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Brian Moore’s «Black Robe»

Novel, Screenplay(s) and Film


Antje Schumacher

Studying Brian Moore’s Black Robe (1985), this book examines the dual adaptation process of historical sources into fiction and fiction into film. The fictionalisation process is analysed on the basis of the Jesuit Relations of the 17 th century and Moore’s novel. Besides transforming and compiling information from these annual reports, Moore also uses them to justify his choice of obscene language for the indigenous characters. The visualisation process is studied with the help of various versions of the screenplay with respect to the differences of narrative and narration in fiction and film. A final exemplary analysis illustrates in detail how the original historical sources were transformed via the novel and the screenplays into the final visualisation in the motion picture.


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3. Adapting Black Robe to the Screen 57


57 In summary one can conclude that the concept of love is presented as of central importance for the process of coming to terms with the Other. For Daniel and Annuka, their love for the other person enables them to grow less fearful and more understanding of the alien culture. In the case of Laforgue, his faith crisis precipitated by his encountering the Other is solved thanks to his return to one of the pivotal Christian values, namely the concept of charity. Paradoxically, this is partially triggered by his exchange with Taretandé, a representative of the cultural Other that caused Laforgue's crisis in the first place. 3. Adapting Black Robe to the Screen The analysis of the formal features of Moore's work as well as my reading of it suggest that Black Robe would not be easily adapted to the screen.76 Where narrative modes are concerned, it is difficult to see how this may be adequately transposed into the audio-visual medium of film. Voice-overs would be an option, but if this technique was used for all of the interior monologues, the film would be exceedingly talky.77 Interior conflicts like Daniel's guilt at the beginning of the novel or Laforgue's faith crisis at the end might also be externalised using dialogues. Yet, lengthy and complex exchanges between characters could well be difficult for the audience to follow and have the potential to be boring. That gives rise to the question of whether such interior conflicts can be externalised so as not...

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