Wednesday, 2 April 2014


Okay, I bought this mainly because I was so fascinated by the film and also frustrated by the film's confusing timeline that I thought the graphic novel might help with this and clarify my thoughts on the film. Which it did. If you haven't read my review of the film a couple of posts ago, please check it out first as this post is a postscript to it.

It's important that I show you the above two images because I'll be making a point about them later on. If I could have figured out how to include a clip from the film I would.

The graphic novel begins with Emma visiting the parents of Clementine (Adele in the film) after Clementine's death. The rest is a flashback with the only narrative coming in the form of extracts from Clementine's diary (often referred to in the film but never quoted from). Other than that (plot differences aside) the structure of both is similar. 

The graphic novel, however, is  focussed on the relationship between the two young women and is very much a work of lesbian fiction. It also provides a clearer timeline than the film, for which I was grateful, as it made it easier to understand a significant aspect of how the story developed in the film as stages were signified and the span of the story covers Clementine/Adele's life from 15 to 30. It's delicately done and I've no doubt that, as a graphic novel, it makes a substantial contribution to the genre of gay fiction,

But, and I'm not underestimating its importance to that, that's all it does. Kechiche's film, while substantially adhering to the GN's text, turns it into a transformative experience by broadening the substance of the text into something which transcends its genre roots. It is still a film about an enduring affair between two young women but it is so much more than.

The film is focussed on Clementine (now Adele) and her life beyond her problematic relationship with Emma. The demonstration she attends in the book is supporting a railway strike, in the film it is significantly a protest against cuts to education. Adele's sexuality is never really specifically defined as lesbian and she has sex with boys/men. Her inner life is explored as well as the inadequacy she feels when surrounded by Emma's arty friends and the significant contrast between her working class parents whom she keeps ignorant of her true relationship with Emma while Emma's parents happily accept her as their daughter's lover. 

There's been a lot of fuss over the explicit sex in the film but really, apart from the scissoring, it's not much different in terms of the amount shown in the book. The difference is, and I know this is obvious, the former consists of still images and realistic but still stylised drawn images on paper. In the film it is two real young women making love. The graphic novel consists of frozen moments, panels, in other words selected extracts of the act itself. The film depicts movement with one act flowing into another. In the graphic novel the reader accepts and appreciates the aesthetic style of what is shown. In the film there is no such distancing effect.

I'm making it obvious that, as a work of art and irrespective of format, I prefer the film. Would I have preferred it had I read the graphic novel first? I like to think not, though I can hardly make a definitive statement on that, as preconceptions always colour an opinion. I can certainly understand why a gay audience would prefer the book because it is aimed directly at depicting their experience whereas the film opens it out, transcending its origins so that it speaks more directly to a wider audience. But I still think that, as an adaptation, the director has done the author proud and many people will be guided to the source material as a result.

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