Watched Adaptation, last night. Complicated.

Watched Adaptation, last night. Complicated. Was woven through my dreams and waking hours all night. In the wee hours this morning I had some kind of epiphany around the way the screenwriter’s life was interwoven with his work. It has heightened relevance for me right now, being presented with a challenge to stop doing my discourse research on ASL/English ways of talking about interpreting. I think the movie illustrates the ways that one’s passions get bound up in one’s work, especially if one has a passion FOR the work, and this presents all sorts of boundary dilemmas. To begin with, the movie portrays real people, and a real book, and juxtaposes the story of the book (that the movie is supposed to be about) with the process of the screenwriter attempting to tell it.
The movie essentially fails to satisfy the screenwriter’s ambition to present flowers as beautiful, amazing, central, even though this was what the author of the book, The Orchid Thief, portrayed. The screenwriter, attempting to interpret the author’s vision into a film, struggles with the affective and intellectual content of the message and how to convey it, keeping it’s sense, tone….staying true to the message. His fantasies about the author, other women, his brother, his life in general, both interfere and contribute to the interpretation he provides. Ultimately, he finds that he cannot convey the message without inserting himself into the story.
The real author of the The Orchid Thief, Susan Orleans, says, “this was the perfect thing to have happened to this book. It has become more of a character in the movie than the actual basis for the movie.
What an interesting, potential implication for how we do our jobs! Of course, I’m not advocating this as a one-size-fits-all strategy, or even a common one, but what it was a possibility?
When we’re on the job, interpreting spontaneously, our involvement in the message is implicated with every single choice we make, yet we rarely (never?) have the luxury of the screenwriter’s view – scripting the entire way the interaction, the story, unfolds. We CAN do this when we step back from being “on” the job and consider ourselves as professionals whose work is intimately bound up with our lives, and vice-versa. To what extent should we interrogate our own participation in the field? Which intrapersonal needs are satisfied by our performances, and to what extent do these needs infiltrate our interpretations and decision-making around group dynamics? How does our very presence, and our specific task, alter the script?
Meryl Streep, who plays the author in the movie, described what it was like to work with the real Charlie Kaufman (played by Nicolas Cage), the screenwriter, as they made the movie: “Oh, I found him very guarded as only somebody who’s laid his entire interior self out in a movie can be. I’m shocked that he’s done that, put his anxieties out for everyone to see. I was struck by how thoughtful he was and willing to discuss it and clear. I met him with Spike [Jonze] and [they were] clear about the tone of the piece and how they really did want it. They didn’t want some smart aleck sort of cool look at this.
He really writes out of pain and he was willing to express that, but I was very impressed with him. I think his work was in the script and it’s gorgeous. It’s very ambitious and very brave. It’s brave work.

I think this is what it means to explore subjectivity. Taking risks to be seen as who one is, even to the displeasure or ridicule of others who may disdain what is revealed.

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