House of Games represents David Mamet's directorial debut. He has directed the film of the screenplay he has written. But even directing the film was difficult because a lot of things had to be changed or adapted. David Mamet speaks of transforming "[his] storyboard into the storyboard" (viii). So it is interesting to read the original screenplay and view the film based on it, focusing on the potentialities and limitations of each art form. I will try to see how faithful to the screenplay the film is and how important the visual dimension is, how things are changed when we see the characters and the objects in the film. Finally I will try to show that sounds are used in a very clever way.
First we can see that the film follows the book very faithfully, for the simple reason that it is not any kind of book but a screenplay. Everything is explained with instructions for how it is to be acted and filmed. Thus we read, for example :
The book is turned over to show photo of Dr. Ford on the back cover.
Angle. The coffee cart, the young woman with the book in the background. Dr. Ford, taking a cup of coffee from the cart, moves toward the camera. The young woman hurries after her.
YOUNG WOMAN: Excuse-me . . . Excuse-me . . .
Ford stops, the young woman comes up to her.
YOUNG WOMAN: Are you Dr. Margaret Ford . . .?
This scene is exactly reproduced in the film. The actions, the words and the points of view are the same.
Thus the film is very faithful to the screenplay, still there are a number of small differences. Sometimes the dialogue is readapted for the film, or some sentences are added to it. One of those changes occurs when Margaret is with a woman patient in a hospital cell. When this woman begins to speak, some words are added to what she says. In the screenplay her repartee begins with: "...and he said that we all try to run from experience"(p.6) and in the movie, it begins with: "I saw the face of an animal." Even if in the book they speak of this animal later in the conversation, it is less important than in the film, which cuts into the conversation right at the moment when the patient speaks of the animal in her dream. Later when Margaret is speaking with her friend Maria, she does her first Freudian slip by saying "pressures" instead of "pleasures". Maria explains to her what she has just done with these words: "No, what you said was "pressures", you see? And this is what I'm telling you. [*] Your book is a best seller, your income jumps up, people look at you differently, perhaps. This is confusing". In the film, however, a sentence is added...