Professor Victoria Large
Short Stories on Film
20 September 2012
A different kind of The Dead
Although John Huston, for the most part, stays true to the style of James Joyce, making Joyce’s novella, The Dead, into a film is a rather difficult task. A quote by Andre Bazin clearly shows the difficulty “A novel is a unique synthesis whose molecular equilibrium is automatically affected when you tamper with its form” (Bazin 19). In the adaptation of the book, Huston’s The Dead, one quite important piece was changed. One of the most significant changes is: in Joyce’s story, Gabriel’s wife Gretta, is more or less overlooked throughout most of the story. This leaves Gabriel to be the focus of attention. Gretta does not become an important character until close to the conclusion of the book. This simple change of bringing Gretta into attention early in the story is a major flaw in the film. Having Gretta be more of the focus in the film takes away from Gabriel’s importance.
The main character focus seems to be Gabriel in the book, not Gretta. Gretta seems to be almost forgotten. At Gabriel’s aunt’s party, none of the other guests at the party call her Gretta. Instead she is referred to as Gabriel’s wife for the better part of the book. Quite contrary to that insignificant role in the book the feature film The Dead Gretta’s role is more apparent. It is relatively obvious that Gretta is imperative to the film, based purely on the stature of the actress, Anjelica Huston, who plays Gretta. Aside from the fact that Huston casted a well-known actress for the part, there are two scenes that show how important Gretta is. The first is the end of both the film and book, when Gretta and Gabriel are alone in their hotel room. The next scene that shows Grettas importance is when Gabriel is standing and watching Gretta at the top of the stair case.
In the final scene, where Gabriel and Gretta are alone in their hotel room is one important change from book to film....