Erich von Stroheim’s dramatic silent film, Greed, was a very interesting visual representation of Frank Norris’ McTeague. The exaggerated facial expressions and gestures added more emotion to the film, but detracted from any realistic qualities of people in general. More than anything, I believe the music was a great contribution to the various themes and movements of the plot. If feelings were sounds, I would say the soundtrack to Greed hit it spot on.
The importance of gold in the novel was not reduced by the film; placing handcrafted tints of color on every gold object was an intriguing method to capture its significance. Norris is using gold to portray the corrupting influence it has on human nature, and I was glad that this symbolism was not abandoned in the movie.
Still, from the clip of the shorter version of the film we watched in class today, I believe that the novel is a superior production of the story. The type of acting necessary to accomplish the same emotions that were conveyed in McTeague made the entire film a little unrealistic. However, I also have to understand my own bias, since I have experienced life from a much different cultural and historical vantage point. This may detract from my ability to fully appreciate the silent film for its true quality. After seeing Avatar in 3D, this kind of movie just doesn’t quite measure up.
Cutting down the film to only about a quarter of the original is disappointing. It is rare to find a director that is eager and willing to produce a movie so close to the storyline of the novel. Although I’m sure none of the major events were eliminated, important secondary characters were probably lost, as well as interesting details that may have provided more insight and depth into the study of human flaws.