Before realism, theatre was bound up in melodramas, spectacle plays (disasters, etc. ), comic operas, and vaudevilles (acrobats, musicians, ect. ). Realism began in the late 1800s as a trial, in hope of making theatre more relevant to life and society. Today, many aspects of realism are still present in contemporary theatre practices. For majority of the 20th-century theatre, realism has been main stream. Due to a reaction against melodramas (romanticized plays) realism began as an experiment to make theatre beneficial in society which has eventually led to realism being the leading figure of theatre in the 20th century.
At the heart of all drama in realism there is the requirement to making acting believable. Actors have the responsibility of studying, analyzing and believing in their characters to create a convincing and believable performance. If the audience forgets they are sitting in the theatre while watching a play and completely focuses on the play before them, then the actors have successfully made the audience leave their disbelief, and are therefore performing a convincing and believable realistic play.
This concept of realism was largely influenced by the Russian actor and theatre director, Constantin Stanislavski. Born in Russia in 1863, Constantin Stanislavski drew a wide range of ideas that significantly influenced to realistic theatre practices. During Stanislavski’s younger years, theatre was moderately boring to society. Actors merely spoke to the audience and did not interact well with each other. Actors walked on stage and delivered their lines with no intensions and no effort to make their performances realistic.
Sets were basic and unchanging and the costumes consisted of whatever people could come across. Stanislavski believed that this was not an assertive approach to performing. Instead of acting without feeling he believed that actors should express the emotion that was meant to be portrayed and in doing so, feel the emotion themselves. In essence, he wanted the theatre to be realistic. Stanislavski worked towards improving actor’s ability to express emotion more than just using shallow acting techniques.
As Stanislavski’s life neared to a halt, he reflected back on his life and created his own ‘system’. The system involves analysing scripts by breaking them down into units, asking basic questions to draw a better understanding of a certain character and therefore making them more believable, drawing on life experiences to assist realistic acting and applying performance skills like collaborating in a group. Stanislavski’s system focused on the development of truth onstage by teaching actors to “live the part” while performing.
As history progressed realism slowly made its way into the creation of film. Realism has become one of the most competed terms in the history of cinema. Cinematic realism isn’t viewed as a genre or a movement more like an illusion. Realism has been an extremely useful concept for asking questions about the nature of cinematographic images, the relation of film to reality, the reliability of images, and the position cinema plays in the organization and understanding of the world. Realism, at the very least, has been a creative and useful illusion.
Realism has had a significant influence on film and this is seen through the resulting innovation of realism on stage theatre. Films are found realistic because people have learned certain kinds of responses, gestures and attitudes from them. When we see these gestures or feel these responses again in a film or television show, we feel as though they are some what real which leaves us drawn in belief to the film. In film history, realism has chosen two distinct modes of filmmaking and two approaches to the cinematographic image.
Cinematic realism refers to the quality of a film and how believable a character is portrayed in an event. This realism is most obvious in the many Hollywood classics. The second instance of cinematic realism takes as its starting point the camera’s mechanical creation of reality which normally ends up challenging the rules of Hollywood movie making. Constantin Stanislavski endeavored many years of efforts to determine how someone can control in performance the most intangible and uncontrollable aspects of human behavior, such as emotions and art inspiration.
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