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Chronological, geographical and metaphysical displacement in adaptation

Film adaptations crossing borders: The reception of Spanish literature in the United States through film

Andrea Reisenauer

Résumés

Il existe un nombre croissant de recherches qui examinent les parallèles entre la traduction et l'adaptation cinématographique. Gardant à l'esprit ces parallèles et le rôle de la traduction dans les échanges interculturels, il est nécessaire d'explorer le rôle de l'adaptation cinématographique comme autre possible moyen d'échange. L'objectif de cet article est d'explorer comment la littérature traverse les frontières à travers les adaptations cinématographiques. Pour cela, il se basera sur le cas d’œuvres littéraires espagnoles (c'est-à-dire provenant d'Espagne) qui ont été présentes aux États-Unis à la fois sous forme d'adaptations cinématographiques et de traductions littéraires. Il s’appuiera sur l'analyse d'un corpus de films espagnols qui ont été importés aux États-Unis à la fois sous forme d'adaptations cinématographiques et de traductions littéraires entre 1908 et 2018. Des outils théoriques de la théorie du polysystème seront utilisés pour examiner les caractéristiques de ces films, leurs œuvres littéraires correspondantes, et les combinaisons découlant de l'importation de ces dernières. Sept configurations principales régissant la relation entre adaptation cinématographique et traduction littéraire seront présentées et brièvement illustrées.

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Literature, film, and the global circulation of cultural goods

1Studies examining the global circulation of cultural goods have revealed that book translations form a part of a vastly unequal cultural world system (Casanova, 2004; Heilbron, 1999). In this system, over half of the world’s books are translated from English, but very few are translated into English from other languages. Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than in the United States. For the past decade, it has been frequently cited that only an estimated one to three percent of the books published in the United States are translations (Levisalles, 2004; Mackza & Stock, 2006). Compared to countries such as France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, in which translations comprise between 15-25% of the published books, it becomes even more apparent how startlingly low this percentage really is (Venuti, 2008).

2However, book publication is not the only cultural phenomenon that demonstrates this unequal exchange. In fact, a very similar trend can also be observed in the case of foreign films in the United States. According to several sources, foreign-language films have accounted for less than 5% of the United States’ yearly domestic market in the past few decades, and that number also appears to be gradually decreasing (Corliss, 2014; Kaufman, 2006). Since 1980, only 1,000 foreign-language films have entered the U.S. market, and only 22 of those films earned more than $10 million at the box office (Ricky, 2010). Conversely, several economists have demonstrated that the U.S. film market has consistently dominated the global film market. In fact, Hollywood’s current share of the world market has actually doubled since 1990 (Marvasti & Canterbery, 2005). While the U.S. represents the most significant source of motion picture importation and revenue for many other countries, hardly any movies from these countries are received in the United States, and even fewer make significant revenue.

3The scarce presence of foreign literature and foreign films in the United States provides a very interesting illustration of the uneven flow of cultural products across international borders. However, the fact that this phenomenon can be observed in both the case of literary translations and film adaptations also highlights the remarkable parallels between the reception of foreign literature and films in the circulation of cultural products. In addition, it leads to a very interesting question: what happens in the case of foreign literary works that reach the United States as both film adaptations and literary translations?

4Although this question opens the door to a wide array of possible studies, my research focuses on the case of film adaptations of Spanish literary works in the United States. Spanish literature has enjoyed a special presence in film in the United States. From Rex Ingram’s immensely popular 1922 Hollywood retelling of Vicente Blasco Ibáñez’s The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to Luis Buñuel’s critically praised adaptations of the work of Benito Pérez Galdós and everything in between, works of Spanish literature have lit up the screens of U.S. cinemas throughout history. Meanwhile, while not every film adaptation of a Spanish literary work has been received in the United States, and although not all of these films are based on literary works that have also been translated, those that have provide a very unique glimpse into how literary works cross borders as film adaptations.

Film adaptation as intersemiotic translation: a tale of two disciplines

5In a 2012 interview in The Wall Street Journal on the film adaptation of his novel Cloud Atlas, the author David Mitchell commented on the complex structure of his novel and its implications for page-to-screen adaptation. "Adaptation is a form of translation," Mitchell stated, "and all acts of translation have to deal with untranslatable spots" (in Trachtenberg, 2012). However, Mitchell was far from the first person to recognize the parallels between adapting and translating. The notion that adaptation can be considered a form of translation emerged in Translation Studies in the late 1950s in the work of the linguist Roman Jakobson. In 1959, Jakobson explained the existence of various modalities of translation, one of which he referred to as intersemiotic translation: translation between mediums or between a verbal and nonverbal system. According to Jakobson, film adaptation could be conceptualized as an intersemiotic translation between two mediums. This categorization paved the way for studies relating translation to other areas of knowledge and laid the foundation for constructing a theoretical bridge between the disciplines of Translation Studies and Adaptation Studies.

