20 September 2020 | El_Guapo_Caballo
The very thin line between inspiration and plagiarism
Having watched THE SECRETS WE KEEP, almost inmediatly I googled film critics opinion about this movie hoping to not be the only viewer surprised by the obvious plot similarities between the movie in question and DEATH AND THE MAIDEN. I didnt have to search much, several film critics allude directly to both movies blatant parallelisms. Here´s a direct quote from THE WRAP´S film critic Alonso Duralde;
¨The worst sin of "The Secrets We Keep" is not that it so blatantly and flagrantly rips off Ariel Dorfman's play and subsequent movie "Death and the Maiden" - although if the Chilean author wanted to sue for a credit, he's certainly got a case.
The history of art is the history of creators borrowing from each other, whether they call it homage or reference or appropriation. What grates about director Yuval Adler and his co-writer Ryan Covington pilfering so obviously from Dorfman's work is that they haven't done anything particularly interesting with it.¨
I wont comment about the quality of the technical aspects of THE SECRET WE KEEP, I´d like to focus on the plot, recently we had a simmilar case between Guiilermo Del Toro´s THE SHAPE OF WATER and LET ME HEAR YOU WHISPER by Paul Zindel.
David Zindel, son of playwright Paul Zindel, brought copyright infringement claims against the creators of the film The Shape of Water, the winner of the 2018 Academy Award for Best Picture, alleging that The Shape of Water infringed the copyright to his father's 1969 play Let Me Hear You Whisper.
The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss on the grounds that the parties' works are not substantially similar as matter of law, upon application of the Ninth Circuit's "extrinsic test" for determining substantial similarity.
The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the district court erred in dismissing the case at the pleading stage because "reasonable minds could differ on whether there is substantial similarity between Let Me Hear You Whisper and The Shape of Water," such that additional evidence, including expert testimony, could "aid in the objective literary analysis needed to determine the extent and qualitative importance of the similarities" between the two works and "whether any similarities are mere unprotectable literary tropes or scènes à faire."
If you as a screenwriter or director are inspired so much by a previous work of art that you have the intent to make your own personal version of such work, why not buy the rights or mention ´inspired by´ in the credits of your film, is it so hard? especially when you have the backing of powerful Hollywood studios like Fox Searchlight Pictures in the case of Del Toro´s film, or AGC Studios, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Echo Lake Entertainment in the case of Adler and Covington´s movie in question. Its not only common courtesy but a show of respect for the writers and filmmakers that came before and inspired you.
Dorfman the playwright of Death and The Maiden is almost 80 years old, Polanski is bordering 90, I dont believe that they have the time or energy to pursue a lenghtly and costly court case, one would hope that the young Israeli authors of a film that aspires to tell a story about universal justice would have been more sincere to such commitment.
I apologize for my horrible english. Good evening. And watch DEATH AND THE MAIDEN if you havent already, Its not only a marvelous film, but a true original.