Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lost in Translation

I'm sure there are quite a few folks out there who share my passion for the following shows on television.

Among the many I enjoy, today I'm singling out DEXTER, TRUE BLOOD and THE WALKING DEAD. All three are based on books by authors Jeff Lindsey and Charlaine Harris and graphic novelist Robert Kirkman respectively.

My husband is obsessed with THE WALKING DEAD and owns all six collections. I'm told there will be twelve so he's very excited. The fact that I share my life with someone who enjoys hanging out with zombies - especially before bedtime - may seem weird to some but hey, he's a writer too. We're a strange breed.

So far this season has been a disappointment for all three shows. For a start, the violence has increased a gazillion times - so much so that I can't actually watch a lot of the scenes anymore. Sometimes I have to dash from the room because the sound effects are pretty nasty too. I wonder if the increased emphasis on violence is an attempt to disguise the not-so-inspiring storylines. They all seem a bit flat and tired.

I shared my thoughts with Auggy, a friend and colleague at the advertising agency where I slave away from nine to six. As one of our senior digital editors (and a filmmaker too) Auggy shared a theory that I'd like to throw to the hordes.

Auggy is an avid reader. He said he was "in awe" of writers because they tell stories that mentally empower their readers by forcing them to recreate their own very personal version of that writer's world. He said that the reader subconsciously casts the story in his imagination from visualizing the physical appearances of the characters to dressing the set. The reader is even in control of the pace. He can feel the pulse of a story's heart.

When a book is adapted into a TV show or a movie, that unspoken agreement between creator and reader is broken. The lens of a camera is like a funnel. It narrows the content down to one person's vision which the viewer is forced to accept.

Some books translate beautifully - the Harry Potter franchise is a great example. Others fall flat. One of my favorite all-time films is THE ENGLISH PATIENT. But for me, the book was horribly fragmented and yet the hugely talented Anthony Minghella's cinematic version was truly spellbinding. I've seen that movie nine times. (I've watched GLADIATOR ten, but for a completely different reason).

As always, a lot can be lost in translation. I would love my series to come to life on the screen. It's a risk of course, but I'll take it!


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Rick Blechta said...

It seems to me that it would take a cinematographer to put it that way, but it rings true.

As for the three shows being more gruesome this year, I think you're also correct here. I have a friend who's worked on all of the Resident Evil movies and he's made similar comments to yours numerous times.

Donis Casey said...

I never watch anything that may be gruesome any more. I'm already scared. I don't need to be scared more. But you did mention my two very favorite movies. We've seen The English Patient close to as many times as you, and I'll bet I've seen Gladiator a dozen times. And not for the less than accurate Roman history. But I think you know what I mean.

Aline Templeton said...

Increase in violence - oh yes. My favourite British TV show, New Tricks - a quirky, funny crime series about aging cops working in a special unit - became so poular that it was moved into a prime time slot and clearly they've decided for that audience it has to be more 'gritty'. Frankly, 65-year olds in chases aren't exactly convincing and they've lost the humour, so of course the people who loved that will stop watching and it will be axed. Then what are we going to watch - apart from Downtown? Oh, and Dallas when it returns!


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I also like WALKING DEAD so much, and your shows are so perfect and interesting and i dont scared because i love to see these type of movies, the concept you put in a movie describe your intelligence.

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