Stage-Bound: Feature Film Adaptations of Canadian and Québécois Drama
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Since the 1990s many of Canada's best-known filmmakers, such as Denys Arcand, John Greyson and Robert Lepage, have looked to the stage for inspiration. While feature-film adaptations of Canadian plays have become increasingly common, the practice of turning drama into film began in Canada in 1942 when Hilda Hooke Smith's Here Will I Nest was brought to the screen. Some adaptations, such as Wedding in White and Being at Home with Claude, enjoyed a fair measure of success; others, such as Me and Les Celebrations, have fallen into oblivion. Some stayed close to the dramatic structure of the original; others sought to explode the limits of the stage to create a greater cinematic effect. But virtually all adaptations have engaged with, rather than denied, their theatrical origins. that these movies remain too rigidly anchored to the stage; too stage-bound. Stage-Bound, an extensive study of feature film adaptations of English Canadian and Quebecois drama, challenges this reductive interpretation. Andre Loiselle demonstrates that theatricality is central to the meaning of these works. In the process, he reclaims these stage-bound films, which have generally been ignored by scholars.
seven years. Much of the play, which takes place entirely in Margo’s and Paul-Émile’s house, is composed of the kind of ordinary occurrences that make up the life of an average middle-class couple in their thirties. These mundane incidents culminate in the most significant episode of the play: the penultimate scene, in which Margo leaves for a trip on her own to free herself, at least momentarily, from Paul-Émile’s domineering masculine presence (Garneau, 59). Her five-day absence has a
audience a gun is seen brandished by a black man wearing a green suit. An Angel brings a knife down twice before the man tumbles out of shot. “Don’t let him die!” a girl screams. “Street Fighting Man” plays. Jagger’s detachment on stage to that of the concern here, when faced with the film, has the curious implication that it is the film which is at “fault”, that it is the Mayeles brothers and Charlotte Zwerin who are responsible because they have committed the action to celluloid. Their film may
purpose. Clearly, the first half of the prologue in Beaudin’s adaptation signifies Yves’s desire – namely, withdrawal from the external world towards a self-contained internal universe – as the camera literally evades public spaces and finds refuge at home with Claude. The second half of the prologue, from the very moment of the slaying onwards, throws Yves outside, into the world, hence seemingly chap_05.fm Page 171 Wednesday, July 23, 2003 10:40 AM At the Juncture of Theatre and Film 171
actor playing a male actor playing a dead woman, for every role in the film, male or female, is played by a man, as is also the case in the original drama. The most often discussed aspect of Les feluettes is its metatheatricality – its emphasis on actors playing actors playing actors playing roles. While Shawn Huffman rightly argues that such metatheatrical strategies have become increasingly commonplace in Quebec drama since the 1980s, often as a means to actualize the sexual identity of the
Wednesday, July 23, 2003 10:40 AM 182 Stage-Bound proscenium stage itself may be regarded as yet another potential Gothic container” (Inverso, 120, 122, 125). What is most interesting about Inverso’s argument is the suggestion that mise-en-abyme in many modern plays is actually used as a means to evoke imprisonment and even torture. She uses the term “scaffold play” to designate dramas that stress the oppressive nature of the stage itself. “In such ‘scaffold’ plays,” she explains, “the