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photography and film – facts, ideas, values

Little patch of yellow wall or a single asparagus? Harold Pinter’s The Proust Screenplay {2}



We read The Proust Screenplay with all kinds of things in our mind: Proust, Pinter’s reading of Proust; the problem of abridgment, the problem of dramatization, the problem of visualization; the film which might have been made from this script; the script itself as a literary work, words on the page. In permitting and controlling the interplay of these things Pinter has created a small masterpiece of wit and understanding.


Michael Wood, Times Literary Supplement, June 2nd 1978

(Source: HaroldPinter.org)


..the study of adaptation is logically tantamount to the study of the cinema as a whole.

Dudley Andrews [Concepts in Film Theory]



Now I have the Pinter Screenplay book, instead of relying on the audio tape, it seems only sensible to do a second post to try pull things together.

First, the first post.  If it was not obvious: the asparagus was my little joke to illustrate the book to film problem.

Second, having read Michael Woods Foreward and Pinter’s Introduction, I can see I pretty much got to the gist of it.  [1]  How the Pinter screenplay and radio version worked.  [2] Other attempts apart from Pinter’s, including screenplays, finished films and the BBC radio serial. [3] Adaptation in general.

Here I want to to consolidate with quotes from Wood’s and Pinter’s intros. and a few more online articles. Maybe in a third post, I’ll tackle the screenplay in more detail.

Wood first classifies scripts/screenplays into the stages they reach, from glints in the mind through partial completed scripts to those that have been made into films, then places Pinter’s script in the category, along with Visconti’s version, that was completed but not realised in film.

He goes on (my break into numbered sections for convenience) :

[1] …it is also something else, a distinguished representative of yet another genre: the film script which already, as a text, has an unmistakable life of its own.

[2] Reading a work of this kind has particular challenges and attractions, both resembling and not resembling those of reading the text of a play.

[3] The play text is close to the film script, because in both cases we have to imagine the whole show in our heads. The difference is that with a play we hear it more than we see it, we conjure up possible voices and tones, think about insinuations and intentions. We concentrate on the dialogue, worry less about furniture and the set and the blocking out of the actor’s movements.

[4] Reading a film script, we invert these priorities. We hear the words in our head, certainly, but mainly we see the settings, the faces, the gestures, the light. We even need to see – this may be the most important feature of our reading – the spaces between the shots and the sequences  they make. We need to reconstruct for ourselves the visual language of the unseen film, turn it into something that is neither  just a collection  of moving photographs nor a story that could easily have been  told in another medium.

Pinter:

For three months I read  A la Researche du Temp Perdu every day. I took hundreds of notes while reading but was left at the end quite baffled as to how to approach a task of such magnitude.

[..] We decided that the architecture of the film should be based on two main and contrasting principles: one, a movement, chiefly narrative, towards disillusion, and the other, more intermittent, towards revelation, rising to where time that was lost is found, and fixed forever in art.

[..]  Proust wrote Du Cotes de Chez Swann first and Le Temp Retrouve, the last volume, second.

[..] The relationship between the first volume and the last seemed to us the crucial one. The whole book is, as it were, contained in the last volume. When Marcel in Le Temp Retrouve, says that he is now able to start his work, he has already written it.  Somehow this remarkable conception had to be found in another form.

[..] In Le Temp Retrouve, Marcel, in his forties, hears again the garden bell of his childhood. He is conscious of himself as a child, his memory of the experience, is more real, more acute than the experience itself.

There are a great number of Proust articles and essays in findarticles.com. A few deal directly with Pinter and his screenplay, but my favourite is the Duncan McColl Chesney:

Giving Proust the Pinter treatment

Independent, The (London)May 17, 1997 by Robert Hanks

Proust at the Movies

Modern Language Review, TheJan, 2007 by Jane Walling

Radio: Proust for the pressed

Independent on Sunday, TheMar 20, 2005 by Nicholas Lezard
Deals with the BBC Radio 4 Classic Serial 6-parter.

Proust and Cinema, or Luchino Visconti’s search by Duncan McColl Chesney
12 page essay
Dudley Andrew’s typology of adapatation
– “three modes : borrowing, intersection, fidelity of transformation.”
[page 3: detail and examples]

Here I’ll add Anita Brooker’s short review, A grand overview, of Paintings in Proust by Eric Karpeles, which is interesting of itself but also because it helps to illustrate the problem Pinter had in chosing how to represent the art in Proust:

She says right away:

Proust was a translator of Ruskin, yet he rejected Ruskin’s message that art has a moral foundation. For Proust art was a self-explanatory and self-sustaining exercise which excluded praise and condemnation.



February 17, 2009 - Posted by | Pinter, Proust, screenplay, screenwriting | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Little patch of yellow wall or a single asparagus? : Harold Pinter’s The Proust Screenplay Little patch of yellow wall or a single asparagus? Harold Pinter’s The Proust Screenplay {2} Later, having thought a little about novel or screenplay, a small post on that with a brief […]

    Pingback by SCREENPLAY Pinter’s Proust « cutting on the action | February 6, 2014 | Reply


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