Streetcar Named Desire
Different approaches can be used to compare a play to its film adaptation. The strategies used vary depending on the similarities or differences portrayed by the film and the play. It can be a case of one of them being better than the other, the two seeming different but actually alike or seeming alike but actually different. Any of these themes may be used to compare different aspects of the two works such as character, plot, style and other forms of literature. This essay uses a block comparison to compare the play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams with its 1951 movie adaptation. The theme is that the two works seem different but are actually alike.
One can agree to the statement that a movie based on a Tennessee Williams play is actually a Tennessee Williams film. It has indisputable evidence. The similarities brought out between the two works are evident in the fact that the playwright retains the spirit and plot of the original play even in the Streetcar case. In fact, the dramatist worked on the screenplay himself making his personality dominate even in the film adaptation. The film director Elia Kazan was actually dependent on Williams’ cooperation for the success of the film. The casting crew consisted of Marlon Brando who took the role of Stanley Kowalski. His opposite role was taken by Jessica Tandy (A Streetcar Named Desire – Play In Comparison With Movie). Most of the other original stage production members remained the same and repeated their roles in the movie. Therefore, Elia Kazan’s film version of the play used the same actors and characters from the same story.
The director doesn’t change the plot of the story except for the opening bit of the movie. For instance, he emphasizes on the meaning of death and desire when Blanche is shown taking different streetcars in the neighborhood of Stanley and Stella. The viewer gets an imagination of how Blanche struggles to adjust. Similarly, Blanche talks about streetcars in the play and this put the audience into imagining the situation. The setting hardly changes in the film. The movie closely follows the directions of its stage equivalent. Except for a few dialogue changes in Blanche’s role to emphasize his accent, it is similar to the play. The words used in the movie are identical to those used in the play. The eleven scenes of the play provide a perfect script for the screen as well, which makes the movie follow the plot of the play. The Kowalski apartment and its depressing narrowness are transferred to the screen. A remarkable trick is used, however. Kazan made the set smaller and as the story continues little flats are taken out to make the set get smaller and smaller. The scenery comes out similar to the one described in Streetcar’s stage directions (Banach and Bloom pp.115). Consequently, the plot remains unchanged and is used in the film in its entirety.
In the literary techniques used, the film leaves the audience visualizing the play. Though the movie is black and white, Kazan uses different lighting variations to bring out the style used in the play. For instance, in the part where a young man enters, Blanche cannot tell who it is due to the light from outside. The room is pitching dark, making the young man look like a large black shadow. This emphasizes her interest in the boy when she eventually realizes that he is actually a very young man. Suddenly, the boy steps into the light and Blanche stares at the visitor (S. pp.3). The movie does not show Blanche in the direct limelight so as to conceal her real looks and age from the audience. Similarly, it is difficult to imagine how she looks in the play as enough details are not provided about her.
Both works are in many ways similar. However, several aspects can be noticed to create a general difference between the two. For example, the movie brings out places that are described remotely in the play. The pier of a dance is a place not mentioned in the play. Here, Blanche narrates the death of her husband to Mitch. He actually committed suicide at a dance casino in the play. This location change upholds for the suicide of Blanche’s husband. However, location changes have minor interest since they do not bring out key parts of the play. There is a change in the cast where Jessica Tandy is replaced by Vivien Leigh. The success of Leigh in the movie is not different from that of Tandy on stage though, but her stardom is much bigger since movies reach out to a larger audience than plays.
The elimination of the homosexuality of Blanche’s husband and rape creates a difference too. Nevertheless, censorship on sexual matters in the 1950’s cannot be likened to that of today. Back then, the view of homosexuality was controversial and policies have changed since then. For this reason, Kazan had to be careful about handling explicit sections that addressed sexual matter and violence. In this light, the original play depicts Blanche telling Mitch the suicide of Allan Grey after a night out. She recalls finding him with another man in bed. In the movie, the words by Blanche are changed but the meaning is left essentially intact. Kazan used a different setting for this scene which left both him and Williams contented with the solution.
In conclusion, the play A Streetcar Named Desire is among the most staged plays in the last century. It influenced modern drama and film industry a great deal and marked the start of a successful career for its author as well as that of Marlon Brando. In fact, Hollywood adopted a new direction to subsequent movies regarding censorship. Numerous other stage plays that were adapted to movies, most of them by Williams, won blockbuster awards. The film techniques that were used by Kazan in the film adaptation entertained the audience even more. The plot hardly changes in the movie and the minor changes in the theme do not have much effect on the plot. Therefore, the audience cannot miss much by watching the movie rather than reading the play or watching its original stage performance at the theaters. This is a perfect case two works that seem different but are actually alike.