restricted access "The Illumination [That] Was All for the Mind:" The BBC Video Adaptation of The Golden Bowl
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"The Illumination [That] Was All for the Mind:" The BBC Video Adaptation of The Golden Bowl by Anthony J. MazzelIa, The William Paterson College of New Jersey James has been adapted to, or inspired works in, nearly all of the other art forms, never perhaps with so much sensitive attention paid to the special nature of the original and of the adaptive medium as in the case of the six-part BBC video production of The Golden Bowl, written by Jack Pulman, directed by James CeI Ian Jones, and produced by Martin Lisemore. First telecast ¡n England starting on May 4, 1972, it was shown here on Masterpiece Theatre a year later and was given an encore presentation in 1981. The challenge offered by the late James to film-makers, composers, screenwriters, actors, adapters of all persuasions is so formidable as to seem prohibitive. James's characters, really, are possible as he conceived them only ¡n literature because the scenes, settings, loci in general that he provides for them would never serve in other media as permitting the thoughts he gives them. Witness the opening chapter of The Golden Bowl, where the Prince Is thinking for some ten pages as he wanders along Bond Street in London, gazing at the shop windows (or Chapter 27, where he is strolling on the terrace at Matcham. ) 2 The amble is not important; the thoughts are. And they are best visible only in print. Moreover, a thought may be lightning fast (and hence over quickly) and demonstrable in film or video ¡n action, but not with the discriminations James affords. And yet it is in the nature of his discriminations that James offers a key to the problem of journeying from the literary medium to another without suffering the embarrassment of a tumble: in the second chapter of the Book of the Princess (Ch. 26), Maggie has been waiting for the Prince at Portland Place. He had guessed that she was there with an idea, there in fact by reason of her idea ... (Yetl She gave up, let her idea go, let everything go; her one consciousness was that he was taking her again into his arms. It was not till afterwards that she discriminated as to this; felt how the act operated with him instead of the words he hadn't uttered—operated, in his view, as probably better than any words, as always better, in fact, at any time, than anything, (pp. 318-19). If the act operates better than any words, so much the better for video, a visual medium. But ¡f the discrimination that accounts for the absence of words needs words for expression, a visual medium appears verboten. Not ¡f, however, we were to combine the two. Have both the action and the discrimination and you may just have Henry James. The stroke of brilliance ¡n Jack Pulman's script ¡s that he has done just that. He has amplified the role of Colonel Bob Assingham until Assingham becomes, not a Henry James surrogate, but the medium for the discrimination that permits words and actions simultaneously or not, by the same or different centers of visible consciousness, before, during, or after the visi ble act. But there ¡s a price: a visual medium—or Its entrenched conventions—rarely tolerates its abdication to the primacy of words. 1. Professor Mazzella's selected Henry James "Artsography" will be published in Volume III of the Henry James Review [ed i tor's note]. 2. The Prince thinks for ten pages ¡n the Penguin paperback edition (Baltimore: 1966). All page references, which appear parenthetically in my text, are from this readily available edition. This text, taken from the first English edition, divides the novel into two Books, each of which is subdivided into three Parts; in the New York Edition (in potentially befuddling contrast), the novel is divided into two Volumes, and the three major subdivisions of each are ca11ed Books, not Parts. 213 As Pulman himself has written, "it's quite the hardest thing I've done. But it's stretched me in making use of the resources more than one would otherwise have done. My one reservation is in the...