6In fact, Translation Studies and Film Adaptation Studies have followed a strikingly similar trajectory as disciplines. Both are relatively young academic fields of study. While reflections on translation have existed throughout history, it was not until James Holmes’ seminal 1972 paper, "The Name and Nature of Translation Studies", that Translation Studies began to take root as a discipline in its own right. Similarly, while discussions on film adaptations have taken place since the very beginning of film, the recognition of Film Adaptation studies as an academic discipline in its own right did not occur until decades later, a milestone commonly attributed to George Bluestone’s 1957 seminal work, Novels into Film.

7Both fields have also shared similar theoretical and methodological challenges. Following the work of translation theorists in the second half of the 20th century, Translation Studies underwent many transformative changes as the discipline established itself. Old prescriptive and comparative frameworks gave way to new functional and descriptive methodologies. Adaptation Studies, however, continued to be dominated by "an endless accumulation of ad hoc selected case studies comparing one literary text with its film adaptation," according to Patrick Cattrysse (2014: 23).

8The disciplines remained relatively separate until the end of the century when Cattrysse (1992) investigated a corpus of film noir adaptations to assess the value of the Polysystem research method as developed by the Translation theorist Itamar Even-Zohar for Adaptation Studies. The results of this research led Cattrysse to succinctly highlight the theoretical parallels between the two academic disciplines. First, we find that both translation and adaptations “present man-made products that result from a production process” (2014: 47). This suggests the existence of products, context-based creators, and target-based recipients of these products. When it comes to the production process, both the translation and film adaptation processes are applied to texts or utterances and produce texts or utterances. Thus, they may be intra- or inter-textual, or intra- or inter-semiotic. In addition, both processes are one-directional and irreversible, largely because their production depends upon the context in which they are being produced. Therefore, similar debates arise surrounding source and target “equivalence” and “fidelity.”

9Bearing these similarities in mind, Cattrysse suggests that it would be beneficial for Adaptation Studies to borrow the more developed methodologies found in Translation Studies. He is not alone in this opinion: "a growing number of scholars have come to realize that both Translation Studies and Adaptation Studies have more to gain than to lose by working together" (2014: 49). Indeed, his words have been echoed by scholars from both disciplines. “If adapters want to improve themselves, they should learn from translators, who have been working with texts for thousands of years,” Lawrence Raw writes in the introduction to Translation, Adaptation and Transformation (2012: 4). Katia Krebs agrees and argues that while many projects have been analyzed only from the point of view of one of the disciplines, their nature would be better investigated "by opening up a dialogue between these two fields of inquiry” (2014: 3).

Towards a shared theoretical framework

  • 1 Among these, we find the recent issue of the Journal TTR (Traduction, terminologie, redaction) enti (...)

10Over the last three decades, the dialogue has begun: conferences, books, and papers have sought to further explore the fascinating affinities between adaptation and translation.1 The dialogue between the two disciplines has been particularly visible in texts from Film Adaptation Studies that seek to draw upon the theoretical and methodological tools developed in Translation Studies to undertake a more descriptive, systemic analysis of their own discipline.

  • 2 See, for instance, the work of Susan Bassnett (1990, 1998), Theo Hermans (1985, 1996, 1999), Dirk D (...)

11It is this descriptive systemic analysis that will be the foundation for this particular study’s theoretical framework. In the late 1970s, Itamar Even-Zohar built upon the notion of “systems”, as formulated by the late Russian Formalists, to develop the Polysystem Theory, which postulates that the socio-semiotic phenomenon – in this case, translation – could be better examined if considered as a system, or network, of relationships. The flexibility of this concept of “system” allowed this framework to be applied to phenomena at different levels, from literary works themselves to genres, traditions, literary evolutions, and social, linguistic, or national systems. Even-Zohar was joined by fellow Porter Institute of Poetics and Semiotics theorist Gideon Toury, as well as by other translation theorists.2 The growing interest in this systemic approach continued into the late 20th century, thus crystallizing the rise of Descriptive Translation Studies and giving rise to the Polysystem theory.

