Borges And Bertolucci There are a number of differences between Bernardo Bertolucci’s movie The Spider Stratagem and the story on which it is based, Jorge Louis Borges’ The Theme of The Traitor and The Hero; however, overall Bertolucci does a pretty accurate portrayal of the essence, at least, of Borges’ story. Besides changing the setting of the plot, there is also much more information relayed in the movie. This is very much due to that the story is simply a suggestive piece, while the movie had to fill in all of the blanks. In the movie, Bertolucci had to add characters, motivations, and many vast details that are left out of the story. To begin with, Borges is very vague in his ideas on the semantics of his story.
He begins filling in the details somewhat with the story taking place in Ireland. But Borges himself says that this is simply, (for narrative convenience). (Borges 72) Borges then expands on his idea within an Irish backdrop Bertolucci keeps the story intact, and simply transplants it to Italy in the twentieth century. The names are all changed; but that is because Borges chose Irish names which would not work in the new setting. The entirety of Borges’ story is written in vague possibilities of ideas. He uses for example a number of times throughout the story and only offers these examples to give the reader an idea not the actual plot. It is more the plot than the setting which concerns Borges and Bertolucci does exact Borges’ plot with his movie. At the beginning of the story, Borges says that our narrator is writing an autobiography of his great-grandfather, the hero.
However, in the movie, Bertolucci’s narrator is summoned to his father (not great-grandfather)’s hometown by his father’s ex-mistress. (Borges does not mention an ex-mistress.) He has no interest in knowing about his father. It is only in concern of the health of this ex-mistress that he actually chooses to stay. (She has a propensity for fainting on cue.) It is for her that he actually undertakes the pursuit of the truth of who the traitor was that caused the death of his father, as opposed to in Borges’ story where the narrator undertakes the truth for the purposes of his biography. Bertolucci had to take some artistic licenses with character motivations in order to make the movie’s pace keep going. Bertolucci also had to fill in the roles of the other conspirators because Borges does not discuss these individuals (other than the one charged with finding out who the traitor was). Bertolucci chooses three simpletons who were basically just sheep that his hero directed.
In Borges’ story, the conspirator who discovered that the hero was the traitor is the one who suggests the elaborate scheme to make a martyr of the traitor. But Bertolucci chooses to allow the traitor himself to suggest this conspiracy. This is an interesting and slightly more dramatic choice. Bertolucci kept many of Borges’ ideas on the execution of the assassination and the literary ironies that the characters employ. However, he had to explain exactly the method in which the martyr was shot. The shooting takes place in a theater so Bertolucci came up with the idea that the shooter should be on stage. Bertolucci employs one of the simpletons(a singer) to shoot the martyr from stage so as to preserve the mystery of who the shooter could have been. The police could not solve the case, and, as planned, all of the people(including the ex-mistress) believe it to have been a government person.
There is a vast difference for the audience in getting the story from the movie or from the book. The story deals more with the semantics of the literary devises that play into the plot. Borges is focused on the irony and the conceptual paradoxes involved, rather than the exact feelings of the characters involved in making this incredible plot come to life. In watching the movie, the audience gets a much better sense of the tangibility of the characters and situation. Overall, Bertolucci does a great job of exacting Borges’ plot in the medium of cinema.
The artistic licenses that Bertolucci took did not in any way shape or form affect the atmosphere or theme of the story. It is all there for the audience to pick up just maybe not quite as succinct as Borges’ story. If Borges had actually taken the time to turn this idea into a full-fledged book it would quite possibly have turned out very different from this. However, given the story that Borges did write, it is not even debatable whether or not this movie does justice to his story. It does.