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Breakfast At Tiffany's As A Film Adaptation

To produce a detailed textual and contextual analysis of a Classical Hollywood movie.

Director Blake Edwards, best known for the Pink Panther movies, was a third-generation entertainment industry member whose intricate and contentious career spanned more than 50 years. He began as an actor and writer and later became one of America's most prolific producer-directors, focusing primarily on the well-liked comedy and musical genres. The commercial success in a World War Two comedy was followed by the dazzling Breakfast at Tiffany's, an adaptation of Truman Capote's novella starring Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, and Rooney. (Baxter, 2010)


The novel is brief, just 85 pages. A milestone in American popular culture, the novella became a well-known masterwork of classical art. The peculiar book, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is about Holly Golightly, an adventurous and free-spirited young woman from a rural area of Texas who has had a dreadful past. She was born with the name "Lulumae Barnes,", and she also had a younger brother named Fred. Since her parents are no longer alive, she weds Doc Golightly, a horse doctor and a man of fifty, while she is only fourteen. Then after fleeing her home, and leaving behind her family, she quickly transforms into a glamorous socialite in New York City. She accompanies numerous wealthy guys who always adore her and offer her money for her to cope with her existence in New York City. Despite appearing to be content with her life, she is going through a lot of internal conflicts as she strives for the purpose of her life in things like freedom, love, peace, and her true identity. An unnamed narrator who lives next door to Holly Golightly in the brownstone apartment and is a keen watcher of her, tells the tale. Due to the sentimental, dramatic, and romantic tale as well as the use of direct language, the novella is a wonderful masterpiece. Truman Capote poured his heart and soul into the work, which is why the readers are left with such a lasting impression. (Sari, 2018)


This essay will focus on analysing Truman Capote’s work of fiction as a film adaptation and the variations in the portrayal of the characters.


The term "film adaptation" is not easily defined. By taking into account varied backgrounds, many critics attempt to find a single, adequate definition. According to Linda Hutcheon, “adaptation is repetition, but repetition without replication.” George Bluestone offered an alternative point of view on a movie adaptation. He claims that “It is insufficiently recognized that the end products of novel and film represent different aesthetic genera, as different from each other as ballet is from literature”.


In light of this, we can understand the adaptation as a creative work that needs selective interpretation, combined with the ability to recreate and sustain an established atmosphere, rather than just as a text or a film that "adapts" another text. As we know, a movie adaptation need not be based entirely on its source material. Certain components might vary from the novel. According to an old anecdote, the writer and the director are traveling in the same boat, but they each secretly yearn to toss the other overboard. As a result, there may be a clash between the director's and the original book's authors’ interpretations of how their respective works should be adapted.


Such a phenomenon was depicted in the movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany's. Only three years following the novel's release, the movie was made. Producers believed that Breakfast at Tiffany's, a best-selling book, would make an excellent film. The book's author, who was still living, may have had an impact on the movie. But the way Edward's narrative is told is different. The movie has a Hollywood finale and is gentler, without contentious parts. Despite Truman Capote's best efforts to sway Edwards, the director disagreed with the writer and modified the plot. The adaptation of Capote's writing did not sit well with him. Additionally, a lot of critics who have negative things to say about the movie adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany's agree with Capote's perspective.


The film Breakfast at Tiffany's is just one of the numerous instances that spark disagreements among critics. The film's diversity and subject have drawn praise from some experts, but they have also drawn criticism. Determining whether the movie is a good or bad adaptation of the book is therefore exceedingly difficult. Additionally, the Blake Edwards-directed film is not entirely based on the novella. Numerous things—facts, happenings, even characters—are altered or reshaped. There are numerous causes for the introduction of modifications. Topics that were taboo back then are presented by Truman Capote in Breakfast at Tiffany's, therefore Edwards had to include them in his film. There were even rumours that Breakfast at Tiffany's would be impossible to adapt due to its dubious morals. Censors sought to remove several parts from the film as a result. Even the movie's ending differs from the one in the book because a Hollywood production ought to have a joyful conclusion. Like Capote, Edwards sought to put a stop to the cliche that only depraved and impoverished women engage in sexual activity, and that such women will eventually be unhappy with their lives.  (Aberra, 2015)


In the film, Edwards demonstrates that even a stylish and attractive woman who is unmarried and interacts with men need not always be unpleasant; in fact, they can occasionally be amusing and engaging. The ideas and themes in the film adaptation were the same as those in the sourcebook, notwithstanding certain alterations. Breakfast at Tiffany's had five Academy Award nominations, winning two of them for Best Original Score and Best Song ("Moon River"), allowing us to conclude that the film was a success. (Monika, 2014)


