How do the film and text differ? Does the film director take liberties that improve or detract from the original text? You may want to continue a theme in the film that expands one from the book:
A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, is a play telling the story of the southern belle, Blanche Dubois, and her arrival to New Orleans. Set in her ideals, Blanche disrupts her sister Stella’s life with husband Stanley Kowalski, which ultimately leads to the rape of Blanch by Stanley. The classical story was then made into a film in 1951. Most of the plot in the play was followed throughout the film, however the two important dramatic turning points in the story was altered to fit the quintessential Hollywood ending. The changes in the film detract the essential humanistic quality from the play.
Similar to the play, Blanche maintains a façade of her life as an educated, southern beauty, mentally and physically in order for her to be able to sustain her sanity. She lives under a fantasy life to hide from the horrors of reality. The scene, which is censored in the film, tells the audience of how Blanche’s reality shatters after she discovers the sexuality of her husband. Blanche recounts that, “Afterward we pretended that nothing had been discovered” (Miller 115); however, it ultimately leads to his suicide. Homosexuality is censored from the film due to its controversial issues at the time. In order to aim for a bigger audience, the production sacrificed the artistic values of the play. Similar to directorial decision to have homosexuality censored from the play, Blanche pretends that nothing has happened after the death of her husband. This, however, is an essential turning point that begins the domino effect spiraling Blanche out of control. The emotional impact and understanding of Blanche’s character stems from this piece of information. Her need for control in her life explains the motif of reflections and appearance surrounding Blanche’s character, as it proves her existence and self worth.
Circularly, her promiscuity then evolves from this need to reassess her confidence in life with her beauty. The lost of Belle Reve and her husband’s sexuality completely destroys her world. The motif of music physically show Blanche zooming in and out of reality; this happens in the last moment before her husband suicides exposing her to the horrors of reality (Williams 115). The music from that night haunts her and frequently reoccurs when she begins to waver between reality and the illusion she concocts. Music also represents Blanche’s emotional state and the appearance of music becomes more frequent when Mitch and Stanley confront her lies and forces her to come to terms with reality. This thoroughly emphasizes the pressure on her psyche in the film.
After the confrontation, Blanche looks at herself in the mirror. The mirror that Blanche constantly views herself through represents her existence. The façade that she built begins to crack after the argument with Mitch of her promiscuity in the play (Williams 151). This shows and foreshadows to the audience the destruction of Blanche. In the film, the last shot leading to the rape completely shatters the mirror, which symbolizes the ruin of her world. This motif is brought over from the play to emphasize and draw upon the emotions for the rape. Moreover, in the film, the use of the mirror stretches from Blanche to Stanley.
This shot shows a reflection of Stanley overpowering Blanche through the broken mirror. His reflection in the mirror symbolizes the rape as he invades her existence. It also represents Stanley’s transformation into an animal, the one thing he despises as being type cast as due to his Polish heritage. Stanley lashes out at Blanche when she calls him a Pollack and says, “I am not a Pollack. People from Poland are Poles. They are not Pollacks. But what I am is one hundred percent American. I'm born and raised in the greatest country on this earth and I'm proud of it. And don't you ever call me a Pollack” (Williams 134). In this scene, Stanley reaches a breaking point and directly yells at Blanche, losing his composure. Besides building up to the climax of the play, this scene shows the audience how Blanche is unweaving Stanley’s world. He prides himself as being American and disassociates himself from the stereotype of his ethnic. From being the respected and adored husband to the “Pollack” brings forth the question of whether the life he shares with Stella is reality or an illusion. In order to stop Blanche from destroying his world he rapes her. The rape of Blanche shows his dominance, but more importantly it shows his true self through the mirror, acting like an animal. This stretched motif of reflection from the play to the film thoroughly expresses the connection between the two paradoxical characters.
Another major alteration in the play is the ending scene. Stella chooses to disbelieve Blanche was raped by Stanley, since she, “couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley”(Miller 165). She doesn’t refute the story but consciously decides whom to believe in order to ensure her own stability. Her decision to stay with Stanley signifies her choice to live in an illusion. Similar to Stanley, in order to maintain their illusions they must bring forth the horrors of their true self. With Blanche’s departure, “there is something luxurious in her complete surrender to crying now that her sister is gone” (Williams 179). Throughout the whole play her mediation between Blanche and Stanley is merely an act of survival. After Blanche is led away by the Doctor, Stella stays with Stanley and thus continues this cycle of denial in order to continue living in her illusion. Her life with Stanley is all Stella has left; it is the realistic and logical choice despite the truth of Stanley’s character. From the play to the film however this scene translates into one, which is more idealistic.
In the film, Stella leaves Stanley. This directly opposes the artistic decision of the author to have Stella stay with Stanley. This altered scene tells the audience that Stella knows and acknowledges the truth, choosing to face the reality of the situation. Leaving Stanley is an ideal decision and what the audience wishes to see. Stanley needs to have some sort of punishment for his actions. This ending destroys the very essence of the message the original text was making. The scene in which Stanley beats Stella is a good example of this cycle in which humans have an ability to delude themselves into believing what it is they want to believe, since Stella simply disregards the violence as an issue. Altering the final scene disrupted the ‘truth’ William’s tries to express in the play.
Tennessee Williams states that the purpose of his plays is to notify people of the “truth” in order to “sidestep the sort of corruption which [is the] allegorical theme of [his] plays as a whole” (Miller 183). Williams uses his play to bring forth the message of human imperfections. A Streetcar Named Desire is a play in which explores the themes of violence, sexuality, and power. The characters display humanistic qualities that draw forth a sense of realism that the audience relates to in order to understand the horrors of reality. The typical Hollywood ending in which separates everything into good and evil directly goes against the message of the play. The censored scenes in this play are detrimental to how the story unfolds. Even though the film does follow majority of the scenes in the play however it has lost the key element that brings life into the play.
Work Cited Page:
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. U.S.A.: New Directions Publishing, 1947. Print.