Sunday, August 3, 2008

Plays and Movies

A funny thing happened today that really reminded me how fundamentally different movies are from the theater.  I'm going to be acting in my friend Jim Plank's new movie (currently titled The Rehearsal) and we had a meeting today to discuss it.  Jim mentioned to me that if I came across a gold watch I should buy it because we need it for a prop.  I pointed out to him that it didn't really matter because I have silver and gold spray paint in the prop closet and I could just spray any watch to be what he wants.  He stopped for a while and then pointed out that the film was going to start with a close-up on the watch and that it would probably be pretty obvious if it had been spray-painted.

I think one of the things I really like about theater is the partiality of its artifice: as soon as you're backstage--even onstage--it's evident where all the secrets come from.  That book you're saying is the bible is really a math textbook from the '20s, those cigarettes have jelly in the center, and none of the windows open in the palace.  Film doesn't get away with that kind of thing.  There is a high premium on "realism" because, on one level, it really is necessary. 

I've been worrying about the contemporary relationship between film and theater for a while now, and I'll post the results as soon as there are any.  Until then, here's Jerzy Grotowski on the stakes of the debate: "In our age when all languages are confused as in the Tower of Babel, when all aesthetical genres intermingle, death threatens the theater as film and television encroach upon its domain.  This makes us examine the nature of theater, how it differs from the other art forms, and what it is that makes it irreplaceable." (From "The Theatre's New Testament" in Towards a Poor Theatre)

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