Decomposing the Stereotypes: East-West Dichotomy in the Film Adaptations of W. S. Maugham’s the Painted Veil


William Somerset Maugham’s classical novel The Painted Veil (1925), in which a marital crisis is set against a cholera epidemic in China in the 1920s, and its three Hollywood adaptations (1934, 1957, 2006) feature a confrontation between the East and the West through the interaction between the Westerners, allegedly bringing progressive methods in dealing with the epidemic, and the local population. The ensuing tensions and contradictions are represented depending on the historical and political contexts of film production, predominant ideological trends and evolving attitudes towards ‘the white man’s burden’ myth. As an expansion of previous research (Stanova & Peeters, 2021), the present work explores the visual aspects of power relationships between the representatives of the Occident and the Orient in the adaptations of The Painted Veil. The three film adaptations created in different historical periods reflect the attitudes, stereotypes and beliefs dominating Western society at the time of filming. The analysis of mise-en-scène, blocking and camera angles provides insights into the stereotypical representations of the characters’ positions of power and a gradual restructuring of power dynamics in the most recent film adaptation. I argue that individual confrontations as presented in the film adaptations are expandable to a more general opposition between two different cultures and worldviews.

Author Information
Irina Stanova, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Paper Information
Conference: BAMC2022
Stream: Film Studies

This paper is part of the BAMC2022 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Stanova I. (2022) Decomposing the Stereotypes: East-West Dichotomy in the Film Adaptations of W. S. Maugham’s the Painted Veil ISSN: 2435-9475 – The Barcelona Conference on Arts, Media & Culture 2022: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon