Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Playback Tuesday: Sense and Sensibility

I find myself thoroughly enjoying reading screenplays. For some reason I am actually finding it easier to read them than plays. Why? One of my theories is that theatre is more performance oriented--how people act out a story. And with the exception of plays that are written in more of a literary style, like those of Eugene O'neil (i.e The Iceman Cometh), it has become vogue to leave out character directions. For instance...Jane stares modily into the distance. The current shift in theatre seems to revolve more around the actor. Some actors actually go through plays with such character directions and mark them out. It's this idea that part of an actors job derives from the constant adjustment to what is happening on stage, being "in the moment." The debate seems to be can an actor be in the moment when they feel as if they have to be angry on a certain line or is that part of an actors job--figuring out a way to be angry by the line. Actors usually have general ideas of how the play is supposed to progress and how they are supposed to feel, but what happens when each emotion is itemized line by line? Whatever the answer, if there even can be only one, as a reader it can be hard without such direction to understand why the story progresses how it does. I understand the power of the playwright in theatre, but it is amazing what actors bring to the table. In a screenplay, the story is foremost and everything visual is laid out. I know when I am in the exterior or interior, and with most, I even understand the camera angle. A close up on the face and why it is there. It is as if each character is there to progress the theme, the story. It is less about the protoganist Elinor Dashwod, and more about three sister and their mom struggling to cope with the harsh realities faced by women in England who have no rights to property or inheritance. With the screenplay I am taken to all sorts of locations and houses and fields that in theatre would be representations of location. Maybe that is it? Theatre is a representation of reality, whereas film attempt to create reality. I cannot say for sure. I can only say that Emma Thompson's screenplay is a definite balance between language, romance, comedy, and good ole drama. A fast and satisfying read.

1 comment:

  1. Random side comment: Plato was very skeptical of theatre and other art forms because he thought they were mimetic representations of reality (and he wanted the real thing). In fact he saw the real thing as some sort of heavenly concept and the world as a representation of that heaven- and theatre being a representation of a representation. He did however like some art (particularly Homer) who he thought could represent the heavenly sphere of ideal forms better than worldy reality because some artists like Homer were divinely inspired and thus could create something more "real" than the real world. If my history is right the Catholic Church maintained this skepticism of theatre until the reintroduction of aristotle through the scholastics who saw theatre as more of an active creation than a representation. When the church finally sided with aristotle (the dominicans) in an attempt to extend its own creative power it also welcomed arts in a big way. But in the reformation some groups (I'm thinking puritans) returned to the platonic skepticism of theatre, fiction, etc.

    I wonder if we, in our puritan heritage demand more realism in our movies than the italians or french?