Adaptation and interpretation
This is the UK film poster for 'Venus Peter', the film adaptation of 'A twelvemonth and a day' produced by Young Films in 1988.
From book to film
Following on the success of the publication of 'A twelvemonth and a day', Cjristopher Rush embarked on writing the screenplay for 'Venus Peter', the film adaptation of his book.
Although the film is set in a different part of Scotland and not every detail from the book is transferred to the screen, it presents another opportunity to retell the story. A film is just one way in which a book can be adapted and so reach a different audience.
This is an extract from the screenplay:
1. INT. CHURCH. DAY
The dark textured surface slowly moves in front of us, as yet the detail is blurred just the slow swinging, turning movement. The FRONT TITLES are brought onto screen by the movement.
We slowly become aware that we are looking up at the underside of a carved boat.
The boat hangs high in the roof above the congregation and gently swings as its sails catch in a draft of air.
Far below only one face is looking up from the bowed praying heads. It is the face of a baby, PETER. He is in his christening clothes. He smiles up at the boat.
The minister, KINNEAR, delivers the prayer with enough energy to fill a cathedral.
A screenplay provides detailed descriptions of what is to be included in a scene and how it will be shot as the extract above shows. The action is transferred from the printed page to a visual medium so the screenwriter literally sets the scene for what the director will shoot.
Not every author also gets to write the film adapatation for their work but by doing so, the book's author has much more of a say in how their work will be adapted for the screen.
Reading an image
Working life has been captured by artists for years. Many artists have portrayed working people as 'noble peasants' and presented a romanticised view of what was in reality, an extremely hard life.
The two images here are examples of different portrayals or interpretations of the fishwife — a traditional, manual role many women had in fishing communities all over Scotland. They also represent two very different viewpoints, that of the person or persons creating the image. They show that similar scenes can have very different interpretations depending on what the context is and who is telling 'the story'.
Questions for discussion
- Look at the film poster of 'Venus Peter' — if you didn't know anything about the book, what would you expect the film to be about just looking at this poster? Why do you think these two characters were chosen?
- Think about the artwork in the poster. What impression is it giving you of the film?
- Read the extract from the screenplay again. What type of scene is being described? Joyous, solemn, dramatic? How important do you think it might be to the rest of the film?
- Look at the watercolour sketch of the fishwife. What's happening in this scene? What impression do you get of the fishwife? What do you think the artist is telling us about her work and perhaps life?
- Now look at the photograph. What impression do you get of the scene here? What about the women: how are they captured?
- Compare the watercolour sketch and the photograph. What image or interpetation of life in a fishing community does each give? Is either of them any more or less valid?
Literacy and English experiences and outcomes: LIT 4-13a; LIT 4-14a; LIT 4-16a; LIT 4-18a.