By Robert Lowell
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Extra resources for Lord Weary's Castle; The Mills of the Kavanaughs
Novels are characteristically, but by no means exclusively, narrated in the past tense. There are exceptions, when the novelist employs a present-tense narration, though this can often seem affected after the initial surprise of the enterprise has worn off. Film, on the other hand, is always happening in the present tense. There is no filmic equivalent for words like ‘‘ran’’ or ‘‘walked’’: their very inflection signals an act that is complete as it is being described on the page. ’’ Even when film resorts to flashback to make us aware that the action depicted is meant to be read as happening in the past, there is nothing intrinsic to the image at any given moment to make us think, Ah, this is occurring at some anterior time.
This early cultural reframing and assimilation of nineteenth-century narrative structures has both economic and legal implications that are still 34 Literature on screen, a history operative today. Economically, longer, more artistically ambitious movies will expand audience demographics and the larger box office receipts by offering more lavish movies to an audience base that now extends into the middle and upper classes. While early films before 1903 lasted ten to fifteen minutes and charged their audience a nickel to gather in a store-front nickelodeon, Griffith’s 1915 Birth of a Nation, as a cinematic epic, would run for over three hours, charge two dollars for admission, and with its elaborate orchestral presentations led the way to movie-palace exhibition.
Surely, at the very least, as both. The 1992 version of Howards End similarly needs to be considered not just as a version of E. M. Forster’s novel but also as a Merchant Ivory production and as an example of 1990s British ‘‘heritage cinema’’: the other texts one may have in mind in considering it are as likely to be, say, the film of Room with a View (also from Forster), Remains of the Day (1993), Carrington (1994) and Shakespeare in Love (1999), all films with some kind of literary/heritage connection.