(For the record, I find the term “period piece” to be one of the most inherently problematic ones in movie-critiquing jargon. The umbrella term has become ad hominem for any film taking place in the 1960s or earlier. Considering that pre-1960 gives us 1960 years of movie fodder and the post 1960 gives us about 50 only shows the oddity in criticising the prevalence of “period pieces”, but maybe the issue is the prevalence of a specific period in period history. And, I’ve digressed – I’ll move on.)
The subject has been one meandering through my brain for some time now, but the situation came to a head when the news of Christian Carmago’s directorial by way of Anton Chekov’s The Seagull “which will set The Seagull in rural New England” was being streamlined. balk at the idea of sounding like a literary pedant, but this is one in a line of “updated” takes on classics that’s getting me the slightest bit chagrined. Really now, what gives? Theme. I’m from the (literary theory) school of thought that every artistic work, essentially, comes down to thematic thrust (even the most decadently aesthetic pieces). We appreciate films, like any other art form, because their themes are resounding, because their theses touch something in us irrespective of language, race or era. (Additionally, it made me sad because the plans for the traditional adaptation of the play with Kristin Scott Thomas and Carey Mulligan never came to fruition, coming off their successful run on Broadway.)I
Take for example Charles Huddleston’s imminent adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Literature enthusiasts would know that the film has something of a controversial history with the tale of the unsatisfied wife who eventually leaves her husband and children at the end. It was something of a shock to the Victorian ideals of the 19th century, and viewed from our contemporary world today it’s interesting to considering how different marriage was regarded. Nonetheless, an adaptation is imminent and apparently it’s not a straight literary adaptation, but an updated spin on the tale. It replaces the debt issues of the 19th century with the current American economic crises. And, I think – why? I’d assume Huddleston is keen on noting how despite the more than a century since Nora’s issues in Ibsen’s play we might not have come as far as we thought. If so, I accede. But, is it essential for that to be evinced by “updating the play”.
Who knows, perhaps I pontificate needlessly. But, each time I hear a film adaptation of some classic piece being “updated” I roll my eyes a little. It’s en vogue at the moment, but unless the filmmaker can submit a significant reason as to why I’m generally blasé on the trend.
Do I over think the situation or is it a significant bugbear?