12Several key characteristics embody the overall contribution of the Polysystem Theory to the field of Translation Studies. The first of these is the notion of literature as a complex, dynamic system – a “differentiated and dynamic ‘conglomerate of systems’ characterized by internal oppositions and continual shifts” (Hermans, 1985: 11). To conceptualize and study this complex system of systems, the Polysystem framework seeks to adapt a target-driven, descriptive functional approach. In this way, it does not seek to evaluate translations based on their faithfulness to their (often celebrated) source texts, but instead to describe the features of a translation and the reason for their existence. Thus, the focus is shifted from the source text to the target text and from fidelity to (con)text. Meanwhile, the problematic issue regarding what is or is not considered a translation is resolved by understanding translations to be anything that “functions as a translation in one particular space-time context” (Toury, 1995: 20).

13Also central to the Polysystem theory is the notion of norms. Within this context, norms are to be understood as the rules and behaviors that govern a translator’s behavior at any given moment. They are socio-cultural phenomena that are determined by socio-cultural constraints. According to Toury, norms are "the key concept and focal point in any attempt to account for the social relevance of activities, because their existence, and the wide range of situations they apply to (with the conformity this implies), are the main factors of social order" (1995:55). When applied to translation, norms serve to account for translators' behavior and, by extension, for how their work is received by its target culture.

14Overall, the concept of norms has proved very useful in Translation Studies, since it has allowed researchers to go beyond simply comparing a translated text to its source text. Instead, it encourages the descriptive examination of the many aspects that shape the final product. If norms determine both the process and the product of translation, reconstructing the norms governing a translation within any given context can allow researchers to determine the position and concept of translation within that context. Norms, therefore, become invaluable tools for study, or, as Toury states, “a category for descriptive analysis of translation phenomenon” (1980: 57).

15Thanks to the growing dialogue between Translation Studies and Film Adaptation Studies, it was not long before interest in this descriptive framework arose amongst scholars looking for a more universal methodological framework for the study of film adaptations.

16Here, we will return to Patrick Cattrysse and his study of film noir adaptations using the Polysystem approach. According to Cattrysse, a systemic approach to the study of film adaptation involves the analysis of three different elements: (1) the function of the film adaptation within its target context; (2) the systemic mechanisms that determine the transformative process of the literary text to filmic text, and (3) the relationships established between the transfer process and the position and function of the film adaptation as a film within its target context (1992: 34). This three-faceted analysis, in turn, implies the evaluation of three different phases: the film adaptation as a final product, adapting a film as a transfer process, and the connections between the conclusions formed in the first two phases. This methodology may then be universally applied to the study of any film adaptation.

17Within this context, it is also interesting to note a 2008 study by Susana Cañuelo that drew upon the notion of norms and Cattrysse’s framework to develop a theoretical model allowing for the systematic study of literary works which had undergone both literary translation and film adaptation. This model was then applied to the analysis of a corpus of Spanish film adaptations in Germany between 1975 and 2000. The study analyzed the role of film as a mediator between cultures and literary systems. It examined the intercultural exchange involved in the processes of film adaptation, audiovisual translation, and literary translation.

18In Cañuelo’s model, film adaptation, audiovisual translation, and literary translation are subject to an analysis of the four types of norms that govern them. These include preliminary, reception, operative, and combined norms. The first three of these transfer norms correspond to the first analytical phase developed by Cattrysse’s model (1992). They involve examining the three transfer processes from the perspective of the final products, which implies a detailed analysis of their respective target systems and the examination of the norms that govern the decisions made during the transfer process itself.

19Meanwhile, combined norms refer to all the possible ways in which film adaptation, audiovisual translation, and literary translation may be combined in the transfer of texts between cultures. Since these norms govern the combination of these processes and not simply the processes themselves, they provide valuable information about the steps involved in both the linguistic and semiotic intercultural transfer of texts. It is these norms that will be used to provide valuable information regarding the fascinating interaction between film adaptation and literary translation in the reception of Spanish literature in the United States.

Film adaptations of Spanish literary works in the United States

20Bearing in mind the striking parallels between the reception of foreign literature and foreign film in the United States and the previously explored framework, the objective of my research is to explore how literature crosses borders through the film adaptations of literary works. To do so, it examines the case of Spanish literary works that are present in the United States as both film adaptations and literary translations through the compilation and analysis of a corpus of these works.

