Introduction to Romance Language Cinema: Film Adaptation

“Film is a form of writing that borrows from other forms of writing.”

The history of cinema entails countless literary adaptations. This course will offer a study of films that have been adapted from literary works in French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. We will explore cinematic productions based on visuality, sound, and text/context. We will have the opportunity to survey contexts for the development of Western Cinema, and to examine the variety of Romance World Cinema in diverse contexts. We will study general techniques of adaptation and film analyses in relation to global and social issues, identity, class, and gender. Questions to be examined: How does adaptation change genre? How does adaptation influence filmic form and language? How does cinema engage with canonical and obscure literature? What remains and what changes across artistic media?

Credit will be granted for only one of RMST 234 or RMST 305.

Primary film selection to be examined: 

  • Federico Fellini – Nights of Cabiria (1957) – based on a short story by Fellini [1hr 49min]
  • Luis Buñuel – Belle de Jour (1967) – based on Joseph Kessel’s novel [1hr 41min]
  • Bernardo Bertolucci – The Conformist (1970) – based on Alberto Moravia’s novel [1hr 51min]
  • Jean-Jacques Annaud – The Name of the Rose (1986) – based on Umberto Eco’s novel [2hr 10min]
  • Stephen Frears – Dangerous Liaisons (1988) – based on Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ novel [1hr 59min]
  • Alfonso Arau – Like Water for Chocolate (1992) – based on Laura Esquivel’s novel [2hr 03min]
  • Bille August- The House of the Spirits (1993) – based on Isabel Allende’s novel [2hr 25min]
  • Guel Arraes – Lisbela and the Prisoner (2003) based on a play by Osman Lins [1hr 46min]
  • Walter Salles – The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) based on the travel diaries of Ernesto Che Guevara [2hr 06min]
  • Juan José Campanella – The Secret in their Eyes (2009) based on a novel by Eduardo Sacheri [2hr 09min]


  • Short passages from original texts will be available in English on Canvas.
  • Selected theoretical texts will be available on Canvas.
  • Films will be available streaming through Koerner Library. All foreign language films will be available with English subtitles.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Language of instruction: English