Film adaptation

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A film adaptation of literature , which literature regards in more detail as a film adaptation , is the implementation of a literary model in the medium of film . The starting point can be a short story , a short story or a novel , but also a drama . Today, the term is mostly only used in the narrowest sense for films whose literary originals are recognized as having a high rank (see educational canon ), although many other films are still based on previously published texts.


Many of the earliest game plots in films originated from literature, namely classics of world literature. Due to the technical limitations, individual episodes were selected and dramatically implemented. Sun turned Louis Jean Lumière with Faust an illustrative excerpt (1896) from the Faust , Edwin S. Porter with Uncle Tom's Cabin (1902, after the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe ) and Georges Méliès with Trip to the Moon (1902, by Jules Verne ) tableau-like episodes from the models without a clear narrative context.

The efforts of the Film d'Art to revalue the art of film led to the first serious attempts to film literature. Especially plays by Émile Zola and Victor Hugo found their cinematic implementation in the first decade of the 20th century. In Italy the Peplum monumental film drew its artistic justification from literary material; this is how Quo Vadis (1912) was created based on the novel of the same name by Henryk Sienkiewicz and Cabiria (1914) based on texts by Gabriele D'Annunzio . Detective novels and sequels such as Fantômas (films made since 1913) soon found their way into the cinema. Louis Feuillade reversed the concept of the literary film adaptation, he created so-called ciné-romans ; Novels based on film plot.

Staging implementation

The imaginative character of the literary text must be translated into visuality in the film adaptation of the literature using cinematic means. Sound and music, film editing and cadrage replace the written word; Therefore, the film adaptation of the literature changes the original according to the needs of the film, shortens and condenses or extends it according to visual aspects. For example, the expression of feelings, which in literature is achieved through the narrative inner perception of the characters, has to be translated into body language and action in film, i.e. the narrative form has to be shifted to a more objective external perspective. The surrounding world, which can be faded out in the literary context, is inevitably part of the narration in the film, which may change the character of the original work significantly. The cinematic narrative rhythm often forces one to ignore literary digressions and subplots; Secondary characters often remain sketchy in order to put a focus on the main characters appropriate to the template.


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  • Anne Bohnenkamp (Hrsg.): Interpretations: Literaturverfilmungen . Reclam-Verlag, Stuttgart 2005. ISBN 3-15-017527-5 .
  • Alfred Estermann : The film adaptation of literary works . Bonn 1965 (= treatises on art, music and literary studies. 33).
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  • Wolfgang Gast (Hrsg.): Literaturverfilmung . 2nd Edition. Bamberg 1999.
  • Joachim Paech: Literature and Film . 2., revised. Aufl., Metzler, Stuttgart and Weimar 1997. ISBN 3-476-12235-2 .
  • Susanne Koch: LiteratureFilmTeaching. Evaluation principles and didactic potential of the film adaptation of literature for German lessons using the example of "Eyes Wide Shut". Wurzburg 2009.
  • Sabine Schlickers: Filmed storytelling , Frankfurt 1997
  • Klaus M. Schmidt, Ingrid Schmidt: Lexicon of literature adaptations. Directory of German-Language Films 1945–2000 . 2nd Edition. Stuttgart 2001.
  • Irmela Schneider: The transformed text. Paths to a Theory of Film Adaptation . Tuebingen 1981.
  • Michael Staiger: Film adaptations of literature in German lessons. Oldenbourg, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-637-00557-0 .
  • Stefan Volk: Read the film. A model for comparing literary adaptations with their originals . Marburg 2010.
  • Stefan Volk: Film analysis in class . 2 volumes. Vol. 1: On the theory and practice of literary adaptations, Paderborn 2004, ISBN 978-3-14-022264-8 , Vol. 2: Literature adaptations in school practice, Paderborn 2012, ISBN 978-3-14-022447-5