21This corpus includes all works of Spanish literature that have been imported into the United States via both film adaptation (i.e., through commercial cinema or television) and literary translation (through publication). Given the limited number of foreign works that reach the United States, the timeframe selected for the corpus was set from the year 1895 – arguably the year motion pictures were born – to the year 2018. This wide scope allowed for an extremely comprehensive analysis of the – often shifting – status of Spanish film adaptations and literary translations in the United States throughout history.

22Nevertheless, the compilation of the corpus also presented several challenges. Since research on the presence of foreign film and literature within the United States is very limited, identifying the film adaptations of Spanish literature that have reached the United States is a difficult feat. Not only does it require a series of sources that provide information on films based on works of Spanish literature, but it also requires sources that document its presence – or lack thereof – within the United States.

23Thus, the final corpus was developed in a series of three phases, each of which, in turn, ended up forming its own corpus with its own unique research potential.

Film adaptations of Spanish literary works (1895-2018)

24The aim of the first phase was to compile a corpus of all films based on Spanish literary works between the years 1895 and 2018 as exhaustively as possible.

25Four resources were used: (1) The Instituto Cervantes’ database Adaptaciones de la literatura española en el cine español, which has collected all Spanish films that are based on works of Spanish literature (novels, stories, poetry, and theater) between the years 1905 and 2005; (2) Enrique Martínez-Salanova Sánchez’s blog Literatura española en el cine, which provides a comprehensive list of films based on works of Spanish literature between the years 1900 and 2010; and (3) Enser’s Filmed Books and Plays anthology, which provides listings of recognized film adaptations of literary works from all nations between the years 1928-2001.

26Overall, these sources led to the compilation of an extensive first corpus that includes a total of 1,331 films based on the works of 565 Spanish authors. It also narrowed the timeline of the scope to the years 1898-2018.

Films adapted from Spanish literary works that have been imported into the United States

27Using the first corpus as a point of departure, this second phase sought to determine which film adaptations from the first corpus had also been produced or imported into the United States, further limiting its scope. Compiling this list involved searching for each work within two databases to determine its release or presence – or lack thereof – in the United States. This research was done using the IMDb film and WorldCat library databases.

28All films whose presence is unverified in the United States were eliminated during this process. Thus, the extension of this corpus was significantly reduced, and the scope was also consequently further limited (1903-2018). A total of 137 films can be found in this corpus. This means that out of all the film adaptations of Spanish literature that were made between 1895 and 2018, approximately 10% reached the United States.

Films adapted from Spanish literary works that have been imported into the United States as both films and literary translations

29The aim of this final phase was to narrow the scope even further to allow for the analysis of combined norms. To do so, I sought to create a definitive corpus of Spanish literary works that have been imported into the United States as both film adaptations and literary translations.

30Starting with the list of 137 film adaptations and their corresponding literary works that comprised my second corpus, the focus was shifted to the literary works themselves. Each was individually researched in the Bowker Books in Print and WorldCat databases to determine whether a translation had ever been published – and whether that translation had ever been distributed in the United States.

31By the end of this process, I was able to compile a final corpus of films based on Spanish literary works and their corresponding translations that were imported into the United States between the years 1903 and 2018. A total of 111 works can be found in this corpus. Additional information surrounding the importation of both the films and their source texts was then collected (film premiere, translation publication date, etc.) to allow for their later categorization.

32Naturally, this entire process was subject to many limitations, the most notable being the restricting patchwork of resources used for its compilation. While it is important to bear these limitations in mind, this corpus nevertheless provides the most exhaustive list of Spanish literary works that have been imported to the United States as both translations and films with traceable release information from the beginning of film to 2018.

33It also provides incredibly valuable information regarding the fascinating interaction between literary translation, film adaptations, and audiovisual translation in the reception of Spanish film adaptations in the United States throughout history. A series of patterns were revealed through the analysis of the final corpus of Spanish literary works that reached the United States as both film adaptations and literary translations. These patterns represent all the possible ways in which film adaptation, audiovisual translation, and literary translation may be combined in the transfer of texts from one country to another – i.e., combined norms. These combined norms provide valuable information on both the linguistic and semiotic intercultural transfer of texts from Spain to the United States.

34They will be analyzed in the following section. Meanwhile, the corpora and the list of works categorized into each combination can be consulted here.

Spanish literature through film in the United States: Combined norms

35The following seven combinations illustrate the primary means by which Spanish literature is imported into the United States through film adaptations. These combinations were determined from the analysis of a corpus of Spanish film adaptations that were imported into the United States as both film adaptations and literary translations.

