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Film screen version of Croatian dramatic text


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Vrdoljak, Jelena Morana Ana. (2017). Film screen version of Croatian dramatic text. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Comparative Literature.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij književnosti, izvedbenih umjetnosti, filma i kulture) [mentor Senker, Boris].

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The aim of this paper is to present and analyze film screen versions of Croatian literary texts. The paper contains six units. The problem we came across while researching the resources for this paper is briefly dealt with in the introduction, namely the fact that many noted theoreticians like Linda Hutcheon, James Naremore, Robert Stam, Alessandra Raengo, George Blustone, André Bazin and others have discussed the topic of screenwriting and adaptations while, as will be shown, the situation in Croatia is completely different. None of Croatian theoreticians, that is, have exclusively dealt with this topic, but have rather, like filmologists Ante Peterlić, Hrvoje Hribar, Nikica Gilić, Hrvoje Turković, Tomislav Šakić, Jelena Vlašić-Duić, Damir Radić, Nenad Polimac, Ivan Starčević and a few others, sporadically mentioned this subject matter in their texts. What should be pointed out by all means is that some of them wrote about the problems of screenwriting in general terms while others considered particular film titles as well. After the introductory part, the second unit discusses the mutual relation between the Croatian literature and films. It is essential to underline here how the Croatian cinematography got inspired precisely by literary works from the very beginning. This claim is confirmed by the fact that some of the most successful Croatian films have been made using literary texts as basis for their scripts, regardless if they were short stories, novels or plays. Interesting, though, that at least not up to this day, have there been any adaptations of older authors like Marin Držić, Ivan Gundulić or Tituš Brezovački. Although films were treated as a kind of parasite to literature in the beginning and not only that but to other types of art as well, nevertheless they struggled throughout their historical and technological history to achieve the rank of a separate kind of art. However, what should be seen as even more important is the fact that films have achieved an inclusive and not an excluding position in their mutual relation with literature, even with other types of art. It is that very road to affirmation that was also taken by the Croatian cinema. Namely, not long after the first world film projection on 22 March 1895 in Paris, the one in Zagreb would follow in October of 1895. Regretfully, the Croatian film industry would then fall behind the world film industry. Thus the first organized cinematography in Croatia would be considered the one that came into being during the Second World War Independent State of Croatia (the NDH) that would be remembered chiefly, although partly incorrectly, as propaganda due to the particular time and conditions under which it emerged. Nevertheless, taking historical facts into account, reality would prove completely different. Let us mention just two facts. Just a few days after the NDH had been established, the Film Directorate at the National Secretariat for popular Education was formed on 23 April 1941. What had especially marked that period, though, was the first sound feature film, Lisinski, directed by Oktavijan Miletić. Even though, from today's point of view, quite a few critical remarks could be made about the film Lisinski (artificial and unnatural acting, the scenario and such) still the fact remains that after all it is an important film, from both historical and 'professional' points of view. Nevertheless, the Croatian cinematography had to wait until the postwar period for the interrelation between the films and literature to fully prosper. The third unit of this paper under the title of From a Work of Literature to the Film Screen is of theoretical nature – after determining terms of screenwriting and film adaptation of literary works, an overview of theoretical approaches to this problem is presented. Apart from the term adaptation, the term screenwriting is also used for a film inspired by a literary work or a theatrical play. Although one would assume that screenwriting is almost a synonym of the term adaptation, it needs to be pointed out that it is used as a more general term. An interesting fact is how the term of adaptations is widely used today while they used to play a much more important role at the very beginning of film history. Namely, their aim was to gain respect for an 'amusement park' art back then to equal that of an institutionalized culture. Part of that chapter points to some of the problems directors who choose screen versions of literary texts have to face, as well as to prejudice and unacceptance that still exist with some people when it comes to screenwriting based on literary texts. Namely, adaptations, that is, reshaping the original text, are mostly dealt with by screenwriters or directors, although cases of authors of the literary text in question taking over the adaptation themselves should be mentioned here, too. During this transition process between the two media, certain changes occur. That is to say, in the case of novels, they are likely to be cut, due to their length, and the original text shortened. On the other hand there are texts that require the very opposite procedure, their extending, that is. What needs to be noted here is that certain texts are somehow more predisposed to adaptation (like theatrical plays) than others (for example short stories, novels, novellas), so that the success of the adaptation lies mainly, but not altogether, in the hands of the adapter, also depending on the literary genre in question. Still, this is neither the beginning nor the end of the problems concerning adaptation by any means. There are differences in opinion of film theoreticians as to who should in fact be considered the adapter of a particular work. The answer to this question is obviously simple if the author himself/herself is transferring their own work onto the stage or the screen. In that case the author and adapter are one and the same person. The answer remains simple to a certain extent when the author of the work is one person and the adapter another. Real problems occur in cases of musicals or operas. Is the adapter the librettist or is it the composer or are they both? We would rarely think of the composer as the adapter, but it is really the composer who intensifies our emotions or induces our reactions. The fact that various adapters keep different distances