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Theatre… Once it was the expensive and longed-for entertainment. What about now? Theatre seems to be giving in to the new forms of entertainment like TV, internet, and, of course, cinema. The era of movies is another tribute to our desire for comfort and time-economy. You do not even have to go to the cinema anymore to watch a movie in 3D; you can easily buy it online or order a DVD delivery straight to your door. However, the motives underlying cinema-going and movie-watching are the same that led people to the theatre plays. These are desire to be entertained, craving for something new, search of new emotions and interesting pastime. And the similarities go even further, because some movies as well as the plays are based on our classics, others on new modern novels and plays, so the movie can be seen as a modern successor of the theatre. George Bernard Show was a big connoisseur of plays and theatre, seeing them not as a mere entertainment but also a source of instruction and delivering important messages to the public. Do modern movies fulfill this noble duty of their predecessor? What would Mr. Show say about modern movie?
Let’s start with the main point Mr. Show emphasized as an indispensible part of a good play – the presence of discussion. Instead of the classical exposition-situation- denouement composition, he admired Ibsen’s exposition-situation-discussion plays, which instead of providing you with a ready-made ending give you food for thought and make you follow the author’s message. All the action-packed stories with the exciting ending he calls “fables without morals” (Shaw). Then he carries on with stating that the only reason why such plays used to survive was the star-crammed cast. Does not it remind you of anything? Indeed, this is a perfect match to describe modern blockbusters with no other value but for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt starring there. These movies seized all the cinemas and that’s the mass product of modern civilization. There is no doubt Mr. Show would not have liked THESE movies. No excellent performance of the actors can conceal the lack of plot and any moral. Thus, Mr. Show would definitely not enjoy modern thrillers and action movies.
However, there are many other genres of modern cinematography. Let’s see if other types of movies are in compliance with Mr. Shaw’s taste. He admired Ibsen’s last scene, which substituted the proverbial happy ending, or even discussion throughout the play and not only at the end. Most of the modern comedies seem to be directed according to the same mould – a set of funny coincidences happening to the main characters, many ridiculous mishaps on the way to love and, finally, happy ending. THESE movies would hardly impress Mr. Show. He would call them merely “a commercial product” (Show).
Neither comedies, nor action movies passed Mr. Show’s test. However, is it possible that no piece of modern cinematography can satisfy his exquisite taste? No doubt, there is something to his taste as well, so let’s go further discovering his preferences.
Mr. Shaw’s vision of a play was the following:
The drama was born of old from the union of two desires: the desire to have a dance and the desire to hear a story. The dance became a rant: the story became a situation. (Shaw)
Unlike old-fashioned playwrights, he supported Ibsen in his love for ordinary and familiar situations instead of the improbable settings. Dramatic accidents do not spoil a good work, but they should serve the mission of influencing the audience instead of merely entertaining. Mr. Shaw’s own plays were often judged as having no action, only words. Instead of making the characters shooting each other with the guns, Ibsen made them aiming at the audience’s minds and souls with their words. That is what Mr. Shaw liked so much about Ibsen. Therefore, Mr. Shaw would be glad to see that modern cinematography offers a wide variety of dramas, tragedies, tragicomedies, non-populist comedies, movies based on true stories and many other wonderful species of cinema, which choose discussion and meditation instead of simplistic action. Maybe not many of them are huge box office hits, but it only shows that some people will always be faithful to mediocrity, entertainment and superficiality, whether it is a movie, theatre production or a book. And, of course, Mr. Shaw would be glad to see that many movies are still shot on the basis of the classics, his own plays being some of them. Mr. Shaw’s “Caesar and Cleopatra” was made into an excellent comedy just in 2009.
It seems that even such a fastidious critic as Mr. Shaw would find some spectacular species in the collection of modern cinematography.