Active adaptations: Killing the girl with the dragon tattoo

This source preferred by Richard Berger

Authors: Berger, R.

Start date: 11 April 2012

This paper develops the idea of the ‘active adaptation’ - that is an adaptation where the source material is still in the recent memory of the audience. Traditionally there has been a significant time-lag between the creation of a text and its subsequent adaptation, sometimes many decades. This time-lag between source and adaptation has shortened in recent years, as the translation between source and target has moved from asynchronous to synchronous adaptation. Coupled with this is the fact that contemporary authors are living in an era dominated by visual media, and adaptors are working in an industry obsessed with prequels, sequels, remakes, re-imaginings and re-workings.

An adaptation is always ‘active’ for the adaptor, but for audiences it is more often than not ‘inactive’. Audiences make think they ‘know’ a work, but this familiarity is also mediated by other adaptations and versions. Fidelity positions regarding source texts have flourished in the gaps which exist between ‘active’ and ‘inactive’ adaptations. By focusing on the recent European and US adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and the US remake of the television series, The Killing, this paper argues that a new mode of adaptation has emerged, one which directly assumes that the audience is familiar with previous versions. The ‘active’ adaptation then both celebrates and exploits an audience’s prior knowledge of novels, films and television shows.

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