‘On the Road’: Writing as a Way of Life | Jesse Hassenger


☞ The difficulties of adapting a cinematic narrative from another medium can be seen in Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The difficulty faced here is not that the film veers too far away from the original narrative, which was inspired by non-fictional events — to the extent that one questions its truthfulness, as in the case of Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty — but that it stays too close to it. In this regard, some parts of the film suffer cinematically, or could even be seen, as argued in this review, as engaging in a losing competition with the language of Kerouac’s original narrative.

On the Road does not bind itself by rules of traditional cinematic narrative.

But it’s also shaped by the difficulties of adapting such a book for the screen. It includes many shots of Sal at a typewriter, much dialogue about being a writer, and even more voiceover narration taken directly from the book’s prose. Besides their clunkiness, these devices put the movie in direct competition with Kerouac’s words; even when Riley reads them nicely, it’s more a testament to their power than the film’s.”

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