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A look at the brechts theories of alternative cinema

Biography by Pericles Lewis The most influential playwright of the twentieth century, Bertolt Brecht was a conduit for the impact of German expressionism on later modern drama. The policeman who tries to arrest Baal summarizes his career as follows: In 1924, Brecht moved to Berlin, and soon thereafter began working with the communist director Erwin Piscator, who practiced a form of epic theater, in which he engaged contemporary social and political concerns.

  • Indeed, the source of Daffy Duck's angst reveals itself to be none of the agents of social domination in the real world, but merely Bugs Bunny — another fictive character, whose power is tautological in origin;
  • However, we need to rigorously investigate such an argument;
  • The signs of the contract appear throughout the texts; they may become familiar to us but precisely because they are signs, we have to learn them to be able to read or to view;
  • With such notions as the close-up as window to the soul, as the destructiveness of conscious artistic intervention, and film as the revelation of the spiritual life vie interieure of the world, Bazin becomes the target for many, if not most, newer theories which see film as a production of meaning, as a site of work in the viewer's consciousness.

Brecht developed his own theory of the epic theater on the basis of his work with Piscator. Whereas Henrik IbsenAugust Strindbergand Anton Chekhov revised the notions of plot and character drawn from Aristotle, Brecht claimed to be creating an entirely non-Aristotelian theater, which he called epic rather than dramatic. This project entailed a wholesale reconsideration of plot, character, and many other elements of the traditional theater.


The version of Aristotelian theater that Brecht was rejecting derived from the work of Goethe and Schiller, who saw epic and dramatic poetry as entirely distinct in type: Brecht became drawn to communism around 1926 and proclaimed himself a Marxist in 1928. Brecht set the opera in the criminal underworld of Victorian London; in it, he satirized the respectable bourgeoisie as no better than the gangster Macheath Mac the Knife.

Several are concerned with plot converted in the epic theater into narrative or storytelling, and transformed from linear and evolutionary to discontinuous, like the earlier expressionist drama. Instead of identifying with the characters on stage, Brecht wanted the spectator to maintain an intellectual distance from the action, to reason about it rather than just responding emotionally. The Greek word for actor is hypocrites, and there is a great deal of anxiety in modern drama about hypocrisy, the pretense to be someone other than who one really is.

He thought of the actor as at once portraying a part and observing it from outside, thus allowing the audience to observe the part critically. He achieves this by looking strangely at himself and his work.

  1. And a work of art which defeats formal expectations does not lead to protest against a culture that deals continually in the defeating of expectations.
  2. The spectator finds joy in comparing a worldview which he or she now realizes is a strangling one to a worldview of possibilities. Art, all art, bases itself not just on confirmation but also on contradiction.
  3. Second, they attack the impression which illusionist film seems to convey of a world which one can understand simply by viewing it.
  4. Actors address their dialogue directly to the audience, music is cued in the wrong places, jump cuts point up that someone was editing, there are random endings, and similar devices. In fact, we need to pay a more open attention to degrees of identification and pleasure.

As a result everything put forward by him has a touch of the amazing. Everyday things are thereby raised above the level of the obvious and automatic. Eliotthe recognition that one of the functions of modern art is to make the familiar appear strange. Brecht became particularly interested in Chinese and Japanese acting traditions, which were not mimetic or naturalistic like western acting.

  • This makes hollywood cinema amenable to being considered a trace alternative styles, 6 but film studies is could influence the look and sound of the films;
  • In their recent manifestation, debates on these issues have generally come to revolve around a single object of inquiry;
  • Working as a metaphor for Germany itself, the film employs many techniques which makes it impossible to have a normal emotional approach towards Leni;
  • Actors address their dialogue directly to the audience, music is cued in the wrong places, jump cuts point up that someone was editing, there are random endings, and similar devices;
  • In his book America in the Movies, Michael Wood even suggests that unreality can become formulaic.

Like Luigi Pirandello, he admired the use of masks as a means of calling attention to the artificiality of the stage. He defined each scene in terms of a dominant gesture, almost a tableau that would freeze action and allow it to be analyzed by the audience.

A look at the elements of brechts theories in films considered alternative cinema

Brecht used the term gestus to refer to the overall comportment of the actor on stage. He thus valued those aspects of the stage that the realist and naturalist tradition had attempted to eliminate.

  1. The literary counterpart of this was incarnated in the person of the German poet and writer Bertolt Brecht.
  2. However, we need to rigorously investigate such an argument. Of course, such self-criticism is not necessarily in itself political.
  3. Leavis declared that the privilege of being part of the great tradition belonged exclusively to Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James, and Joseph Conrad.

However, his theory of epic theater was a culmination of the experimental theater in the years immediately before and after the first world war. The movement away from stable character entailed an increasing psychological distance between the audience and the characters on stage; it broke with the illusion that characters in a play are real people and therefore defeated the earlier goal of identification between the audience members and the characters.

John Willett New York: Hill and Wang, 1964p.