Looking at Film
By comparing a novel to its film adaptation, students can gain a better understanding of each work's unique power. Use the following questions and activities to help your students compare Middlemarch the novel to Middlemarch the television series, or other novels to their film adaptations.
- What are some of the things an author must consider before beginning a novel? What are some of the things a director must consider before beginning a film adaptation of a novel? How are these considerations similar and/or different?
- When a novel is adapted for the screen, what do you think is gained and what do you think is lost? How do you think reading a book is different from watching a film?
- A novel is essentially the work of a single person, while a film involves the work of many people. How do you think this fact contributes to the final product in each case?
- What are the risks involved with making a novel into a film 100 years after it was written?
- Have students choose an excerpt from the novel and turn it into a scene for a TV drama. They should begin by writing a script for the passage. When the script is ready, students can have auditions, assign parts, design a set or find an appropriate location, choose costumes, plan their shots, and then film the scene with a video camera. Ask students to present their video to the class and discuss the differences between their work and Eliot's.
- People are often influenced by their own concerns and interests when they interpret the work of others. Ask students what issues they think the creators of the Middlemarch television series chose to highlight, and why. Have them write an essay, discussing how the Middlemarch series might reflect its producer, scriptwriter, director, actors, and film crew. After students watch the series, have them read a chapter from Eliot's Middlemarch. Ask them to look for differences between the novel and the film. Have students make notes as they read, and later debate in teams the merits and drawbacks of each medium.
- Have groups of students design a movie poster for Middlemarch the television series. Afterwards, students can compare their posters with the covers of different copies of Middlemarch the novel, and discuss the differences and similarities between them. Which do you think are more eye-catching and why?
- Invite groups of students to discuss whether or not they think the characters in the Middlemarch series were properly cast. Ask them to imagine a different look and manner for two or three of the characters, and to write down how this might have either benefited or detracted from the production.
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