36It is important to note that although seven categories have been identified, an infinite number of combinations between them may be possible. Thus, the combinations explored here are categorized either because of their quantitative value (i.e., many film adaptations exhibit the combination) or their theoretical value (i.e., they present a unique theoretical combination, even though few film adaptations demonstrate this combination).

Literary translation before Spanish language film adaptation

37This first combination includes cases in which the literary translation of a work occurs before its film adaptation. Thus, the first transfer phase occurs between the Spanish source text and its target English translation. Later, an intersemiotic transfer takes place in the form of a film adaptation. However, this transfer occurs from the source (Spanish) literary text, therefore producing a Spanish language film adaptation. In most instances, this film must then undergo a third transfer process to be imported into the United States, i.e., audiovisual translation. This occurs either in the form of subtitling or dubbing.

Figure 1. Don Quijote de la Mancha (Rafael Gil, 1947).

Figure 1. Don Quijote de la Mancha (Rafael Gil, 1947).

© Image courtesy of the Centro de Estudios de Castilla-La Mancha.

38A good example of this is the case of Spanish director Rafael Gil’s 1947 adaptation of Cervantes’ Don Quijote, entitled Don Quijote de la Mancha. The novel, which was published in two parts in 1605 and 1615, was also translated into English in two parts by Thomas Shelton. The first part of the translation was published in 1612 (and was actually the first translation into any language), and the second translation was published eight years later. Naturally, all film adaptations of this novel came after this interlinguistic transfer. This particular film adaptation – the first sound adaptation of the classic in Spanish – was not produced until four centuries later, in celebration of the anniversary of Cervantes’ birth. This film was then subtitled and released in the United States in selected cinemas in 1949.

39Although many film adaptations of Don Quijote have been made throughout history – at least 47, according to my research – this adaptation is perhaps the most representative of this combination and the works that comprise it. The film adaptations found in this combination are often characterized by the canonicity of their source text within its literary system of origin, their centrality within the Spanish language film system, the necessity of audiovisual translation for their importation in the United States, and their relatively peripheral location within the U.S. film system, to use Polysystem terms. Meanwhile, the literary works on which they are based are often highly well-known texts that may be considered to hold a central role in world literature.

40This combination of characteristics describes thirty-six of these films, representing about one-third of the works on the final corpus. Therefore, this combination represents the most common means of importing Spanish literature into the United States through film overall.

Literary translation before English language film adaptation

41In this second combination, we again find a case where the literary translation occurs before a film adaptation. However, an intersemiotic transfer occurs between the translated literary work and the first film adaptation in this case. Thus, the language of the film adaptation is the same as the literary translation. Film adaptations of Spanish literary works made in English can be found in this category (although it is important to note that English language films are not limited to this category). In most cases, the directors of these films were part of the U.S. film system.

Figure 2. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rex Ingram, 1921).

Figure 2. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rex Ingram, 1921).

© Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

42A fantastic example of this combination is Rex Ingram’s 1921 blockbuster film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, adapted from Vicente Blasco Ibáñez’s novel Los cuatro jinetes del apocalipsis. The novel was first published in 1916 and met with a lukewarm reception in Spain. Nevertheless, it attracted some attention abroad, and the translation rights were sold to Charlotte Brewster in 1917. The English version of the novel, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, was published a year later in the United States. The novel met with such success in the U.S. that Blasco Ibáñez has been credited for being one of the inventors of the novelistic form known as the “bestseller.”

43It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that this novel caught the attention of early Hollywood director Rex Ingram. The film was released just three years after the translation was published. However, the screenplay was not written from the source text; it was written from Brewster’s English translation. This is what makes this particular combination unique, as it represents cases of intersemiotic transfer that occur between the translated literary work and the film adaptation, i.e., English-language film adaptations of Spanish literary works. Thus, it is particularly marked by the predominance of Hollywood – more specifically, young Hollywood seeking external inspiration – and the remarkably central position of the film adaptations within the target U.S. film system.

44Overall, a total of 29 films fit this combination, representing approximately 25% of the works on the final corpus and making this the third most common means by which Spanish literature is imported into the United States through film, by a small margin.

Film adaptation before literary translation

45In this third combination, the film adaptation precedes the literary translation. Therefore, the first transfer process is the intersemiotic transfer from page to screen. This process may occur directly – in this case, between Spanish and English– or in combination with another linguistic transfer, as is the case of several films made in another of Spain’s official languages (in this corpus, Basque, or Catalan). This film then undergoes a form of audiovisual translation to be shown in the United States. Afterward – and perhaps even years later – the literary text on which the film is based is translated into English and distributed in the United States.

