M. Butterfly Part 3 – Conclusion

All of the theories that are mention in the previous article indicate that books are always better than their adaptations. When doing so, viewers also need to see how the adaptations capture the essence of the original text. Fidelity discourse is often brought up in relations to adaptation. It is when the viewers see how faithful it is to the original text. The discourse of fidelity is to ask important questions in adaptations such as filmic recreation of characters, themes, and the style of the novel. Some adaptations are better than others while there are also some that are seen to be betraying the original text. But this happens due to readers’ wild imagination of how the book should be. But it is common for a play novel to be reinterpreted and give a different perspective of the characters. Fidelity “reflected in a differential and even prejudiced application of the very concept. So in looking on fidelity it asks how much the film resembles the book. Similarity can be traced through quote-by-quote references, which sometimes also be seen as intertextuality. This could be shown from the part where Song told Gallimard about submissive Oriental woman and the cruelty of the white or the scene after when Gallimard and his wife in their bedroom. During this particular scene, the director used a direct reference towards the original play.

Another discourse of fidelity that was suggested was whether or not the movie captures the essences of the novel. This variation on fidelity discusses not how the adaptation is truthful to the source but rather on the important traits of the novel. Each character has a different representation and characteristics. As it was mention above, the play by David Hwang, told a story from the perspective of Gallimard. A narrator helps in narrating the story, but Gallimard has a solo line in order to express his thoughts. Although it is certainly not possible to have that in the movie, but David Cronenberg has captured the essences of Gallimard. Although the film did not have a narration, but the mise-en-scene helped in capturing the emotions of the characters. Mise-en-scene consists of the props, lightings, and settings of the film. A play has not many choices in settings, but it is different to the film. One of the examples of capturing the essences of a play from the film is through the opening and closing scene. Asuman Suner mentions in his article that the opening scene of M. Butterfly was “white door opening from left to right”. The closing scene was a white airplane door closing from right to left. This was seen as a representation of a stage. The door is a metaphor for the stage curtain. Plays usually start with curtain opening from left to right and closing it from right to left. So this scene captures moments of being on stage.

Settings and camera in the film also play a major role. There are scenes where Song and Gallimard are seen in public, in the middle of the crowd. But there are also scenes that are more intimate, both of the in an isolated room. This indicates the intimacy of their relationship, to keep it between both of them until they reach Paris. While the camera angle follows the movement of Gallimard. It is used so he could still narrate the story without any oral text but at the same time Cronenberg still kept the main characteristic that was given to Gallimard. Not only the settings but also the outfit and makeup that the cast was wearing. M. Butterfly was a play that also based on Madame Butterfly opera by Puccini. Gallimard was portraying the butterfly, a person who sacrifices himself or herself for the person that they love. The original Madame Butterfly was a Japanese woman, therefor in order to show the submissive of Gallimard; he was wearing a kimono during his final scene in the jail. Also the fact that in the film, Gallimard was clumsily wearing the make up by himself gave a hint of his confusion between the west and the oriental, and also feminization which was the theme of the play.

In discussion of fidelity, it ignores the process of making the film and the differences modes of productions. To write a novel, a novelist just need a pen and paper, but for films there are issues of budgets that need to be put in mind. Due to budget, there might be some scenes that are not able to put into it. David Cronenberg said in one of his interviews that “ the trick is what do you reveal and what do you not reveal”. Budget will impact on how truthful an adaptation is to the book. With more budget directors are more able to shoot in a better location, used better actor, and even includes all of the scenes from its original text. But that does not mean that the more budget the film has, the better it will be. M. Butterfly was not a low budget film. With a budget of $22 Million dollars and shooting across three continents, many reviews have critically seen this as a failure.

There are many theories to analyze the issues of adaptations. From the hostility of adaptation such as dichotomous thinking, anti-corporeality, class prejudice, myth of facility, and parasitism. Which most of these theories lead to how films are seen as less valuable comparing to its original text. Issues such as high and low culture of film, draining the life out of the book, and rivalry between originality have always been linked to issues of adaptations. But despite of the differences and issues of adaptations there are also similarities of it. Similarities can be looked upon to whether or not the films capture the essence of the original text. Also how everything is put into one text through transtextuality. M. Butterfly as an adaptation provides ways in which a text can be adapted to create different meanings. Film adaptation will always be seen as a thread to the original text, but it is not simply rewriting an older work. By reflecting this theory on David Cronenberg’s version of M. Butterfly shows the differences and similarity in adaptations.

Part 2 

Part 1


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