In essence, Audrey Hepburn's iconic image of herself clutching a cigarette holder while donning a tiny black dress serves as Holly Golightly's representation. It's a tricky story and note how it differs from Edwards' classic love comedy. (Aberra, 2015)


The factors that quantified and described the shifts in Holly's portrayal during the adaptation procedure included a change in genre, mercenary considerations, and the industry's focus on ethics. Both the novella and the movie portray two quite different interpretations of Holly's personality and her interactions with a world that is structured on gender inequality.  (Aberra, 2015)


The beginning of the movie stands out from the rest of it because of how surreal it seems. In the background, one can hear the tune from the movie song "Moon River," which serves as Holly's leitmotiv throughout the entire movie. In the famous scene on an empty Fifth Avenue, Holly exits the taxi in front of Tiffany's and stares within the shop while sipping coffee from a takeout cup and chewing on a donut.

She believes Tiffany's to be her haven and the only location in the world where she can truly feel at home. However, Tiffany's is currently closed. She is standing outside with a bulletproof glass pane between her and it. She can look inside, but it is still out of her reach.


The opening segment makes clear the espial that comes to characterize Holly's representation throughout the movie as the camera follows her as she has a solitary moment of reflection. This is demonstrated in the photo of her inside the store when she is seen gazing straight ahead into a room that was previously empty but is now filled with the viewer. Her eyes are shielded by heavy sunglasses. At this moment, Holly's black spectacles, which may be seen as a hollow metaphor for her insulating her true spirit from the outside world, further highlight her detachment and disregard for how she is regarded by others. Her underlying loneliness and sense of alienation are highlighted by the scene's desolate Fifth Avenue, which also gives the impression that something is off in her world. The business hub of Manhattan, Fifth Avenue, is not supposed to be quiet and vacant but rather bustling with commerce. This could be interpreted as a sign of Holly's "wrongness," her opposition to authority, and the superiority of patriarchal beliefs.  (Aberra, 2015)


The feeling of wrongness also alludes to the restoration of equilibrium, the resolution of the story, and Holly's recovery within the patriarchal system.


The first scene establishes that Holly is the film's primary act and the focus of attention.


In contrast to the novella, the movie opts for a more contemporary interpretation by anchoring her identity to a steady central figure—a male, which portrays her as an outlandish, quirky young lady who challenges the system that controls women's sexuality and whose identity is transgressive, flexible, and always changing. While the Holly in the film shares some of the traits of her literary original, she also succumbs to a representation of conventional, acceptable, socially licensed womanhood and the idea that her place in the world—the one that makes her feel like she is at Tiffany's—is next to a man. The Holly of the novella, on the other hand, although wanting to marry a wealthy man, she breaches many stereotypes of what it means to be a woman. While Holly is depicted by a male character in both pieces, it is only in the film that the masculine gaze ultimately leads to characterizing and confining her. She is primarily depicted in the film from the point of view of the leading straight male character, with whom the audience is urged to identify with, in the novella she is seen through the consciousness of the first-person, gay male narrator who tries to define and contain her wide variety. The Holly in the movie, though initially evoking the possibility that she, too, might be a new kind of a popular culture character altogether, a woman completely in charge of her own agency, succumbs to a portrayal of the woman as secondary and inferior to the man. In contrast, the Holly in Capote's novella defies the expectations of conventional femininity and womanhood and resists the definition of the male. Holly's eventual acceptance of the dominance of the gendered power hierarchy is given narrative credibility by being portrayed as an object of the masculine gaze and by taking place inside the narrative constraints of the conventional, hetero-normative comedic love story. Thus, even while both works acknowledge the patriarchal desire to generate some kind of logic behind the woman in order to exert power, only the film is successful in doing so because the novella's ambiguous ending allows for other possibilities. The narrator's existence and Holly's leaving from New York might be seen as Holly's one last act of resistance against the patriarchy's failure to accept her complexity.


The concepts of intricacy and diversity, which were crucial to the literary Holly's portrayal and the explanation of her contradictory identity, were largely eliminated during the adaptation procedure, and despite the narrative's best efforts to convince the spectator to the contrary, filmic Holly is ultimately quite basic and conventional.  (Aberra, 2015)


Throughout the adaptation procedure, Capote's portrayals of sexualities that were atypical in 1950s American literature and other facets of the broader cultural fabric were eliminated. A conventional story of heterosexual romance was substituted because it was thought to better represent audience tastes and ideals than the homosexual male narrator and the bisexual female protagonist with a careless demeanour regarding pre- and extramarital sex.  (Aberra, 2015)


In order to keep the film's tone just edgy and adult enough, some elements that allude to the unconventionality of the original book were added, like the plot involving Paul's mistress.

