Seminar: Dr Laura Anderson, Maynooth University

Friday, February 24, 2017 - 12:00
Bewerunge Room, Logic House

'A Novel Adaptation: Jean-Pierre Melville's Les Enfants terribles (1950)'

Adaptations of literary works for the screen have always presented challenges to directors and invited critique from film critics and the public. Often absent from the source, the soundscape to a film adaptation can be powerful in reworking a novel cinematically. Jean- Pierre Melville directed Les Enfants Terribles in 1950, an adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s 1929 novel of the same name. The soundscape, which makes significant use of concertos by Bach and Vivaldi, plays a crucial role in this transformation, and the film is frequently cited as a model for New Wave filmmakers. Truffaut described how, ‘these two artists worked together like Bach and Vivaldi. Jean Cocteau’s best novel became Jean-Pierre Melville’s best film’, yet the collaboration was not always smooth.

Drawing on archival materials and published writings by Cocteau, this seminar considers the complexity of the interaction between him and Melville concerning music and explores how the music and its placement contribute to the adaptation. Indeed, layers of adaptation are shown to be at play in the soundscape: not only is Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins in B Minor op.3/10 heard in Bach’s arrangement for keyboards, but in a further adaptation, the arrangement is played on pianos. The score provides another facet of Cocteau’s personality similar to that of the authorial voice in the novel, especially in combination with his voice- over, and ensures that, sonically, the audience experiences Enfants as a work indelibly linked to Cocteau.