Remediation: A Screenplay Translation of Tess’s first interaction with Angel, at the dance. Pages 9-10, specifically the following passage:
“He could see the white figures of the girls in the green enclosure, whirling about as they had whirled when he was among them. They seemed to have quite forgotten him already. All of them, except, perhaps, one. This white shape stood apart by the hedge alone. From her position he knew it to be the pretty maiden with whom he had not danced. Trifling as the matter was, he yet instinctively felt that she was hurt by his oversight. He wished that he had asked her; he wished that he had inquired her name. She was so modest, so expressive, she had looked so soft in her thin white gown that he felt he had acted stupidly”( Hardy 10).
Translation to Script:
(Angel leaves the dancers, but turns back for a moment. Tess can be seen standing at the fence, watching him leave. Angel regards her and a look of regret passes over his face. He then turns again and sets off to find his brothers.)
This shift in medium from a beautifully written nineteenth-century novel to a descriptive note in a film script takes away much of this scene’s meaning. It trivializes the moment, ignores minute details, and strips the viewer or reader of the inner perspective of the characters.
One of the saddest aspects of this translation is that it removes the importance of the moment to the novel. The way that Hardy writes it, the reader can feel the magnetic pull between these two characters. It is a moment shared just between them, and if it were to be put into a film, the viewer would only see a brief regretful look and then dismiss the moment just as Angel, and later Tess, dismisses it.
The intricate details chosen to be displayed by Hardy are also lost. Tess is described as merely a, “white shape,” which Angel is able to determine to be the girl he had not danced with. The symbolism of Tess being in white would be seen as just a costume decision in a film, when in fact it could be alluding to the fact that it is the last time Angel will ever see her as a virgin. In the novel, her entire appearance is summarized by the color white, or purity. Additionally, a film adaptation would likely show Tess’s face, so as to leave no room for confusion; however, in the book Angel discerns who she is by, “her position.”
The loss of the narrative and the glimpse inside of Angel’s perspective is the greatest casualty of this translation. The viewer would have no idea what thoughts are passing through his brain as he delivers a regretful look and then leaves her. To begin, he did see the issue as, “trifling,” because it was merely a dance; and yet he feels guilty for neglecting her. Here we get a deeper look into Angel’s compassion and thus get a greater perspective on his character. By erasing the narrative, we also lose the line, “He wished that he had asked her; he wished that he had inquired her name.” Not only is this an enchanting piece of prose, but it also reveals that he desired, even at this first encounter, to know her. The significance of him knowing her name would also be lost, since the issue of Tess’s heritage and her last name plays a role in his perspective of her later in the novel. There are other references to Tess’s purity in the last line, revealing his appreciation of her innocence. He saw her as, “modest,” and, “so soft in her thin white gown.” It is notable that this is the same gown in which she is later raped by Alec. It is likely that in a film adaptation the character would have multiple white gowns for visual appeal to the audience, so this symbolism would also be damaged.
Overall, much is lost in a screenplay-adaptation of a novel. Even when an author is involved in the process, the intricacies, natural narrative, and incomplete perspective erase much of the detail that makes novels so valuable.