Live drama is an ancient art form with thousands of years of recorded history and ongoing cultural vitality. Cinema is a much newer art form, with a history dating back only to approximately 1895 but having a mass appeal that has pushed live theater into a secondary position in all but a handful of urban locations.
As art forms, theater and cinema have important likenesses and intriguing differences. First, both are primarily story-based art forms. Second, both live drama and cinema depend primarily on performers and performance to communicate the story to the audience. A stage play or a screenplay can be read like a novel, but only speaking, gesturing human actors can give the story its full, intended realization. Third, both drama and cinema share certain common supporting features. These include sets, props, costumes, and all the other elements that make up mise en scène; music and other sound effects; and a play script in which the primary thrust of the story is articulated through human speech or “dialogue.” Even in the silent era, films relied heavily on human speech that was understood through contextual intuition; a combination of gesture, facial expression, and lip reading; and inserts of printed, projected text.
Despite—or, perhaps, because of—these many likenesses, much has been written about the differences between the two media. For instance, in cinema circles, the terms “talky” and “stagey” are negative adjectives that imply the film has not liberated itself from its stage-bound origins. In the world of motion pictures, “cinematic” is the primary form of praise, implying that the film makes use of the advantages (camera angles, editing,...
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