Aug 30, 2009

Film Adaptations – Donald Stewart

One of my diversions is comparing good stories as they are told in books versus on film. There are loads of examples of books making very successful transitions to the screen. My list of favorites includes Donald Stewart’s adaptations of three of Tom Clancy’s novels: The Hunt For Red October; Patriot Games; and Clear And Present Danger. Other people were credited with those screenplays alongside Stewart, but he is the common thread. And since Stewart stopped working on Clancy’s adaptations (he died in 1999), the film adaptations are forgettable. Think of The Sum of All Fears. Coincidence?

If you read the novels and dissect how Stewart distilled and structured the stories, how he cleaned up the narratives, you realize what an art form screenwriting can be. In Patriot Games, for example, the red wigged crack shot Annette was created for the film. Played by the painfully beautiful Polly Walker - picture of her above left after she had just knocked off a bothersome IRA brigade leader - she was also the thread that linked the various stories together and the vital clue that pushed towards the denouement. If she was in the novel at all, she was a passing mention as an arrested red headed “assassin”, but certainly not a fully developed character and a vital thread to the story.

There are hundreds of such details in Stewart’s film adaptations. He helped make the films carefully crafted works. I have read that Tom Clancy was very upset at the film adaptations of his books, but Stewart’s adaptations are tighter than the novels.

Aug 28, 2009

Jung & von Franz

C. G. Jung is my North Star, although I find it has taken me years to learn how to read him. Jung writes in a roundabout style, often dense with concepts and sparse with razor clarity. This is not an accurate reflection of his psychology, which I find to be incisive and profound, the revelations crisp. After wading into analytical psychology I eventually found Marie Louise von Franz, who worked closely with Jung. Her explanations of Jung’s concepts are clear and profound and while I was writing A PARTICULAR OBEDIENCE, I found myself reading and rereading many of her books, including THE FEMININE IN FAIRY TALES (Shambhala, 1993).

Miss von Franz writes about the passing of emotional disposition and oppressive ancestral baggage from one generation to the next. She uses as an example a man who was bullied by his mother and then married a bullying wife. “The only way out is to take the responsibility for what one is, and to make an enormous effort to interrupt the curse or the chain” (p119). In her example, the man realized that his father had been bullied in much the same way and that he had to stop the cycle or pass it on to his son, which he did not want to do. Having become aware of the problem, the man had to solve it.

I read this two years into writing A PARTICULAR OBEDIENCE and was stopped in my tracks because this is the core of the novel. Ancestral baggage that is not confronted will continue to curse families.