The Contemporary French Theatre: The Flight from Naturalism

The Contemporary French Theatre: The Flight from Naturalism

The Contemporary French Theatre: The Flight from Naturalism

The Contemporary French Theatre: The Flight from Naturalism

Excerpt

Art is illusion and not imitation, creativeness or revelation through the fusing force of individual genius which is what it reveals, and not pure and simple representation. If the artist holds up any mirror to nature, it is the mirror of his own individual mind which, in its individuations, is as unlike other mirrors as his fingerprints are unlike those of other men. In fact, one should not talk of a mirror, but rather of a prism with an unknowable formula, which is used in an attempt to decompose the phenomenal and perceptual world into its essential components so that they may be apprehensible to man. A dramatic action is an illusion, a "game" played according to rules; it is a fable or a story which, when it blends true creativeness with a stage production which is faithful to it, is a more rewarding experience than any so-called surface or sectional realism. The only realism which has meaning is that of Rembrandt, Dante or Shakespeare, and of the few great artists who can suggest beyond the phenomenon-- whether it be a wrinkle, the crease of a dress or the emotional surface of words -- the perennial force which informs all these appearances. This kind of realism is not conveyed by perfect histrionic imitation of reality or by faithful reproduction of life's properties on the stage; it rests on truly imaginative creations and on productions conceived as architectural devices meant to-blend with the whole, and not as photographic imitations of reality or as set pieces of pictorial or architectural excellence.

The reality which we see on the stage is the reality of the author, actor and producer; it is not in fact reality, but a synthesis of creativeness which will be the starting point of the spectator's reality. A play is a means of illustrating a theme or an otherwise inapprehensible truth; its aim is to create, in the infinity of space and time, instants and figures which, if they are endowed with essential truth, lay claims to eternity. A good play has many . . .

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