Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thoughts on Greed and McTeague

So when we watched the movie today in class, I was kind of surprised. After all the talk of naturalism, and the criticisms of it, the concept still didn't appear to be all that bad. When critics claimed that McTeague only showed the gross sides of human nature, leaving out all that is good, I internally argued. But if the film Greed is an accurate portrayal of what Norris had in mind, then I'll side with the critics. Rather than being about the plot, the film seemed to me just to exaggerate the beastly aspects of the characters. In the book, I pictured McTeague as having at least some sort of emotion, some caring in him, even if he was dumb. Something in the text made him seem like an almost normal person, capable of these human emotions. In Greed, McTeague's personal attributes were almost nonexistent. From what I saw, the closest thing to emotion that this character had was when he was begging Trina to let him in. Maybe I'm being too harsh on the film, but it was hard to get past the exaggerations that may have been necessary due to not having characters speaking.

On a different note, I actually felt some sympathy for Trina in the movie, but none whatsoever in the novel. McTeague's biting and beating her didn't affect me while reading, but in the film when she showed McTeague her hand, I felt sorry for her. To be honest, this struck me as the part of the movie with the most humanity. The fact that Trina didn't let her husband in because of his past actions, and then him threatening her again, seemed like something that could happen.

The tinting of the gold and canaries was a weird effect. I understand that the gold was important to all of the characters in the novel, and the canary important to McTeague, but the act of coloring these things, while the rest of the movie is black and white seems to be a little over-the-top to me. The novel appeared to be focused mainly on people's responses to situations, and what happens when they're pushed too far. The emphasis on the gold and canaries in the movie seems to make the story about those things, rather than the people involved.

The whole thing just seemed strangely done to me, but I'm no expert in 1920's films. They went by a different set of rules, and had to exaggerate for effect, whereas today a few words would do the same. All the things I've criticized about the movie probably are the things that made it understandable to people who may have not read Norris's book. So I'll just leave it at that.

1 comment:

  1. I think you've hit the nail on the head with this, Matt: "All the things I've criticized about the movie probably are the things that made it understandable to people who may have not read Norris's book." The exaggeration and other devices would help with that interpretation.