In 2000, The New Yorker magazine writer Susan Orlean published her book, The Orchid Thief, a history of orchids and orchid collectors. The main themes of the work include the history of the passion for plants held by cultures past and present, the perils of harsh habitats such as the Fakahatchee swamp, the natural evolution of life on earth, and the value of a new species of orchid, whether it is a kind that already exists but is yet to be found, or a hybrid that could potentially exist but is yet to be bred. Tales and observations are balanced with accounts of her meetings with a contemporary collector and cultivator from Florida named John Laroche, who caught her attention when he was tried by the state of Florida for illegally removing protected floral species from a state reserve. The significance of this man lies both in his character as a wild, obsessive rogue, hunting his fortune by selling rare species of orchids and trying to breed his own completely original kind, and also his extensive knowledge of orchids, which inspires Susan Orlean to research the topic extensively and to become fascinated with the entire culture of orchid lovers herself
[...] Immediately, Kaufman's opening scene shows Kaufman (played by Nicholas Cage) speaking with Hollywood producer Valerie Thomas about what he wants his adaptation of The Orchid Thief to look like. He states that he intends to the movie exist on its rather than have it be “artificially plot driven” through typical and unnecessary inclusions of sex and drugs. So far, in the swamp scene, this has been the case. But the aspiration to avoid those Hollywood elements is promptly challenged by Thomas' suggestion for the two main personalities from The Orchid Thief to fall in love in the screenplay, as opposed to remaining platonic like in the book. [...]
[...] The significance of the character from Donald's screenplay, the cop who “gets obsessed with figuring a victim's personality, and in the process falls in love with her, even though he's never even met her, is that he possesses a drive for something special, something unique: becomes, like, the unattainable, like the Holy Grail.” From the ultimate enemy to New Hollywood comes an example of how to grasp originality (through the hilarious and fascinating half-and-half exposure of Kaufman, and through the metaphoric version of the adaptation that serves a purpose for Kaufman's own screenplay) while still contributing to the adaptation of The Orchid Thief: for Orlean, the unattainable is the ghost orchid. [...]
[...] the main characters in Florida, and the story mostly dwells on Kaufman's struggling to write the adaptation he's been hired for. He also packs the film with meditations on the nature of adaptation, while the narrative of Orlean's original work is twisted and remodeled before the viewer's very eyes. The following discussion will seek to identify the significant aspects of the film that help place in its appropriate classification. Is Adaptation. an adaptation? If so, is it a successful one? [...]
[...] What does this mean for Kaufman's meditation on the relationship between adaptation and ownership? Is he simply acknowledging that the idea of the duality within one character being expressed by the embodiment of two has already been done? Or is he showing how adaptations, like how Barthes describes, can come together from different directions to create something new altogether? Or is he asking, by not acknowledging where the idea comes from, this stealing?' Is he showing how a part of him essentially the screenwriter can bend those rules of ownership for his own purpose under the rationalization of “borrowing?” Or is he just plain stealing? [...]
[...] It tends to ignore the idea of adaptation as an example of convergence among the arts, perhaps a desirable –even inevitable- process in rich culture; it fails to take into serious account what may be transferred from novel to film as distinct from what will require more complex processes of adaptation - Brian McFarlane Kaufman certainly does not fail in this respect, but his screenplay is also a great example again, perhaps the perfect example - of this “convergence.” We are not only subjected to a merger between literature and cinema, but also science, history, a study of fiction versus non-fiction, and a commentary on the assembly of the merger itself. [...]
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