John Boorman adapted the "ÃÂPassing of Arthur"ÃÂ in the movie "Excalibur."ÃÂ Movies are not the only adaptations of Tennyson's poem but there are several art and music adaptations. Examples of these adaptations include music by Loreena McKennit and paintings by John William Waterhouse, Howard Pyle and Arthur Rackham. In Bela Balazs's Art Form and Material Balazs states that a good adaptation is a reinterpretation of the original.
Boorman uses nature and color to recreate the atmosphere of the original text. These techniques enhance the richness of the movie, provide a more in depth view of Arthur's life and make the setting more interesting.
Tennyson's descriptive writing allows the reader to form detailed pictures. The atmosphere Tennyson creates focuses a lot on the beauty of nature. During the scene when Bedivere throws Excalibur in the lake he describes the area with "zigzag paths, and juts of pointed rock, the shining levels of the lake...the
winter moon, long cloud and frost."ÃÂ He produces an atmosphere of bleakness and despair.
Tennyson concentrates on the image of the winter moon while Bedivere tries to get rid of the Excalibur. This picture makes the reader think that the setting is a winter night. According to Webster's dictionary, winter symbolizes of coldness, misery or death. Winter is the season when living things die. The moon only comes out during the night. At night people "rest"ÃÂ from their busy lives and do nothing. Night closely related to winter because both are very dark and bleak times. The lack of light shows the sadness happening to Arthur. As Arthur passes the only light he has comes from the winter moon. The reader gets the feeling that Arthur is heading there. Tennyson chooses dark words and images to create a very desolate and gloomy setting.
Sidney Lumet states in Making Movies "there are no unimportant decisions in a movie."ÃÂ Production designers put a lot of effort to recreate the original text. The setting is a very important factor in making a movie. It contributes to much of the style of a movie. Settings reflects many of the directors insights and opinions. There are times where the director goes to great lengths just to form the perfect scene. They leave no detail spared. According to Lumet, a director's goal is to create a setting so that the audience feels apart of the movie's world.
When the director needs to find a setting for his/her movie Lumet recommends to "find places that are closest to what you want to end up with."ÃÂ If the setting needs to be changed it can change the atmosphere and become expensive too. Art direction progresses on its own according to the text. Scenes can change color, style, etc. based on the plot. Lumet feels that "small elements add up."ÃÂ It takes a lot of planning, deciding and concentration to create the perfect setting. There is more behind the setting then what the eyes behold.
Poems are subject to interpretation. They allow the reader to create different images and thoughts completely on their own.
Movies leave very little room for other interpretations because they are mainly visual. Therefore, what the director puts in a movie makes the decision more important.
Following what Lumet recommends Boorman creates a scene that closely resembles what Tennyson originally constructed. Boorman focuses on the details of the scene to make it more rich and close to the original text. He adapts what Tennyson wrote to form a more powerful visual image.
Boorman's adaptation of the winter moon becomes a bright, deep red sunset. Arthur lays injured waiting to be reborn and the sun is setting behind him leaving a red glow over the whole setting. The bright red sun's strong rays can not be missed.
According to Encarta Encyclopedia, the color red symbolizes blood, passion, wealth and aggression. All of these characteristics can be seen in the character of Arthur. The blood, passion and aggression represent the battle he just fought and was injured in. King Arthur controls and has power over everyone. He is worth more than anyone else. Red shows Arthur's love and passion of his friends of the distinguished round table and Excalibur. "My brand Excalibur which was my pride,"ÃÂ exemplifies how deeply he feels about his duties as king, and the power he showed.
There is also a lot of symbolism behind the sunset. As stated in Webster's dictionary, a sunset means a decline, final phase, illness, fading and death. Seeing the sunset behind the injured Arthur makes the reader feel and see more clearly the closure of Arthur's life. Sunsets are a reminder of an ending yet also represent the beginning of something new. Arthur was ending his life just like the sun but was reborn just as the sun is the next day. The red sunset was so large that there was no way it could be missed. It parallels what Arthur was going through at the same time. Boorman obviously wanted the sunset to get attention because it means so much.
One question that comes to mind after looking at both the poem and movie is: why would the director make changes from the original text? An adaptation is entitled to have some differences but that do not change the context of the original text. A winter moon draws less attention than the red sunset.
The red sunset symbolizes much more than a bleak winter moon.
Movies are based on visual representations and little room for self interpretation. Therefore, details need to mean much more and stimulate the feeling the original text does. Boorman wants the audience to react and appreciate the details that he thought out very carefully. He tries to make the whole movie arouse feelings and emotions just as well as the poem does. As Lumet stated the little things are not little to the art director, everything counts.
Changing the winter moon to a red sunset did not manipulate the plot in any way. If anything changed, it would be the feeling the reader has about Arthur's death. The winter moon seems bleak and empty whereas the red sunset stirs up many feelings and symbolizes so much more.
The final scene of "Excalibur"ÃÂ is a successful adaptation of "The Passing of Arthur."ÃÂ The movie did not change the text in any way but used different images. Both the winter moon and red sunset but portrayed the same idea, death. Boorman used his own creation, a red sunset to make the same statement as before but just with more emphasis. The director did his job in recreating the context of the original text. Therefore, he created a great adaptation.