The Original and the Copy: Nakata Hideo’s Ring (1998)
James Naremore (2000a: 1-16) has recently called upon cinema scholars to pay renewed attention to the much maligned topic of film adaptation. As he puts it:
The study of adaptation needs to be joined with the study of recycling, remaking, and every other form of retelling in the age of mechanical reproduction and electronic communication. By this means, adaptation will become part of a general theory of repetition, and adaptation study will move from the margins to the center of contemporary media studies. (15)
Studies on Japanese cinema adaptation may similarly benefit from the kind of critical makeover advocated by Naremore. After all, much work on the topic, however interesting and illuminating, has tended to reproduce one or other of two fairly limiting approaches. On the one hand, writers in the field sometimes too readily accept the commonplace assumption that the adaptation process consists primarily of the act of translating texts from one particular sign system (the novel) into another (film).1 On the other hand, attention has usually been focused upon texts which may be said to be highbrow or otherwise prestigious, either because modelled upon canonical literary works or else made by ‘auteur’ filmmakers possessing unique individual ‘vision’.2 As a result of the combined force of these two assumptions, Japanese adaptation studies usually conform to longestablished notions of authorial integrity and reproduce the view that only intellectually ‘superior’ cultural forms are suitable for analysis. In other words, they appear to suggest that the investigation of film adaptation is most properly explored as an addendum to the study of something else (e.g. the study of a great film director or Japan’s long-established and roundly celebrated literary traditions).