The movie displays the main conflict as the traditional "boy meets girl" storyline, as required by the genre. The unnamed narrator of Capote's novella was changed into the role of Paul Varjak, played by George Peppard. Paul is an aspiring author, just like the narrator, and upon relocating to Holly's building on New York City's affluent Upper East Side, he becomes friends with Holly. The novella's historical setting has been altered, and the movie now takes place in the present day, during the transition from the socially conservative 1950s to the 1960s, a time marked by quick social change and the challenging of conventional morality and gender roles. The multiple concepts of seeing, observing, and ignorance are utilized to present the main thematic landscape of the movie, which is the desire to belong, in the opening sequence of the movie.  (Aberra, 2015)


The handling of numerous issues changed as a result of the adaptation into the realm of romantic comedy, but the theme of love underwent a significant deviation from its original pessimistic perspective. Although the movie is probably most recognized for being a jovial romantic comedy with a joyful conclusion, the concept of love is not treated as carelessly as the movie's positive reviews and iconic position might lead one to believe. Love and the idea of ownership are intertwined in the movie, as Holly and Paul's means of income reveal. This is made clear in the conversations Holly and Paul have with one another and with other characters about their relationships. The comprehensive metaphor of marriage is also layered on top of the theme, presenting Holly and Paul's relationship regarding the traditional, socially accepted institution of marriage. This gives the story credibility for the unsettling implications that the idea of ownership in love provokes.  (Aberra, 2015)


In terms of the available ideological interpretations, the contrasts in how the two Holly Golightlys are portrayed and how she interacts with the main male characters surrounding her set them apart from one another. While Capote's novella acknowledges the patriarchal urge to generate some kind of logic behind the woman by defining her as a form of control, Holly's resistance to it makes it unclear whether that control is effective. In the film adaptation, the masculine gaze—which is made up of the gaze of the camera and the gaze of the male protagonist—is used to demonstrate power. Holly is transformed into a narrative image and a dazzling fetish object as a result, depriving the male protagonist of the subject position.  (Aberra, 2015)


Holly is constrained by this procedure to the symbolic plot space of a line that Paul must pass. Holly makes an effort to "disturb it, pervert it, make trouble" by acting in ways that aim to challenge and subvert the dominant gender hierarchy, but Paul ultimately forces Holly to accept her position within it. (De Lauretis, n.d.)


Reading the two pieces and the process of adaptation that brought them together sheds light on the "machineries... of representation" at work in the mainstream film industry as well as the power it wields by creating, governing, and arranging social and intellectual ideas, phenomena, and entities its products portray. Hollywood can placate the powers that be while also satisfying the desires of the general public to be delighted by disguising the dominant ideas as romanticized narratives with the use of filmic conventions and the assistance of the movie star. Thus, exposing the "symptomatic meanings" embedded within the stories turns becomes a tactic of resistance. (Hall, 1997)


We can therefore see Holly as the plot of Hollywood's own grand narrative, the symbol that personifies the narrative that Hollywood keeps repeating to itself: the sassy Manhattan socialite symbolizes the industry's capacity for transformation as a self-described "Dream Factory," turning eager wannabes into superstars. Thus, Holly's dubious methods of earning a living and the cynical conclusion to her story, having tried to rebel against the philosophy that strips her of her agency, she now embraces it, which can be taken as an illustration of the brutal truths of the business that lay under the surface. (Aberra, 2015)

 

References

Aberra, L., 2015. The Politics of Representation in Breakfast at Tiffany's. University of Helsinki, p. 70.

Baxter, B., 2010. Blake Edwards Obituary, -: The Guardian.


De Lauretis, T., n.d. Desire In Narrative. [Online] Available at: https://www.scrigroup.com/limba/engleza/104/Desire-in-Narrative14861.php[Accessed 2022].


Hall, S., 1997. REPRESENTATION. The Open University, p. 76.


Monika, M., 2014. BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S BY TRUMAN CAPOTE AS A FILM ADAPTATION. -, -(-), p. 4.


Sari, A. Y., 2018. THE MEANING OF A YOUNG WOMAN’S LIFE AS SEEN IN HOLLY GOLIGHTLY, THE PROTAGONIST OF TRUMAN CAPOTE'S BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S. SARJANA PENDIDIKAN, p. 64.

 

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