, Research Paper
John Boorman adapted the ?Passing of Arthur? in the movie
?Excalibur.? 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.? 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? 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.? 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
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.? 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.? 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,?
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,
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? is a successful adaptation of
?The Passing of Arthur.? 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