November 17, 2014

Charlie Kaufman / Donald Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman / Donald Kaufman

Why is this movie even called Adaptation? The word ‘adapt’ wasn’t even mentioned once in the movie.

If evolution is the key for the survival of the human race, then adaptation would be the key to survive the human life. Charlie said that he never believed that there were some golden rules that would lead you to success. If one’s life is only about fighting for A and B because one believes that A+B = Success then life would definitely be dull and boring. But that’s exactly the trap that Charlie fell into: he wanted to write something that is the antithesis of a Hollywood story –  a story without chase scenes, sex scenes or the main character learning some profound lessons. He believed that by targeting the niche market his movie would be a success. Even when he found it impossible to go on he refused to add a few chase sequences and spectacular ending into his movie. His failure to adapt is the reason of his own misery.

The orchid chaser, John, on the other hand, knew how to adapt. “I once feel deeply, you know, profoundly in love with tropical fish. Had 60 goddamn fish tanks in my house…. Then one day I say, “fuck fish”. I renounce fish. I vow never to set foot in that ocean again.” He have had a number of things that he felt crazy in love with over the years, but he managed to move on without any strings attached, and this made him a much happier guy compared to Charlie. The the movie didn’t offer any clues as on how he did it. Streep’s character, Susan, asked, “but why?“, “done with fish” he replied. But nevertheless the lessons I learnt from John is – being able to move on easily doesn’t mean you didn’t have the passion for the thing you once loved.

Another way to adapt is to understand the fact that we are only a tiny part of a huge system. John told us a story about insects and flowers which explained the idea, “we’re all one thing, Lieutenant. That’s what I’ve come to realize. Like cells in a body. ‘Cept we can’t see the body. The way fish can’t see the ocean. And so we envy each other. Hurt each other. Hate each other. How silly is that? A heart cell hating a lung cell.” When one sees the world through the lens of hatred and hostility, there is no room for adaptation for there can be no genuine conversation. It’s only when we are removed from our tinted lenses and realise we are all inextricably linked, that we will be able to share our stories with others and our legacies can live on.

The Brotherly chat towards the end revealed the golden rule of adaptation, “you are what you love, not what loves you. That’s what I decided a long time ago“. When we care too much about the external markers of success, what we can all do is to react, but not adapt. Knowing that subtle difference has been a eureka moment for me.