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By Mary Donaldson-Evans

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Extra info for Madame Bovary at the Movies: Adaptation, Ideology, Context (Faux Titre)

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A film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, directed by Raymond Bernard and released just one month after Madame Bovary, was a stunning success. In fact, the shortened version of Renoir’s adaptation was simply too disconnected for its audience to follow, and while it is true, as Sesonske contends, that “our familiarity with the novel bridges the gaps in continuity” (146), one cannot assume, and one could not assume even in 1934, that most of the 3 Andrew and Ungar point out that doubt remains even today as to whether Stavisky had killed himself or had been murdered by the police, who feared that he would reveal compromising activities on the part of government officials (16).

The film medium’s need—or ability, depending upon one’s perspective—to make concrete what is left abstract in a novel is known as “concretization” and it is one of the filmmaker’s most difficult tasks. Notwithstanding the much-lauded photographic accuracy of Madame Bovary’s descriptions, there are numerous blanks that must be filled in by the film director, the episode of the clubfoot operation being a case in point. Here, Flaubert is uncharacteristically parsimonious with details (Donaldson-Evans, “A Medium of Exchange” 23).

In the film’s very next scene, his submission to his mother’s will is represented, again through dialogue: “Charles m’a épousée parce qu’il m’aimait,” [Charles married me because he loved me] says Héloïse to Madame Bovary senior during the course of an argument; “Il vous a épousée parce que je le lui ai dit,” [He married you because I told him to] replies his mother. Charles’s lack of independence will also be reinforced by his helpless appeals to his mother. The childishness of his repeated cry (“Maman!

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