When Is It Plagiarism, When Is It Homage?
It’s a question that vexed me recently in these columns when we talked about the new TV series ‘Penny Dreadful’ and the very similar books of Kim Newman which long-preceded the series. All artists learn from one another and develop new strands out of the art they admire, others see a commercial main chance to use out-of-copyright material, but this piece of music struck me forcefully when I heard it. Here’s Krzysztof Komeda’s famous score for ‘Rosemary’s Baby’…
And here’s Alexander Desplat’s score for ‘La Fille Du Puisatier’ which he wrote recently.
Of course Danny Elfman did exactly the same thing with his Nino Rota score homage for ‘Pee Wee’s Big Adventure’, and there are countless other examples, so what does it take to turn a loving homage into an act of thievery? I’ve been quite noticeably copied a few times in the past, but have always adopted a sanguine attitude to such things, generally treating them as marks of respect. And I most certainly homaged Edmund Crispin’s ‘The Moving Toyshop’ in ‘The Victoria Vanishes’, as I’ve always openly stated. Even though the story itself is vastly different, I don’t feel that mine could have been written without my love of Crispin’s book.
If we follow Christopher Booker’s ‘The Seven Basic Plots’, all we can do is change tone and character before repeating the past. And perhaps, inevitably, as we age, everything reminds us of something else.