Figure 3. Nazarín (Luis Buñuel, 1959).

Figure 3. Nazarín (Luis Buñuel, 1959).

© Image courtesy of Filmaffinity.

46An example of this phenomenon is the Spanish director Luis Buñuel’s Nazarín, based on Benito Pérez Galdós’ novel of the same name. Buñuel’s film was released at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959 and began its life on a varied international circuit of festivals with subtitles, where it met with tremendous critical acclaim. It was released at selected cinemas in the United States nine years later in 1968, where reviewers praised it for its artistic merit. Nevertheless, Benito Pérez Galdós’ novel (on which it was based) was not translated until 1991, by Peter Bly.

47Thus, in this category, we find many similar cases of literary works whose claim to fame is, in fact, their film adaptations, while the literary works themselves often remain relatively unknown. In many cases, they are not even listed in the film’s credits. In some cases – such as the films by Buñuel – these adaptations even reach a central, canonical placement in their film system of origin and garner great acclaim in the periphery of foreign film systems.

48Overall, there are a total of 31 film adaptations in this category, all of which reached the United States before the translations of their source texts were published. This means that this is the second most common means by which Spanish literary works are imported into the United States through film, albeit by a small margin.

Film adaptation alongside a translation

49In this combination, both the intersemiotic and linguistic transfers processes occur more or less simultaneously. Images and marketing materials from one work – typically, the film – are then used to promote the literary work, or vice versa. Meanwhile, the film’s status as an adaptation is often clearly listed in its credits.

Figure 4. The Ninth Gate (Roman Polanski, 1999).

Figure 4. The Ninth Gate (Roman Polanski, 1999).

© Image courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.

50This process can be observed in four contemporary films. These include Sergi Lara and Carles Porta’s 2015 adaptation of Manuel de Pedrolo’s well-known Catalan-language novel Mecanoscrit del segon origen, Xavier Gens’ 2017 adaptation of Albert Sánchez Piñol’s thriller La pell Freda, entitled Cold Skin, and two adaptations from the novels of Arturo Pérez-Reverte: Jim Macbride’s 1994 film Uncovered, an adaptation of La tabla de Flandes, and Roman Polanski’s 1999 film The Ninth Gate, adapted from El Club Dumas.

51All of these films were released in approximately the same year as the literary translation. Thus, the intersemiotic and interlinguistic transfer processes overlapped. Meanwhile – and most notably in the case of The Ninth Gate – the fact that the films were made as international co-productions with collaboration from well-known agents within the U.S. film system and not simply imported from a foreign system helped ensure their commercial success. This, in turn, led to increased book sales and the translation of more of Pérez-Reverte’s works into English. Overall, this combination demonstrates the symbiotic potential of literary translation and film adaptation in the importation of foreign literature.

Intermediate film system

52In the fifth combination, an intermediate film system enters into play. A Spanish literary work is translated into another language, and a film adaptation is made based on this literary translation. This film is then subtitled or dubbed and imported into the United States. An English translation of this text may or may not exist before this translation (in many cases, it does); the key here is that the film adaptation of this literary work is imported from another film system.

Figure 5. Mémoire des apparences (Raúl Ruiz, 1986).

Figure 5. Mémoire des apparences (Raúl Ruiz, 1986).

© Image courtesy of Filmaffinity.

53This phenomenon can be observed in films based on Spanish literary works that come from non-Spanish language systems – most notably the French and Italian language film systems. There are ten instances of this combination on the corpus, including two art films made by Chilean-French director Raúl Ruiz, whose work is best known in France. Here, it is particularly interesting to note the case of his 1986 film Mémoire des apparences, an experimental neo-Baroque metafictional film dually inspired by Pedro Calderón de la Barca's La vida es sueño and the English historian Frances Yates’ book The Art of Memory.

54In this case, we find a film that was based on a Spanish literary work that had already been translated into English and distributed in the United States in several editions (the first as early as 1830). However, the film itself was made within the French film system and later introduced into the U.S. film system with subtitles.

55Thus, this combination demonstrates the important role of other film systems acting as intermediaries in the importation of film adaptations of Spanish literature into the United States.

