Taking a literary classic and transforming it into a completely different medium has been the choice of many directors, artists other authors and so on, for a great many years. Whilst there is nothing quite like an original screenplay, artwork or musical composition, there are also a number of advantages in presenting a well known, or even lesser known piece in a different format. Some of these advantages involve previous recognition of the work and an immediate appreciation for what this new aspect has to offer. Also there can already be a large audience base for that particular piece, who are immediately drawn to discovering what new direction can be taken. However, these advantages can inversely be to a considerable disadvantage. Those with an utmost respect for the original literary text can find the adaptation too different from their ideals and reject it all together. For some reason, such criticisms tend to revolve primarily around adaptation from literature to cinema. Different mediums like theatre, opera, ballet whilst not immune to similar reactions, for some reason don't attract nearly the attention that film adaptation usually does. Here we will look at a few different novel to screen adaptations like Henry James and Jane Campions Portrait of a Lady, Hammett and Huston's The Maltese Falcon and even George Orwell's literary masterpiece and Michael Radford's adaptation of 1984, and somehow try and discover what it is that makes this most modern aesthetic medium, the most offensive of all adaptive techniques.
The Jane Campion film Portrait of a Lady is the perfect example of an enormously diverse response to a cinematic adaptation of a very popular, classic novel. Campion herself is a very well respected director, so it is by no surprise that she thought she could afford to attach her own perception to many different aspects of the film. Whilst naturally there was a huge fan base for this work of hers, there were many traditionalists who did not take to it too fondly.