A decade ago I enjoyed the French film Les Revenants (2004, translated as The Returned) at the French Film Festival or MIFF. The story is about people who arise from their graves years after their deaths, seemingly alive and well but exhibiting odd behaviour, and attempt to return to their lives, jobs, families and relationships amidst the horror and confusion their return causes.
A French tv adaptation, also called Les Revenants (2012), followed and the first season was screened in Australia on SBS (the second is forthcoming). The premise was similar but the memories of the returned are less stable and their origins less certain. It also introduced some other narrative elements that suggested the returns were part of a broader (super)natural phenomenon.
In 2013 an American author published a novel with the same premise called The Returned, and somehow this was considered an ‘original’ work. A tv series adaptation of the book, called Resurrection (2014), was made and cancelled after two seasons. A competing US network simultaneously did a crap remake of the French series (2015, called The Returned) that was cancelled after one season.
In 2015 The ABC screened a series called Glitch, with the same premise. It’s wildly implausible to think that its plot was an original idea yet, like the American novel and its tv adaptation, it makes no acknowledgement of its source of inspiration. Unlike the insular US and, to an extent, the UK (which has less foreign language shows broadcast on free to air tv than Australia), however, we are fortunate to have SBS and access to some of the original shows that are being remade for English language audiences.
Plagiarism is hard to prove and licencing fees for official adaptations can be considerable, so it makes practical and legal sense for series like Glitch to claim originality. But this practice (which is not unique to this example) does nothing for informed audiences, who feel cheated by the obfuscation and lack of transparency it represents.
Does the ABC seriously think that many of its viewers don’t also watch SBS and would not have seen Les Revenants, or would not be capable of making the comparison? Glitch is adequately entertaining, though it does the typical Australian thing of dumbing down the story. There’s less mystery than the French original, and everything is more obvious.
I’m underwhelmed by the adaptation compared to the original, and underwhelmed by Glitch on its own as a drama. It was nice to recognise Castlemaine as the main location without reading about it and the cast is good, but it’s hard to love a benign imitation of a far more complex and unsettling original.
I’m whinging now. The original The Bridge (SBS) was better than the remake (ABC), and I’m not even bothering with Humans (ABC), a remake of Real Humans (SBS). We may laugh at the endless inane remake failures of English language UK shows in the US (and I’ve not seen the US remake of Rake), but when a show crosses languages and cultures even more is lost in translation.
I don’t want different and difficult translated into my language and culture for easy consumption. I yearn for the obtuse otherness of the foreign original and am more thankful every day that we have SBS.