from the original text proves quite interesting. Eventually what emerges as the main problem of all scripts based on literary works is the fact that they are always compared to the original text. The reason being to the greatest extent the fact that, in most cases, that is, adaptations were viewed as a transition from what was absolutely erroneously regarded as a solely linguistic medium to what was, mistakenly again, considered a uniquely visual medium. All of this brings us to another problem yet, that of the question of the fidelity to the original text. This problem continues to be discussed further on in this paper; for now let it be noted that the problem would not arise in the first place, if the viewers did not keep forgetting that each adaptation of a work was only one of possible interpretations of the work in question. It is for this particular reason why Dudley Andrew considers the question of fidelity to the original the most likely to emerge being at the same time the most tiresome question when discussing adaptations. What is revealed then is that if we insisted on the question of fidelity, an altogether different question would ensue from it. The question of fidelity to what? Following all stated so far, contemporary theories of film adaptations have abandoned the idea of originality altogether, that is, the fidelity to the written text they were made on as a basis. Ultimately the debate on fidelity to the literary text the film was based on ends up in the sole fact that the film version will automatically prove both different and genuine for admittedly one reason only, but of great importance, too, namely, the media transition. However, this would still mean that the fact how the mutual relation between films and literature is not one of exclusion but that of inclusion, has to be constantly repeated. That is, the same way reading a play does not ever exclude visiting the theatre, watching a film adaptation does not diminish the value of the literary text it was based on. The middle part of the paper deals with an analysis of chosen film titles of the Croatian cinematography: Adventurer at the Door (Pustolov pred vratima, by Milan Begović, director Šime Šimatović), The Performance of Hamlet at Mrduša Donja (Predstava Hamleta u Mrduši Donjoj by Ivo Brešan, director Krsto Papić), The Glembajs (Glembajevi, by Miroslav Krleža, director Antun Vrdoljak) and The Priest's Children (Svećenikova djeca by Mate Matišić, director Vinko Brešan). These four films have a canonical status in the Croatian cinematography for their contribution to it, but at the same time making literary texts they were based on both popular besides introducing a new approach to them. Because of their very importance, a greater portion of this paper is focused on analyzing these films in such a way that all guidelines theories of adaptation are occupied with are attempted. It is quite interesting to show the relationship of each author of the literary text in question to the film itself. Milan Begović, Ivo Brešan, Miroslav Krleža and Mate Matišić took part in creating the scenario the film was based on in different ways or had no part in writing the scenario made after their original texts at all. It turns out how maybe the greatest loss when it comes to the Croatian cinematography befell Milan Begović who showed quite an interest in films, wrote some articles about them, even influenced some tendencies in the development of the Croatian film, but at the time of his most engaging activity, the Croatian cinematography presented just a few attempts on a private basis. On the other hand though, Begović would become known on the Croatian silver screen in 1939 already, long before Šimatović's film script in 1961, thanks to the Czechs and the director Ladislav Brom who adapted his American Yacht in the Split Harbor (Amerikanska jahta u splitskoj luci) for the screen. Maybe the most interesting is Krleža's example, who even though writing three scenarios, did not leave behind any major text on films. In time he became more aware of the full social role of films but still rather underlined their negative phenomena. He defended screen versions of his own literary works and what happened next was that his Glembajs would undergo the most changes during the transition from the literary text to the screen. Vrdoljak edited, shortened, even interpolated Krleža's texts. The analysis itself would prove how in fact Ivo Brešan who wrote the scenario for The Performance of Hamlet in Mrduša Donja together with Papić, and Mate Matišić, both author and screenwriter for Priest's Children, were the only ones who directly influenced the presentation of their literary works on the screen, although in the long run these colaborations did not turn out as particularly successful for various reasons − some ended up with the author's distancing himself from the depiction of particular characters from his literary text on the film screen. Other films, like The Blizzard (Mećava) by director Antun Vrdoljak based on Pero Budak's drama, Horvat's Choice (Horvatov izbor) by director Edo Galić, scenario by Ivo Štivičić, based on Miroslav Krleža's drama Vučjak, Sokol didn't like him (Sokol ga nije volio) by Branko Schmidt, then a young graduate of film direction, based on Fabijan Šovagović's drama and scenario, as well as two films based on literary works by Mate Matišić, When the Dead Start Singing (Kad mrtvi zapjevaju), directed by Krsto Papić and No One's Son (Ničiji sin), directed by Arsen Anton Ostojić, are discussed briefly in a separate chapter under the title More on Film Screen Versions. What is worth mentioning here is the fact that these films are neither less valid nor are they less important for the Croatian cinematography considering both the quality of the literary originals they were based on and the distinction they gained in their film versions. In the conclusion of this paper the contribution of the screen versions to the popularity of the discussed literary texts themselves is stressed, especially their contribution to the whole of the Croatian cinematography, seeing how some of those films represent the very best titles it can offer.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: adaptation, screen version, film adaptation, adaptation theories, literary work, film, theatre, scenario, drama, adapter, fidelity to the original text
Subjects: Comparative literature
Slavic languages and literatures > Croatian language and literature
Departments: Department of Comparative Literature
Supervisor: Senker, Boris
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij književnosti, izvedbenih umjetnosti, filma i kulture
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2018 13:32
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2018 13:32

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