself.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

Since taking the course in Adaptation at the University of Amsterdam, I have learned to appreciate the whole process of dissecting, analyzing, and re-inventing particular books for filming or dramatization of another form. When it comes to the adaptation book to film, I have come to regard the film as an extraction of the original piece of work. In the best case sticking to the original narrative, in the worst, deviating so drastically it bears little resemblance to the source material, perhaps not even aimed at affecting the reader (observer) consumer in the same way.

A book to film adaptation that best illustrates the latter is A Beautiful Mind, a big budget Hollywood movie on the life of Mathematical genius, John Nash. The film in no shape or form resembles the movie (or vice versa, I should say) apart from the fact that both have John Nash as the central character. The film is a dramatic one, with elements of a love story, and a personal struggle. The book is a biography, and written with very little poetic licence. It is a factual chronicle of a schizophrenic genius. It can be appreciated on an entirely different level than the film. It is devoid of drama or even sympathy. It is a factual, clinical work, and is so far removed from the tone and narrative of the film to have little bearing on the appreciation for either or both.

However, when choosing to watch a film that has been adapted from a novel or other book, I have come to the conclusion that it is better to be familiar with the source material before watching a film, or as is the case with the works of Annie Proulx, be interested in the dramatized version only and skip the novel completely (a personal opinion). The stories of Annie Proulx are perfectly suited for screening, the narrative and characterization are always wonderful, I just have a problem getting into her style an sticking it out to the last page. Thus, I enjoy her stories after adaptation.

In The Solitude of Prime Numbers, I am less sure of the film’s relationship to the novel. Do they stand apart, do they concur, or do they meet somewhere in between? I am not sure.
I saw the film The Solitude of Prime Numbers without being familiar with the novel. It was a wonderful piece of artistic cinema, with characters that had depth and honesty. Reality was harsh at times, and the two main characters, Alice and Mattia had more than their fair share of troubles as children; troubles that left them scarred and lonely and almost unable to reach out across the abyss and so heal their damaged spirits.

I loved the film; I was enthralled by the narrative itself and the manner in which it was depicted. The director chose for a stark style, yet managed to subdue the tone, play down certain elements, and emphasise others. It was definitely a ‘show don’t tell’ atmosphere, playing up to the critical abilities and intelligence of the observer. The story flowed smoothly; the progression was logical, understandable, even when it was shocking and painful. We understand what motivates Alice and Mattia, yet we are relieved in the end that they reach a place of peace and forgiveness and are finally open to allow themselves to hope for a better future.

Not so the novel. The narrative here is less smooth, less homogenous. It chops and changes, reverts quite significantly to ‘telling instead of showing’ and lays certain incidents on too thickly, while under-describing others. It is at times abrupt and illogical in its progression, and at times has sidelines that could easily be erased without detracting from the main narrative.

But, it is the conclusion that disappoints most. Having seen the film (unfortunately), I did not expect the desolate, hopeless, futile rounding off that the author dished up. Utterly unpalatable.

Perhaps if I had not previously been served the semi-happy ending of the film this desolation would have hit less hard. I might have been more accepting of the ‘no happily ever after’ for these two.

Having said all of that, I would still recommend the novel, purely because of the writing style and the fresh voice of the writer. The story line is of itself innovative, original, thought provoking and starkly realistic.
I would recommend the film too, but as a separate creation.

Novel lovers, read the book first to avoid disappointment.