26 December 2012 | EdgarST
It has always been said that cinema as an art form is yet to develop into an autonomous expression, because the way film is mostly assumed today (with notable exceptions) is as a subordinate of narrative literature. As film industries are structured today, it is going to take a long time until cinema reaches a level of evolution as literature, and in this case, as James Joyce's writings. But I do not agree that works as "Ulysses" cannot be transferred to film. What seems more obvious to me is that narrative cinema, as it evolved in the past 20th century, is too a primitive art form to equal a work as "Ulysses". I do not mean that there are no masterpieces in cinema, but –in my opinion- possibly they are not as complex, highly evolved or sophisticated as some literary works. Even a novel like Bram Stoker's "Dracula" is yet to be filmed in form and spirit that make justice to Stoker's prose. This considered, I reassert my belief that all written works can be translated into moving images. In adapting the written word, the scriptwriter has to find equivalents in film resources to put on the same level of the text, Joyce's being one of great richness and novelty. As T.S. Eliot wrote in 1922, instead of the narrative method, James Joyce used in "Ulysses" the mythical method, meaning a "technique of ironically juxtaposing modernity against traditional narrative structures". In their attempt to express this method in moving images, Americans Joseph Strick and Fred Haines did not make a fine job in their adaptation of Joyce. Both men were inclined to literary works: Strick also worked on Genet's "The Balcony", Durrell's "Alexandria Quartet" (filmed as "Justine"), Miller's "Tropic of Cancer", and revisited Joyce with "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"; while Haines adapted and directed a film version of Hesse's "Steppenwolf". For "Ulysses" they resorted to long fragments of monologues by Stephen Dedalus (stiff Maurice Roëves), Leopold Bloom (Milo O'Shea in a breakthrough performance), and Molly Bloom (a pale characterization by Barbara Jefford), while illustrating them with images and more images (beautifully shot by Wolfgang Suschitzky in wide-screen black and white), that total a very dull film, something that is neither literature nor film, even if it is captured on celluloid. Moving images are young, the electronic ways to manipulate them are even younger
Until film reaches a stage of maturity similar to the level achieved by literature –and, moreover, in a case like James Joyce's "Ulysses"- please read the book in the meantime.