The Return of the Theatrical

András Bálint Kovács

in Screening Modernism

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print January 2008 | ISBN: 9780226451633
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226451664 | DOI:
The Return of the Theatrical

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The fight against the theatrical influence had been one of art filmmakers' oldest campaigns in their drive to achieve artistic independence. The “genuine film artist” considered theatricality in the cinema to be the antithesis of cinema's own aesthetic qualities. There were, however, two main reasons why theater could not be entirely eliminated from the cinema, and why postwar modernism had to face theatricality again. One obvious reason for the return of theatricality was the appearance of synchronic sound. Sound dialogues did not revolutionize narrative composition but instead modified the dramatic structure sufficiently so that rethinking the relationship between theater and modern cinema became necessary. Theatrical adaptations abounded in the 1940s and 1950s. Some very classical adaptations were created, such as the Shakespeare series played and directed by Laurence Olivier: Henri V (1946), Hamlet (1948), and Richard III (1955). But the series of classical adaptations was only the beginning of a real aesthetic convergence between theater, cinema, and literature taking place during the 1950s.

Keywords: theatricality; modernism; sound; dialogues; theatrical adaptations; literature; modern cinema; Laurence Olivier

Chapter.  2619 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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