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Old 23rd Apr 2007, 22:01   #21
John from Paris
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Default Re: George Eliot: Middlemarch

I have highly ambivalent feelings about stage and film adaptations of novels. I fully understand that people working in those media should want to try these adaptations, but then certain features of a film imprint themselves on the mind, and the book becomes a different kind of experience, and, in my opinion, a more limited one. (Though some people might argue the opposite here.) I can no longer go back to the text of Madame Bovary without visualising the admittedly excellent Isabelle Huppert in the admittedly rather good adaptation by Claude Chabrol, about fifteen years ago.

Did anyone here see the stage adapatation of Wuthering Heights at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds some time back? That was very awkward; they'd felt obliged to have the two narrating characters at the sides of the stage rather than involved in the action... it didn't work.

Middlemarch in two hours, even in three? This would put me in a seriously difficult position. I would be so curious to see it, and yet on balance I think I'll probably stay away. In fact I'm pretty sure I would. Middlemarch is a novel to be read and to be savoured over a period of two or three weeks.

And then, as mentioned by jerkass way back in this thread, those bits where George Eliot pops in and says "This is how things were back then" (I always feel it's George Eliot, taking us gently and sagely by the hand, not a "narrative voice"... ) Would these bits just be left out? Quelle horreur. Made into a voice-over? Shudder shudder.

No, I think I'll choose to live without Middlemarch on the screen.
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Old 23rd Apr 2007, 23:04   #22
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Default Re: George Eliot: Middlemarch

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colyngbourne View Post
I like the 1994 BBC Middlemarch very much - at six hours, fifteen minutes, they had an appropriate amount to time to tell the story of so many characters as fully as they needed to.
Yes, you need time so much. I am currently re-enjoying the BBC Pride and Prejudice. I like it so much better than the more recent film.

I confess I can't remember the BBC Middlemarch too well, and may have damned it with faint praise. I feel a re-watch coming on.
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Old 24th Apr 2007, 10:20   #23
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Default Re: George Eliot: Middlemarch

I think it's interesting that we are debating the merits of film and TV adaptations of novels, and how the inherent characteristics of the original can be changed for better or for worse. However, are we saying that we should only experience a work in its original form and that any other experience will detract from the original?

Taken to its extreme, this could mean that we should never read a Shakespeare play, as the original experience should be to see it performed live on stage, and that your experience when reading the work might change your perception of that work (again for better or worse). I know that we don't actually adapt the play in the same way that a novel is adapted by the producer, but I wonder just how much all the footnotes etc affect our experience?
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Old 24th Apr 2007, 10:26   #24
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Default Re: George Eliot: Middlemarch

With a Shakespeare play, the drama is being removed if you read it, but the drama is something conjured by the players and the director and the staging and music: it's not something set down by the author.

So you've lost something but not a something actually created by the author.

Whereas with the filming/adaptation of a text for a visual medium, you lose at once the depth of perception available in the writing; you lose at least some of the nuances of character and tone; and almost certainly, you lose chunks of the story because there isn't enough time to tell the 'whole story': so a screenwriter is selecting the parts that they think are important or interesting. Sometimes then a significant part of what the author wrote or intended (if that can be discerned) is lost.
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Old 30th Nov 2008, 19:12   #25
Beth
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Default Re: George Eliot: Middlemarch

The other night I went to do a bit of Christmas shopping and found myself in a department store looking at one of those miniature villages. It was an elaborate display, each and every little figurine placed perfectly and lit to lend authenticity to the scene of what was touted as an English village, nineteenth century style. Many people find such collectibles to be desirable, and the price tags certainly reflect that value held by some. Of course each piece is sold separately. While I was marveling at the intricate layout of the porcelain village, something occurred to me. I was nearing the end of Middlemarch, the novel so often proclaimed as Mary Anne Evans' masterpiece. I had truly enjoyed my time in that fictional Midlands village amid each sentence and character so lovingly drawn and perfectly plotted. There is so much of both, plot and superbly drawn characterization, that Middlemarch never sags or becomes anything less than delightful to pick up. Yet I was feeling towards the novel more dimly lit than a figurine lamp whose fuse had blown.

I had allowed the whirl and buzz of modern life to creep into my times alone with the über Victorian, not to mention a clamor from the shelves of all the 3 or 4 novels I had passed over in the month it took to read Middlemarch. Mostly though, I became distracted about halfway through the novel by thoughts of what it must have been like to be Mary Anne planning and implementing sentence upon sentence in order to carry out the vision and statement which is Middlemarch. Did she sit on a worn carpet at times, tired from bending over the manuscript at a table, only to rise with an aching back from hours on the floor with her fountain ink pen and reams of paper? Did her hand hurt the way mine sometimes does when I've spent too many hours clicking and typing without watching the angles of my wrists? Did she have to interrupt her work to fix meals or tea? How did she do it?

Middlemarch can only be compared to a marvel of urban planning or perhaps to the software engineering coup that brings an entirely new system into being. I'm forced to look at the novel and its creation through the lens of modern life, my only frame of reference, and a somewhat poor one for understanding the intricacies of an imagination so all encompassing that I can only stand and gawk. The overwhelming presence of Middlemarch the creation had pushed me away from Middlemarch the story. George Eliot's light of genius fairly snuffed my candle of twenty first century devotion to the work, all because I couldn't fully enter the story without the aura of its creator blinding and diverting me.

So what's the use in pulling a volume such as Middlemarch from the shelf? Surely there are other more rapid fire forms of delivery for the reader's fix. Why did I bother if the whole time I would be held back from true appreciation for the tale by a case of the dumbstrucks at the mechanics it took to bring about?

As I stood looking at the Christmas village display, I wondered what it would take to bring a twenty third century person back into our times for a look. Could it be accomplished by a porcelain representation? Or will it take something like Richard Price's Lush Life to shout into the future from our present? There was nothing to learn from the department store arrangement. There was everything to be gained by finishing Middlemarch, by letting the huge novel seep into me in the coming weeks and months, by imagining Mary Anne with her full skirts and the discomforts of her nineteenth century life as she executed her artistic vision about a Midlands village and its inhabitants. It does matter, and I answered my own question thusly:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Middlemarch. It exists as certainly as art and creativity and imagination exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Middlemarch. It would be as dreary as if there were no Mary Annes. There would be no Victorian novels then, no Brownings, no Brontës to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment of the worlds that are gone, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which literature fills the world would be extinguished.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance as they are found in literature can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.






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Old 1st Dec 2008, 12:28   #26
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Default Re: George Eliot: Middlemarch

Wonderful post, Beth. The ending, Virginia, seems almost like a credo.

BTW, who is Virginia ?
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Old 1st Dec 2008, 13:50   #27
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Default Re: George Eliot: Middlemarch

Thanks, Quink. Yes, the credo is my take on a famous letter to the New York Sun written by a child, Virginia O'Hanlon, in 1897 asking the editor to tell her the truth about Santa Claus. Meet Virginia.
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Old 1st Dec 2008, 14:45   #28
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Default Re: George Eliot: Middlemarch

Very good, Beth. And the language and style of the times makes the "credo" sound all the more enduring.
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Old 6th Jan 2017, 11:29   #29
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Default Re: George Eliot: Middlemarch

Oh, we do have a Middlemarch book thread. Hello.

I am a quarter of the way through, and really very much enjoying this. I want to slap Mr Casaubon, though. Is that normal?
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Old 3rd Feb 2017, 23:59   #30
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Default Re: George Eliot: Middlemarch

His mother shouldn't have named him Mr. Casaubon if she didn't want people slapping him.
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