Theater is arguably the first form of entertainment dating back to Ancient Greece and Ancient China. People love theater: they love to laugh, they love to cry, and they love to find themselves in heroes. Cinema has not deprived the theater of its attention (since theatrical plays are regarded as precursors of scripts) and has devoted quite a lot of work to this art form.
There are a myriad of play-based films, but there are also many films in which theater is the main theme. It will take forever to list them all, but here are 5 of the best theater movies.
Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu somehow came up with a crazy idea: to shoot a film as a stage performance in one big continuous shot. Everyone predicted the failure of his idea. Despite all this, Iñarritu directed the film and won the Academy Award for Best Director.
The plot of the film is based on a lone Hollywood actor who once became famous for starring in the popular superhero franchise Birdman. The actor decided to move away from the role, feeling that the world of cinema would not take him seriously if he continued. The film tells about the state of the actor and his skill, highlights the problems associated with choosing the right career, and the big dilemma between money and respect for their work.
Caesar Must Die (2012)
The Taviani brothers first came up with the idea to make a film about the inmates in the real Roman maximum security prison Rebibbia, who opened the theater when someone told them that he was moved to tears by Dante’s performance of Hell, which he saw there. It was directed by Fabio Cavalli, thanks to whom the Rebibbia theater became the respected institution it is today, attracting thousands of spectators.
These members of the Mafia and Camorra are so good at acting out male tragedy, also because the actions in which Brutus and other “men of honor” conspire against and kill their friend Caesar out of “duty” are not alien to them. It’s a fascinating story of a prison experience that can bring redemption as some of the criminals have changed their lives since they discovered the theater.
Director Istvan Szabo loves making films about theatrical art. The film tells the story of an actress in 1930s London who is at the crossroads of her life. She is faced with a number of existential questions, such as the question of her role in life and her purpose on stage. Annette Bening plays one of her best roles. Her acting is overly deliberate when necessary, and at the same time shows vulnerability, as in the scenes where she pleads with her young lover to stay with her. But is it worth doing when a man is determined to leave and choose between two women?
The adaptation of the novel “Theater” by Somerset Maugham recalls his expression that all actors have something of a child who loves to show himself. Russian theater director Nemirovich-Danchenko was even more critical: “Artists are children. But they are sons of bitches.” The main character of the work is an actress to the core. But she has enough wisdom and strength in the prevailing conditions (a cold husband, a son who does not believe in her, a rushing lover) to win on the stage and put an end to the future career of a young rival.
Anyone trying to make a new adaptation of something that has already been filmed must at some point be faced with inevitable comparisons to an earlier approach to the material. In the case of this film-version of the 1980 play, this is especially daunting, because its previous incarnation in 1983 received many nominations and awards.
The 2015 work offers viewers the pleasure of seeing two actors Anthony Hopkis and Ian McKellen working together for the first time. Set during World War II, the focus is on the relationship between an aging actor (“Sir”) and his costume designer, who has dedicated his life to caring for all aspects of the actor’s life. Sir himself is bad because of the “demons of old age”: he constantly asks what play will be this evening. The film focuses on parallels between the actor playing Shakespeare’s Lear and his character with his anger and weak power over reality.
Exercises in Beauty (2011)
This is a Russian ironic comedy that “grew” out of theatrical production and won awards at the Kinotavr. According to the plot of the film, the theatrical group, having hastily rehearsed the production, embarks on a tour of Russia “in cities and towns.” The film shows the backstage life with all its details (“drink, love, hate”): rehearsals, force majeure, feasts, old grievances, flirting and relationships between members of the theatrical group.
The fact that the film is based on a play is reflected in its construction: these are several almost independent separate episodes, laconic and meaningful. Two lines are intertwined on the screen: the backstage, where the actors find themselves in everyday life, and the stage, where they live the lives of their heroes. The film is devoid of “black humor”, bad taste and anti-aesthetics. “Learning the beautiful and constant exercises in the beautiful inevitably raise a person,” the film asserts, following Goethe.