February 19th, 2011

breaking bad

True Grit and the Quixote

Borges wrote a well-known short story called Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote.
(Menard) did not want to compose another Quixote —which is easy— but the Quixote itself. Needless to say, he never contemplated a mechanical transcription of the original; he did not propose to copy it. His admirable intention was to produce a few pages which would coincide—word for word and line for line—with those of Miguel de Cervantes.

The idea which Borges is conveying is that the words of Don Quixote, if written as an original novel by a 20th century man, would constitute a new book entirely. The same words have quite a different meaning and emotional tone to those written by Cervantes in the 17th century. For the 20th century writer depicts Quixote rejecting, as insufferably mundane, a distant and romantic era (while Cervantes, using the same words, merely described a man rejecting his present day).

It may be that Gus Van Sant had a similar purpose in mind when he remade Psycho shot-for-shot in 1998.

Similarly, the True Grit made by the Coen brothers in 2010 has a very different feel to a film depicting the same events made in 1969. I am not talking here about differences between the films, I am talking about how identical scenes have a very different significance because they are filmed in 2010, with all we know now that we didn't know then.
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