Intermediate literary adaptation

56This combination involves the curious case of an intermediate literary adaptation. Here, a literary work is translated into another language. Afterwards, a literary adaptation of the work is created within this new literary system. A film adaptation is then made from this literary adaptation. Interestingly, however, this film is not based on the source literary work or its translation; it is based on the literary adaptation.

57We can see this in the case of Don Juan, as it was, in fact, the many film adaptations of Don Juan that drew my attention to this phenomenon in the first place. The very first written version of the Don Juan legend can be traced back to Tirso de Molina’s 1630 play El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de Piedra. Nevertheless, in my research, I soon discovered that this playwright is not credited as the source of any of the remarkably numerous film adaptations of Don Juan.

Figure 6. Don Juan (Alan Crosland, 1926).

Figure 6. Don Juan (Alan Crosland, 1926).

© Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

  • 3 Since no intermediate literary adaptations interfered in the making of this film adaptations, this (...)

58Instead, we find four basic phenomena: (1) a film adapted from a later Spanish adaptation of Don Juan (such as José Zorilla’s 1844 adaptation, Don Juan Tenorio, which was adapted to film by Mexican director René Cardona in 1927, for instance); 3 (2) a film adapted from an English language adaptation of the Don Juan legend (such as Alan Crosland’s 1926 adaptation of Lord Byron’s epic poem); (3) an adaption from another intermediate literary and film system (such as Walter Kolm-Veltée’s 1955 adaptation Don Juan, made from Lorenzo da Ponte’s libretto, which was used for Mozart’s opera); (4) a film adaptation made from the Don Juan legend itself, for which no specific source is credited (such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s 2013 modern retelling, Don Jon).

59Therefore, this combination presents an eclectic mixture of those mentioned above. While it may be said that none of these adaptations have a direct link to the Spanish literary works in which the Don Juan legend is so clearly rooted and thus are not listed in the final corpus, they do share a fascinating connection worthy of exploration, as they all may represent film adaptations made from literary adaptations of a Spanish text.

A film adaptation from an intersemiotic translation

60This final combination examines a unique phenomenon, and that is the case of a film adaptation made from an intersemiotic translation of a literary text. For this combination, the first transfer phase occurs between the source text and another non-literary artistic work (song, painting, sculpture, dance, etc.)

61As the artwork here is primarily non-linguistic, it may come from the source text’s culture of origin (hypothetically), from an intermediate culture of origin, or from the target culture itself. After this first intersemiotic artistic transfer takes place, an additional intersemiotic transfer occurs in the form of a film adaptation, and this film is later imported into the United States. The film may or may not undergo a form of translation (subtitles, dubbing).

Figure 7. Bodas de sangre (Carlos Saura, 1981).

Figure 7. Bodas de sangre (Carlos Saura, 1981).

© Image courtesy of Filmaffinity.

62This combination is to be found in a single work in the final corpus, Carlos Saura’s 1981 film adaptation of Antonio Gades’ ballet Bodas de Sangre. Originally titled Crónica del suceso de bodas de sangre, this film is based on Federico Garcia Lorca’s drama of the same name. Lorca’s drama premiered at Teatro Beatriz in Madrid on March 8, 1933, to great critical acclaim. A year later, New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse commissioned its translation in celebration of the group’s 20th anniversary. The translation was done by José Weissberger and released on February 11, 1935, under the title Bitter Oleander, but the play met with very disappointing reviews. Meanwhile, as the play’s popularity grew, so, too, did the number of its performances and adaptations. The work attracted the attention of dancer and choreographer Antonio Gades in the early 1970s when its intersemiotic transfer to dance took place. The ballet premiered on April 2, 1974, at the Teatro Olimpico in Rome. Its later performances in Spain attracted the attention of avant-garde director Carlos Saura, who attended one of the dance troupe’s practices, was mesmerized by the work, and decided to adapt it to the silver screen. The film was released in 1981 in Spain and seven months later in the United States.

63Here again, this combination is marked by its complexity, where a highly consecrated source text continues to be performed in theaters across the world thanks to Federico Garcia Lorca’s lasting presence and mystique. The adaptation also benefits from Antonio Gades’s renown as one of Spain’s most celebrated dancers and choreographers, as well as Carlos Saura’s reputation as a famed director, all of which served to consecrate the film as an example of acclaimed cinematic auteurship both in Spain – where it formed a central part of the film system – and the United States, where its role was more peripheral.

