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The Big Sleep: Movie vs. Novel

Powerful Essays
The Big Sleep: Movie vs. Novel

Film and literature are two media forms that are so closely related, that we often forget there is a distinction between them. We often just view the movie as an extension of the book because most movies are based on novels or short stories. Because we are accustomed to this sequence of production, first the novel, then the motion picture, we often find ourselves making value judgments about a movie, based upon our feelings on the novel. It is this overlapping of the creative processes that prevents us from seeing movies as distinct and separate art forms from the novels they are based on.

I enjoyed The Big Sleep by Howard Hawks, but can still recognize and appreciate the differences between it and Chandler's masterful novel. It is an objective appreciation of the two works which forms the foundation a good paper. One must look at the book as a distinct unit, look at the film as a distinct unit, and then (and only then) use one to compare/contrast the other in a critique. The film, after all, is not an extension of the novel&endash;as some would like to argue&endash;but an independent entity that can be constructed however the artist (Hawks in this case) wants. The novel is the inspiration; the film, the work itself.

Howard Hawks chose to film The Big Sleep in the genre of film noir; this seemed like the obvious choice for a hardboiled detective novel. Film noir is the "'dark film,' a term applied by French critics to [the] type of American film, usually in the detective of thriller genre, with low-key lighting and a somber mood" (Bordwell 479). By using this genre of filmmaking, Hawks had an effective vehicle with which to retain the tone of Chand...

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...yer's daughter. In the book, Marlowe had less difficulty respecting his employer through his unnatural sense of chivalry.

Raymond Chandler and Howard Hawks both create incredible pieces of art with their individual representations of The Big Sleep. The differences between the works allow them to converse and argue with each other, thus creating a new interpretation on the themes of the story. Hawks' version seems to be about Marlowe's struggle with the unnatural world, Chandler's about a struggle with nature. The movie was well made, as the book was well written: both are sufficient to stand and to be appreciated alone.

Works Cited

Bluestone, George. Novels into Film. 1957. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1961.

Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. 5th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.
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