Dark visions of America: David Mamet's adaptation of novels and plays for the screen
Alvarado, Sonya Yvette
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David Mamet emerged as a playwright during the turbulent seventies. He earned critical recognition for the unique yet harsh poetic language and pointed social criticism found in his plays. Since 1979 Mamet has actively pursued a career as a screenwriter. His repertoire includes both adaptations and original screenplays. Several critics have written about Mamet as a playwright, and one critic surveyed the general themes and motifs of his original screenplays as well as his adaptations. However, this dissertation is the first in-depth study of Mamet as a writer of screen adaptations. Four films have been chosen for this study that best represent how Mamet remains true to the theme of the original literary text while at the same time adding his signature to the work. Mamet's signature includes a strong criticism of how the individual is treated in America because of the culture s materialistic tendencies and the corrupting influence of American business ethics on all aspects of American life. These concerns parallel the concerns of many artists from the seventies who matured in the aftermath of Vietnam and the scandal of Watergate. Criticism of materialism and greed reverberate throughout Mamet's adaptations and reflect these events. The later adaptations also reflect a growing concem for the individual caught in the intensifying battie for the bottom line emerging out of the new corporate America of the eighties. The first two films examined are adaptations of novels by other writers. Mamet's first and second screenplays, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) and The Verdict (1982), clearly demonstrate Mamet's understanding of film language. These films incorporate Mamet's concerns about corruption of the individual in a society that values the dollar more than the soul and include his bleak vision of the future if this trend should continue. The second two films, Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) and American Buffalo (1996), are adaptations of Mamet's own plays. An exploration of the changes made to these plays when translated to the screen further demonstrates Mamet's understanding of the needs of film language and brings into sharp focus Mamet's dark vision of Americas capitalist system.