by Ellen Gillingham
The Orchid Thief is a novel by Susan Orlean about mutation. It focuses on John Laroche, an eccentric man of many “hobbyhorses.” A universal theme in the novel is the connection between transformation and mutation. This is present in Laroche’s amoral moral nature, the wetness and dryness of Florida, and the basic evolution of plants. Orlean’s novel is especially unique because of her startling, but definitive writing style, which adds to the creative non-fiction genre.
Adaptation is a film based on The Orchid Thief, but it also includes an additional plot line of a screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman. One main theme of the film is Hollywood convention. Some implausible scenes, such as when Charlie and Donald bond, while being hunted by Orlean and Laroche, have a satiric tone. This literary feature suggests how Hollywood blends with other forms of literature to make the film extraordinary, as a whole.
Adaptation is a compromise between an adaptation of The Orchid Thief and a reflection on the art of adaptation. It shows writing how film adaptations of literary works is challenging. Some would argue that The Orchid Thief like The Hours is an unadaptable book. Kaufman’s Adaptation is more of a joke about movie making than a reshaped marriage between narratives. The film does not communicate all of the author’s visions and reader’s interpretations of the visions.
This article reveals a unique point of view on the struggles and complications in adapting The Orchid Thief.
This article analyses the balance in the relationship between Charlie and Donald Kaufman.
This document by Peter Marks provides insights linking Charles Darwin to Charlie Kaufman.
This critical source examines the main theme of Adaptation. Marks traces the ideas and theories of Darwin along with Kaufman’s references to them throughout the film. This source shows the importance of Charles Darwin’s character in the film. It is also important in understanding how adaptation as main theme is innovative and creatively ever-present in Adaptation.
Adaptation has two interlocking stories: the story of John Laroche, and his relationship with Susan Orlean; and the story of Charlie’s struggle to make the Laroche story work for the film adaptation. If you took out one of those stories, would the film still work? And which story would you remove?
Both John Laroche’s relationship with Susan Orlean; and Charlie’s struggle to make the Laroche story work for the film adaptation are stories in Adaptation, but they interlock. Taking out one of those stories would cause the film not to work as well. Charlie’s story relies on the story of Laroche. If this story were taken out, the viewer would not understand what Kaufman was struggling to capture. Laroche’s story similarly relies on Kaufman’s accompanying story in order to be intriguing. The viewer would find Laroche’s story hard to delve into without seeing Kaufman’s struggles to understand it. Laroche’s relationship with Susan Orlean for example, only becomes unique when Charlie is investigating them. The real emotion and action comes out when Charlie is caught spying on Orlean. Kaufman’s character is even more importantly, a means of communicating the inner thoughts of Laroche and Orlean. Without Charlie, the audience’s understanding of the characters and relationships would not match the in depth analysis that the audience receives when reading the novel. I would not remove either story, but if I had to, it would that of Charlie. However, I would need a new way of communicating Laroche and Orlean’s complex relationship and deep thoughts. By using the interlocking stories, Kaufman has made an intriguing film, whereas either single story as a film production would be incomplete.