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Lecture 2

EN 3070 Lecture 2: Filming Literature: Winter

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EN 3070
Ian Balfour

EN 3070 02.07.17 The Sweet Hereafter A Canadian film from an American novel Genres • The first example of a text/film for which it’s hard to define in one single genre • Could be drama, Canadian drama, Athenian tragedy o Something can’t be called a tragedy if the main catastrophe is an accident; might be sad but in literary terms, it’s not tragic; the hero/heroine must have responsibility in what happens o Tragedy must do with a disintegration of sorts, ending with closure; not clear that the sweet hereafter has that closure o Death doesn’t come at the end of the novel; the main instances of death is recurrent from the beginning; the film must choose how to deal with that • It could be realism o Has no pre-given or conventional shape o Comedy ends with a cohesion of social unit, usually with marriage; tragedy is the opposite of that, with the disintegration of the social unit, isolation, visible in the final scenes o Texts must have an ending, but how it relates to what comes before is much more up for grabs than conventional writings o The absence of pre-ordained ending (like comedy or tragedy), still allows narrators to make sense of events as they go along; more provisional and temporary, doesn’t lead to a clear-cut ending The adaptation • The director chooses not to tell the story sequentially o Because there are 4 different narrators, and 5 different narrations (Delores comes in twice), he doesn’t have 4 narrators but just one (a huge structural change), he also chooses not to follow the order of the narratives o Even if one could reconstruct the story in a linear way, the director chooses not to do that, something built into the story where a lot turns on what comes before/after the accident and reconstructing those moments; the story lends itself to an un- linear unfolding so the director explores that in his adaptation • He has a specific rationale for his style of story telling o “From its inception the novel was meant to have 4 narrators, I wanted to write a novel in which the community was the protagonist, I was interested in the fate of the collective rather than the singular; I chose 4 narrators because 3 didn’t represent a community and 5 would be redundant by one. A primitive counting system: one, two, three, many…” o None of the 4 narrators are supposed to be the protagonist but the community itself is supposed to be the protagonist o Sam Dent ▪ Strange name for a town, is therefore already personified through this name ▪ The bus is given a name, Shoe; Delores’s car is named Boomer; if you could animate something inanimate the flip side could also be true; possibility of a reversal that lurks; what is human can be rendered by the thing • The crash happens at the exact centre of the film; if you just go by the narratives of the text, they all approach this metaphorically central event of the accident in different ways but it’s not in the literal centre of the book, it recurs in each narration • There are 4 narrators, 5 narrations o All first person; to what extent do you trust the narrators? They’re all from beyond the accident, all survivors of the 2 accident; none of the stories begin before yet the accident
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