FOR DEPARTMENT of Humanities chair Dr. Joyce Arriola, her romance with “postmodern filming” has long been spent.

“I realized that when you are constantly working on a project, it assumes a personality so overwhelming that one day, you simply want to move on,” she said.

Arriola traversed the postmodern intersection of research, film, and literature in her lecture, (Re)Searching Filmic Texts: Film as Literature. Delivered last Jan. 24 at the Arts and Letters audiovisual room, the lecture was sponsored by Artlets and the UST Literary Society. During the talk, she presented her book, Postmodern Filming of Literature: Sources, Context, and Adaptation (UST Publishing House, 2006), which is based on her doctoral dissertation on postmodern adaptations, which she defines as a self-conscious appropriation of a literary source into a film or other dramatic forms without altering the spirit of the sources.

Owing to the lack of postmodern filmic texts in Philippine cinema, Arriola opted to use Hollywood films for her research. She said that her decision to explore foreign films than Filipino movies as a subject must not mean that she is being less patriotic.

“How could I study Philippine examples when local cinema to this day has not yet gone against the grain?” she said. “We use melodrama and realism that are not historically new but are mere amalgams of formulas that serve the aspiration of a small group of simple-minded businessmen who call themselves film producers.”

Arriola said that Jose Rizal is one of the Filipino historical figures who can be subjected to many interpretations. This potential is not being maximized as there have only been few legitimate productions in Philippine cinema with Rizal as their subject.

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Postmodern prototypes

Film selection posed a major problem for Arriola, considering that Hollywood has had a lot of literary adaptations ranging from George Melies’ A Trip to the Moon in 1903 to Ron Howard’s The Da Vinci Code in 2006. She narrowed her list down to medieval films, since Arriola believed that “the older and more canonical the text, the more is filming up becomes an opportunity for postmodernism.”

The Arthurian legend and the Holy Grail are two of Hollywood’s favorite templates because of their permeability.

“You can make them turn into stories of post-crusade, of a paean to an age, the founding of a kingdom, a religious or secular quest, tales of good and evil, or simply as an entertaining retelling of the path of a hero,” she said. This adaptation remains popular in the 21st century, as in the film The Da Vinci Code.

Also serving as prototypes for postmodern adaptations are plays by Shakespeare who she referred to as the “great adapter, revisionist, revivalist, and genre bender.”

Romantic comedy films, which sprouted in the 1950s and regained popularity in the 1990s, stemmed from Jane Austen’s novels, Arriola said. These romantic comedies put the problems faced by women in the Austenesque texts in a new light, like marrying before the age of 30 and tea parties in the late 18th century.

Although she has already moved on to writing new projects, Arriola is proud to say that she believes in everything that she writes.

“Belief is the founding principle of my work,” she said. “This book is a product of a tiny moment of spark in belief…When the belief becomes bigger than yourself, you find it so scary. When you have had enough of the belief, the terror, and the fear, you throw up and move on.”

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