M. Butterfly Part 2 – How can adaptation be better than the original text?

Second theory is ‘anti-corporeality.’ In this content filmic text is seen as an obscene. Reading a book triggers your imaginary to provide the scene that is written, but in the film it portrays it to the viewer. A play is limited. It was performed in a stage, which does not have much place to move. But it is different with movies. In the movies, the cameras revolve around the character, and they can jump from places to places. Therefore, it could trigger feeling from the viewers. Example could be seen in the scene such as the Chinese opera house scene. In the movie, the first time Gallimard found the Chinese opera house, he only said one line asking where the opera house was. It differs from the play in which Gallimard was explaining his curiosity about ‘the butterfly.’ So in the film, it was more explicit. Not through words but images. The facial reaction and the gestures of Gallimard, indicated that he was curious about Song. Inevitably it gives more feeling for the viewer to understand Gallimard.

Third theory is class prejudice. Class prejudice is looking at film as being a lower class because it is appeal to a mass audience. Especially for adaptations, it is seen as “dumbed down” version of their original text. Play and opera are seen as complex. It requires high knowledge for someone to understand or follow through the story. And because the play does not need to attract the mass audience, it is appreciate for its complexity. In M. Butterfly, what makes it so complex is its narrative. On the play, it is fully through the eyes of Gallimard. It is narrated in ways we can understand Gallimard but the sequences of event were jumping around. So in scene 1 was Gallimard being in prison, telling the story of his while. Next minute when they move to scene 2, it changed. The story told about his life in China; this continues on for several scenes in the opening act. While in the film, David Cronenberg did not use this method. He followed a chronological timeline for viewers to understand the stories better. If David Cronenberg used the same method then, it would be a film where the viewers need to use their brain while watching. Bourdieu called this a “cultural capital,” which means that audiences just want a light entertainment (Stam, 2005, p.7). And usually people who went to see a play is people who have class. This theory connects to a different theory, ‘myth of facility’. Myth of facility explains the myth that films are easy to make and watch.

Another theory that may look upon to is parasitism. It is one of the most interesting theories in adaptations. Parasitism is when “adaptations are seen as parasitical on literature”. Movie adaptations will always be compared to the original text, and when it occurs, faithful adaptations are seen as uncreative, while the unfaithful one is seen as betrayal. Adaptations are also being look as draining the life out of the original text. M. Butterfly could consider being a parasitical adaptation because the film was not truthful to the book. There were some elements of the scene that was missing from the film. For example act three scene four, last scene of Gallimard and Song was different from the film, which made the film untruthful.

With the notion of adaptation, it is more likely to link it with the theory of structuralism and poststructuralist. In structuralism, it treated all semiotics, which includes signifier, signified as a worthy text to analyze. This broke the hierarchy between book and film. So while film was usually seen as a disruption of the book and seen as low culture art, now with this theory it is worth of analysis. Which lead to transtextuality, interactions between one text with another text, a text sleeping with a different text. Intertextuality is one of the elements of trastextuality. As it was mention above, intertextuality is reference in film and novel. In M. Butterfly, it could be the quote-by-quote references of the book in the film or how the theme is in reference of Madame Butterfly by Puccini. Paratextuality look at the relation of the text to its paratext, beyond the film. So in this case the paratext could be the afterword by David Hwang in the book and an interview with David Cronenberg. M. Butterfly the play and the film becomes a paratext for Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (Testa, 2014). Metatextuality analyzes the critical relations between text. So in this case it will look at the issues that are being broad up by M. Butterfly. Issues such as nationalism, homosexuality and orientalism.

Part 1 

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