The essay analyzes Grant Gee’s and Stan Neumann’s transformations of W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz into the cinematic medium. In reproducing Sebald’s methods, both filmmakers undermine traditional filmmaking conventions. By translating and appropriating the stylistics of Sebald’s text, Gee’s work echoes polyvocality and renders the influences and psychological associations of Sebald’s text into externalized fragments that convey the interwoven processes of memory, perception, and spatialization. Neumann reproduces Austerlitz’s observations more faithfully but alters the sequencing of the textual events and incorporates different media into the film. Neumann’s invention of himself as a “character” further undermines the text’s claims to authenticity and, more broadly, the notion of a stable system of signifiers. This intervention of the persona of the translator-filmmaker emphasizes the agency of the translator. Both films are neither adaptations nor translations, but they appropriate elements of Sebald to trace the effects of his techniques.
Adaptation, Appropriation, Translation: Sebald on the Silver Screen
Isa Murdock-Hinrichs is a professor of practice in the English Department at Tulane University. She has published articles on Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Michael Haneke, G. W. Sebald, and the silent works of Fritz Lang and André Dupont. She is currently working on a monograph on early cinematic expressions and reconfigurations of the foreign.
Isa Murdock-Hinrichs; Adaptation, Appropriation, Translation: Sebald on the Silver Screen. boundary 2 1 August 2020; 47 (3): 133–163. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-8524455
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