I dunno that there is an art that gets as much demand for and threat of adaptation as writing does. I think that says more about the limitations of people’s imagination than anything else. I mean, you can look at an amazing painting and it tells a story, but the thing is that there isn’t as much to work out, in a literal sense. You have to add more, put more into it. And you can look at music, and poetry and photography in the same light. There are stories there, stories that could be adapted but which are just not as easy to do. Sure, there are a few song to movie adaptations but they’re a handful. Nope, stories are what seem the easiest because they have the blueprint right there for you, you just have to follow it.
There-in lies the rub – an adaptation is not the original itself. It is an interpretation that is only as accurate as the people behind it want it to be. Need it to be. That’s the easiest thing to forget, as a fan and devotee – that an adaptation is nothing more than one interpretation that fits a mold. You see, as soon as that art is released it becomes quantifiable product. It doesn’t stop become art but it also becomes product. As the creator you have to be willing to stand back from what you made to allow it to become something else to the public. You may see it as one thing but the rest of the world may see it as something completely different, and that’s sometimes how it goes. I remember a friend telling me years and years ago how she wanted to adapt my first collection, Back From Nothing, into a movie. Now, that book has dozens of stories and I had no idea if she had one story she wanted to adapt or what, but she had some notion of what she’d do. The film never came to fruition but had it, I would have gotten to see someone else saw my work. Another friend actually got as far as writing a script based a story in the book and it seemed so alien to me, so foreign, and different yet, it was based on my story. It was just that he saw it in a different way.
The best example I can think of when it comes to the ‘work’ and the ‘interpretation’ comes in the form of Stephen King’s The Shining, which not only created a classic novel but a classic film as well. Neither of which being the same thing.
With the novel The Shining Stephen King took the horrors of addiction and abuse and used those as the framework for a tale of a haunted hotel. The hotel was the out to get this family, by any means, and the best way to do this was to use the father. In Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation the hotel and its permanent residents were far less important and interesting than the idea of a family being trapped together for several months with their own demons. The hotel was still haunted but the father was the true horror and the hotel used him, and his latent madness, to attack the family core. What you get is the same story told two different ways, the story seen through a prism with different aspects appearing for both people. For Kubrick the ghost story was not nearly as appealing as a story of inner struggle and familial strife, whereas King used the horror of the family as a way to access the horror of the hotel. You see, the stories are sorta the same, and the ideas were similar, but how they got to where they ended up was different. King likes scary stories, and likes ghost stories, and wanted to tell one, but one which showed that sometimes the ghosts within us are the scariest of all. Kubrick was more drawn to the collapsing nuclear family that, when placed in a vacuum, could explode.
The thing with both the original film and the novel of The Shining is that both are great. Both take different aspects of the story and illuminate them. The beauty of adaptations is that you can get a new version of a piece of art that you love and in that, can see things you never saw before. You can fall in love with it all over again. I had a hard time accepting the film of The Shining because I love that novel so deeply but as a film, I loved it. But with every adaptation you have to accept that someone else loves what you do, and they want to show what they love about it. No adaptation is perfect, but then, if you want the ‘perfection’ you need only return to the source material.
Like it or not, art needs the adaptations. Without them new people would never discover and love the things we love. What adaptations do is open the door to the rest of the world to see what we see. It’s letting the secret out. And sure, the ‘secret’ gets mis-told, and it gets misinterpreted more times than not but in some rare instances we get something just as beautiful as what we fell in love with in the beginning. I know it’ll never happen but it’d be an honor to be adapted by someone. A SCARY honor, but an honor just the same. Aside from the script that never came to be a few friends have done images based on things I created and seeing how someone else sees your work is pretty special. It isn’t always, I am sure, but as soon as you release it, it’s not just yours anymore. It’s everyone’s. Good, bad, and downright ugly.