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A Conflict at the Very Heart of the Identification

For his ‘building blocks for a theory of film’, Andre Bazin turns, remarkably enough, to a comparison between the stage and film. What does the theatre have that film doesn’t, and vice versa. Is it nevertheless still possible to film a stage play? Bazin writes: ‘The true solution, revealed at last, consists in realising that it is not a matter of transferring to the screen the dramatic element – an element interchangeable between one art and another – of a theatrical work, but inversely the theatrical quality of the drama.’ Thus, Bazin detaches the notion of theatricality from the theatre and puts it at the disposal of other media or genres. In this context ‘theatricality’ does not have its common associations of pathos or exaggeration but refers instead to the notion of ‘theatrical’ as a quality that is intrinsic to theatre. ‘Theatricality’, in this sense, arises in part from an awareness of the specific relationship between audience and actors which takes one form in a theatre and another in a cinema.