This conference continues a sequence of international events exploring the question of closure as well as the question of adaptation. We would like to turn now to the adaptation of the last pages of a novel to the screen.In this conference, we intend to measure and comment the stakes of adaptation to the screen at the end of a novel. An adaptation is necessarily the product of a specific reading of a text; it is an appropriation that can lead to a change in the end of the source text. The close of a novel, however, is both the moment when literary traditions hold strongest – and when the author may take up the challenge to buck those traditions, to distance the work once and for all from foregone conclusions (Larroux). Can the same be said of film? Does the filmmaker’s vision replace that of the novelist? Does the end of a film also signal its tendency to either follow or challenge tradition? Classic Hollywood films end with a concluding scene, followed by an epilogue (Bordwell), thus imitating the traditional novel, but adaptations are frequently the subject of narrative and structural changes, for various reasons. Hollywood’s love of the happy end is well known, while the transformation of Jane Austen’s novels into simple love stories is a striking example of Hollywood’s need to appeal to a mass audience. In animated adaptations of fairy tales, the trend is even more obvious: Walt Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989) is but one example, born of a desire to not shock children (or their parents). Beyond this, a change to the ending can be a selling point: the producers of the recent adaptation of Gone Girl (2014) actually promoted the film by promising that it rewrote the final act, thus maintaining the suspense that readers felt, or perhaps correcting an ending that was somewhat controversial.
Bordwell, David. “Happily Ever After, Part 2”. Velvet Light Trap 19 (1982): 2-7.—. Narration in the Fiction Film. London: Routledge, 1985.Hock, Tobias. “Film endings”. In Last Things: Essays on Ends and Endings. Ed. Gavin Hopps et al. Aachen British and American studies 19. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2014. 65-79.
Larroux, Guy. Le Mot de la fin. La clôture romanesque en question. Paris : Nathan, 1995.
Neupert, Richard. The End, Narration and Closure in the Cinema. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995.
Torgovnick, Mariana. Closure in the Novel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1981.