Is literature the heart and mobility for the movie and entertainment industry?

Expert Answers
jerseygyrl1983 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would agree with this statement, to the extent that the film industry frequently looks toward literature for new material and timeless tales. Because the film industry is the primary field of entertainment which uses material from literature, I will focus my response on literature adapted for film.

Shakespearean plays, such as Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello, have been produced and reproduced over the twentieth century. Laurence Olivier directed and starred in the most critically acclaimed version of Hamlet in the 1940s. The play was re-adapted by Mel Gibson in 1990, who also directed and starred. The latter was not as highly regarded by critics, but was a bigger hit with audiences. Ethan Hawke revamped the play in 2000, transforming the brooding prince into a young filmmaker from New York City, struggling against a production company called Denmark Corp. in the wake of his father's death. 

There have been as many, if not more, productions of Macbeth produced in both the United Kingdom and the United States. In 1948, Orson Welles starred in and directed a version which was critically acclaimed. Just last year, Michael Fassbender starred in a version that was not critically acclaimed, but, with its elaborate fight scenes and stunning cinematography, was clearly aimed at the movie-going audience. 

With Shakespearean plays, Hollywood studios have a lot of flexibility. They can create a serious work of art that follows Elizabethan conventions, or they can use the work as a foundation for telling a more modern, relatable story. Othello, too, has been put to use in both ways. Orson Welles, once again, directed and starred in a version produced in 1952. However, this version appears dated and offensive to modern movie viewers due to Welles's wearing black-face to play the role of the Moor. Modern versions have cast black actors. The 1995 version starred Laurence Fishburne, while a teen drama based on the play, called O, starred Mekhi Phifer.

Other classic tales brought to the screen time and again include the following: Pride and PrejudiceJane EyreGulliver's Travels (which was also the basis for the 1941 film Sullivan's Travels), The Great GatsbyMadame BovarySense and SensibilityAnna Karenina, and, among other Shakespearean plays, there have been popular versions of A Midsummer Night's DreamMuch Ado About Nothing, and The Tempest

Some contemporary literature, too, has been made into films. Film studios now draw not only from Western literature, but from work by writers from all over the world. Beasts of No Nation, for example, is based on a novel by the Nigerian writer Uzodinma Iweala. 

Most films ideas, however, are culled from popular works. Bestsellers already have an audience. Thus, from a business perspective, it makes sense to produce a film based on these works. Lovers of the books or book series will likely be tempted to see the film version(s). Undoubtedly, this was the rationale for creating films based on the Twilight and Hunger Games series. Tom Clancy's novels, too, have been turned into popular political/espionage thrillers. Finally, Stephen King has long been a source of story-lines for film studios.

Outside of the film industry, there are subtle ways in which musicians, too, are influenced by literature. On his 2015 album, To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar references a line from the film version of The Color Purple, which was adapted from the novel. On her latest album, Lemonade, Beyonce references Their Eyes Were Watching God and Daughters of the Dust, which was first a film that was later adapted into a novel set 20 years after the events in the film.

Lastly, The Doors, a much older but still very relevant rock group, was very much influenced by literature. Their songs referenced everything from the Oedipus myth to French Symbolist poetry to works by the Beat Generation.

Literature definitely keeps the film industry going, helping movie studios create films with good stories. One could argue that literature is at the heart of movies, in the sense that films are simply stories brought to life on screen.