Conclusion

64In summary, the seven combinations mentioned above illustrate the seven primary means by which film adaptation introduces Spanish literature into the United States, as determined by analyzing the final corpus. These combinations and the process involved in their identification represent a descriptive, trans-individual, target-based approach to the object of analysis. This methodology not only allowed for the creation of the most comprehensive corpus of film adaptations of Spanish literary works in the United States between the years 1895 and 2018, but also for the further analysis of patterns in their reception.

65Nevertheless, it is important to highlight that this methodology was not without its limitations. Adopting a functional definition of the object of study allowed for a descriptive, target-based approach. Nevertheless, it also inherently limited the scope of analysis to those works that are overtly recognized to be film adaptations of Spanish literary works, thus overlooking adaptation phenomena such as pseudo-originals and secret or hidden adaptations that “greatly outnumber overt adaptations” (Cattrysse, 2014: 123). Therefore, it is very likely that for every one of the recognized adaptations on this extensive corpus, there are a handful of unrecognized films based on works of Spanish literature. While case studies such as that of Don Juan do provide a glimpse of some of the many covert adaptations that may be directly or indirectly traced back to a work of Spanish literature, more research is needed in this regard. In fact, future research devoted to the analyses of pseudo-originals and hidden or secret adaptations within this context would allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the object of analysis.

66Despite these limitations, the scarce presence of foreign literature and foreign films in the United States, as well as the increasingly explored parallels between film adaptation and literary translation, permitted this model to be applied in a very interesting and illustrative context. Thus, while this particular study concentrated on the case of Spanish literature in the United States through film, it may very easily be replicated in the case of other national or linguistic literary systems. Overall, understanding film adaptation as a form of intersemiotic translation and building upon models from theoretical frameworks developed within the context of multiple fields of study represents a fascinating and promising area for future research. It also demonstrates the potential of a Polysystem approach to both Translation Studies and Film Adaptation Studies, two disciplines that can benefit greatly from shared dialogue.

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Notes

1 Among these, we find the recent issue of the Journal TTR (Traduction, terminologie, redaction) entitled “Traduction et adaptation: Un mariage de raison” (2020: Volume 33, Issue 1), in addition to Lawrence Venuti’s 2007 article “Adaptation, Translation, Critique” and the pioneering conference "Cultures of Translation: Adaptation in Film and Performance" that brought together scholars of both disciplines a year later and led to the launch of The Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance. The anthologies Translation, Adaptation, and Transformation (ed. Lawrence Raw, 2012) and Translation and Adaptation in Theatre and Film (ed. Katja Krebs, 2014) also provided a space for the exploration of the relationship between the two fields and theoretical debates.

2 See, for instance, the work of Susan Bassnett (1990, 1998), Theo Hermans (1985, 1996, 1999), Dirk Delabastita (1989, 1990), and André Lefevere (1992), among others,

3 Since no intermediate literary adaptations interfered in the making of this film adaptations, this work – and others like it – has been categorized as part of Combination 1.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Don Quijote de la Mancha (Rafael Gil, 1947).
Crédits © Image courtesy of the Centro de Estudios de Castilla-La Mancha.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/interfaces/docannexe/image/4424/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 176k
Titre Figure 2. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rex Ingram, 1921).
Crédits © Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/interfaces/docannexe/image/4424/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 97k
Titre Figure 3. Nazarín (Luis Buñuel, 1959).
Crédits © Image courtesy of Filmaffinity.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/interfaces/docannexe/image/4424/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 79k
Titre Figure 4. The Ninth Gate (Roman Polanski, 1999).
Crédits © Image courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/interfaces/docannexe/image/4424/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 253k
Titre Figure 5. Mémoire des apparences (Raúl Ruiz, 1986).
Crédits © Image courtesy of Filmaffinity.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/interfaces/docannexe/image/4424/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 11k
Titre Figure 6. Don Juan (Alan Crosland, 1926).
Crédits © Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/interfaces/docannexe/image/4424/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Titre Figure 7. Bodas de sangre (Carlos Saura, 1981).
Crédits © Image courtesy of Filmaffinity.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/interfaces/docannexe/image/4424/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
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Référence électronique

Andrea Reisenauer, « Film adaptations crossing borders: The reception of Spanish literature in the United States through film »Interfaces [En ligne], 47 | 2022, mis en ligne le 30 juin 2022, consulté le 29 septembre 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/interfaces/4424 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/interfaces.4424

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Auteur

Andrea Reisenauer

Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona

Andrea Reisenauer is a Ph.D. candidate in Translation Studies at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain. Her dissertation centers on a corpus-based study of the reception of Spanish literature in the United States through film adaptations.

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