The success of the novel and the movie Memoirs of a Geisha
- The ingredients of success
- From paper to screen: Memoirs of a Geisha, the movie
When it was first published in 1997, the novel “Memoirs of a Geisha” written by Arthur Golden has already met a huge success: it ranked during a whole year in the New York Times top 10 best-sellers list. In 2005, the big screen adaptation of the book, produced by Steven Spielberg, also had a huge success through the world, making the universe of Geisha and history of Japan more accessible to the western audience. Both the novel and the movie literally fascinated the westerners, so the point here is to try to find out the reasons of such a success.
Also, one has to observe that both the movie and the novel have western authors: it was by the westerners, and for the westerners. Shall we then say that the principal reason why we take interest to the story of Geisha Sayuri is that her story was “adapted” to our expectations In other words, we are shown exactly what we wanted to see, a romanced world of Asian beauty and mystery, which might not stick that much to historic reality As far as the movie is concerned, what is sure is that many elements from the book were modified, which proves that once again the world of Geisha that we enjoy will never be exactly faithful to reality.
[...] Sayuri's dance show A very central element of the novel was changed in the movie: the color of the protagonist's eyes. In the novel they are supposed to be gray, if someone had poked a hole in [her] eyes and all the ink had drained out”. In the movie, however, the actress wears light blue contacts. One can question why take liberties for such a central element of the story. Blue eyes refer to Westerners, of course, and is impossible for a pure Japanese. [...]
[...] However, it is difficult to recreate the magic of a novel of hundreds of pages into a movie, and although many Japanese were quite critical, the movie was a tribute to this enchanting aspect of their history. If the novel stuck to reality but with a western plot, the super production is even more meant to be for a western audience in the first time. Several elements from the novel and from the real world of Geisha, too - were changed for the purpose of the movie. [...]
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