Remakes and the zeitgeist

Why do most remakes not work? Why were the recent versions of ‘The Italian Job’ and ‘Alfie’ flops? Will the new version of ‘The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3′ surpass the original?

Screenwriters hit the big time if their script is on the zeitgeist. The zeitgeist is the dominant cultural perspective. To be ‘on the zeitgeist’ is to mark the change in this perspective. Rock and Roll occurred when the increase in disposable income in children created the concept of ‘the teenager.’ Punk happened when idealistic people realised that the hippies weren’t going to change anything that mattered.

The cultural consensus shapes and is shaped by cultural artefacts: art, drama, music, writing and film. Films that are part of an old cultural consensus cannot rely on the same philosophical identification when remade for a new audience.

That means the ideas that will be the biggest hit in a couple of years time will be ones that predict the cultural consensus at that time. Luckily most new movements come from the same place. What is underground today will challenge the conservative mainstream of tomorrow. That means you might have to listen to new music, seek out new writing, indulge what you might consider superficial – the fashionable and the cool.

They don’t all sound the same!


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