According to John Berger’s essay, Ways of Seeing, the way we see includes looking- an act of choice, and is affected by what we believe or know. Additionally, we never just look at one thing; we are always looking at the relationship between things and ourselves. However, when applying this concept of seeing to a situation involving a non-traditional image, such as a film that has been produced and directed to lead the viewer in a specific way, our way of seeing is challenged.
When we use the term image, we are typically referring to a single, still photograph, painting, etc. Our own way of seeing this image is what shapes our perception and appreciation of the image. This is one way of seeing, and just as other people may interpret the same image differently, so does the creator. Simultaneous to the image being interpreted, the image embodies its author’s unique way of seeing during its time of creation.
For mini-project 3, instructions were to explore the thresholds of text and vision by writing a screenplay. But instead of creating a unique storyline, we were asked to try out an adaptation of one scene of a book we were already familiar with. I decided to create a filmic text of a scene from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. Here is my rendition:
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
INT. HISTORY OF MAGIC CLASSROOM-8 O’CLOCK THURSDAY EVENING
HARRY lights the lamps with his wand before Professor LUPIN walks in, carrying a large packing case, and heaves it onto Professor Bank’s desk.
(stripping off his cloak)
Another Boggart. I’ve been combing the castle ever since Tuesday, and very luckily, I found this one lurking inside Mr. Flinch’s filing cabinet. It’s the nearest we’ll get to a real dementor. The boggart will turn into a dementor when he sees you, so we’ll be able to practice on him. I can store him in my office when we’re not using him; there’s a cupboard under my desk he’ll like.
(trying to sound glad, not apprehensive)
(takes out his wand and indicates that Harry should do the same)
So… The spell I am going to try and teach you is highly advanced magic, Harry- well beyond Ordinary Wizarding Level. It is called the Patronus Charm.
How does it work?
Well, when it works correctly, it conjures up a Patronus, which is kind of anti-dementor- a guardian that acts as a shield between you and the dementor.
Harry looks as though he has had a sudden vision of terror.
The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementor feed upon – hope, happiness, the desire to survive – but it cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so the dementors can’t hurt it. But I must warn you, Harry, that the charm might be too advanced for you. Many qualified wizards have difficulty with it.
What does a Patronus look like?
Each one is unique to the wizard who conjures it.
And how do you conjure it?
With an incantation, which will work only if you are concentrating, with all your might, on a single, very happy memory.
Harry thinks for a moment about the time he had first ridden a broomstick.
(still thinking about the soaring sensation his stomach had felt)
The incantation is this –
Lupin clears his throat.
(under his breath)
Expecto petronum, expecto petronum.
Concentrating hard on your happy memory?
Oh—Yeah – Expecto patron—no , patronum—sorry, expecto patronum, expecto patronum—
A wisp of silvery gas whooshes out of the end of Harry’s wand.
Did you see that? Something happened!
Very good. Right, then—ready to try it on a dementor?
(griping his wand very tightly and moving into the middle of the deserted classroom)
Lupin grasps the lid if the packing case and pulls. A dementor rises slowly from the box, its hooded face is turned toward Harry, one glistening, scabbed hand gripping his cloak. The lamps around the classroom flicker and go out. The dementor steps from the box and starts to sweep silently toward Harry, drawing a deep, rattling breath. A wave of a piercing cold breaks over him—
Expecto patronum! Expecto petronum! Expecto –
The classroom and the dementor are dissolving, as the voice of Harry’s mom echoes inside his head, and he begins to fall through thick white fog.
Harry is laying flat on his back on the floor before he jerks back to life. The classroom lamps are alight again. He doesn’t have to ask what had happened.
(muttering, feeling the cold sweat trickling down behind his glasses)
Are you all right?
(pulling himself up on one of the desks and leaning against it)
(handing Harry a Chocolate Frog)
Here, eat this before we try again. I didn’t except you to do it your first time; in fact, I would have been astounded if you had.
This mini-project made me aware of the different ways we can see image through text and see image through visuals. By turning a scene from a novel into a screenplay, I was able to even further notice differences between a narrative text and a filmic text. The main difference I found was that as a narrative form, the image has more room for interpretation by the reader, whereas a screenplay can easily be considered a map of an image that has already been formed by a third party.
To touch on the arguments proposed in Wheleham’s essay on text to screen and screen to text adaptation, I agree that in order to fairly critique book to movie adaptations, we must take into consideration that there are problems that arise when transcribing a story (or shall we say image) from one form to another. For example, changing text into moving image may require the adding or taking away of some details. Maybe the original book narrative did not, for instance, note how or where or at what time a character comes into a scene, and therefore the reader is left to imagine this however he or she wants to. For the purpose of including this action in the movie version, someone else (say, the director) must make a decision about the where and what of this action and it may or may not agree with the reader’s imagination. For the reader, because there is more left to be envisioned, the book version is sometimes preferable to the movie version. But to be fair, the reader/viewer mustn’t forget to think of the movie as its own entity- he/she must be able to appreciate seeing a story through a third person’s way of seeing.