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 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.” 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.