The Weight of Smoke: The Structure of the Adaptation of “Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story”

Topics: Photography, Blue in the Face, Storytelling Pages: 3 (1260 words) Published: August 25, 2014
Using the theme of storytelling, Wayne Wang and Paul Auster’s film Smoke (1995) expands on the structure and ideas presented in Paul Auster’s short fiction “Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story.” In an interview after the film was completed, Auster states that with written fiction, the reader is always creating the images of the story in his or her mind. It is with this concept in mind that Auster and Wang structure their film around the theme of storytelling. With a sense of seamlessness achieved through the interconnectedness of the stories presented, the filmmakers focus on the storytellers on the screen, using them as imaginary image creators instead of dehumanized narrating voices. After a screening of the film in its entirety, including the seminal credit sequence, a question arises concerning the choice by the filmmakers to leave out the black and white footage of the filmic visualization of the Christmas Story (which they obviously possess) in favor of one long slow zoom in on Harvey Keitel as Auggie. Many presumptions can be made about why Auster and Wang made this decision, but one of the more reasonable only presents itself after a closer examination of the only sequence in the film that doesn’t fit into the storyteller-centered structure of the rest of the film – the sequence concerning Auggie’s photographs. In this sequence, Auggie relays to Paul the story of his life’s work as a photographer of his street corner in Brooklyn, and more importantly of his life’s work of capturing life (it’s changes and nuances) over time. Auggie advises Paul of the importance of slowing down, taking a look around, and not forsaking the days as they pass by so quickly. This is important wisdom in a general sense, but particularly for Paul, as he seems to have forgotten this after the tragic death of his wife and unborn child. While Auggie is speaking, his photographs “slideshow” across the screen exemplifying Auggie’s thoughts about the significance of capturing...
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