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A Review on the 1985 Movie Adaptation of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller with Reference to the Theory of “naturalism” as Propagated by Konstantin Stanislavski.

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Autor:   •  January 5, 2017  •  Research Paper  •  1,118 Words (5 Pages)  •  237 Views

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A review on the 1985 movie adaptation of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller with reference to the theory of “Naturalism” as propagated by Konstantin Stanislavski.

Originally written during the post war boom of the early 1940’s, the Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller dramatizes the story of the Lomans; representatives of a bourgeois American family based in New York City. The lives of those documented seem to be profusely over-powered with emptiness, domestic sadness, frustration and disappointment thus making the 1985 film adaptation of the same a sour critique of the crass and hollow nature of the American Dream which is believed to have created ample space and opportunity for the erosion of humanity, since people as a result of such high ambitions and dreams became economic units overwhelmed by the sheer objective of profit generation rather than being living springs of goodness and humanity. “The man who never worked a day in his life but for your benefit and when does he get the medal for that?” My paper reviewing the 1985 movie adaptation of Miller’s narrative which earned 10 Emmy nominations at the 38th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony and 4 Golden Globe nominations; directed by Volker Schlöndorff, starring Dustin Hoffman, Kate Reid, John Malkovich, Stephen Lang and Charles Durning will thereby discuss how the afore mentioned thematic concern or rather in Stanislavski’s words the “super objective”, has been brought to justice by scrutinizing the movie with reference to the theory of “naturalism” as propagated by renowned Russian dramatist, Stanislavski.

Death of a Salesman directed by Schlöndorff maintains the very same sentiments of the play written by Miller. By remaining true to the play which contains repeated dialogues with minimal physical action, the movie also goes into showcasing a profound dependency on ordinary language and facial expressions while exhausting the power of everyday conversation to a great extent. As Mayerhold, another popular dramatist who opposed Stanislavski’s system quite clearly points out; it eradicates spontaneity while minimizing the space for imagination. This therefore upholds Stanislavski’s system of the representational style of performance as opposed to Mayerhold’s presentational style of acting. The extensive use of conversation as the main medium of negotiating among each other and the audience assists in showcasing a sense of disruption in conversation in addition to creating an atmosphere of brewing tension and impatience within the characters. This prominent feature allows the audience to draw a comparison to the turbulent atmosphere beyond the domestic which seems to have gripped very foundations of domestic sphere itself. Relationships between even members of the same family were strained and fatigued; an instance which highlights this notion is dramatized in the scene wherein Linda reprimands her sons for talking ill of their father. While both Biff and Happy thought they understood their father and his “madness”, they were shocked at the news of his attempts to suicide. “I didn’t know that mum, you never asked my dear.” Furthermore, the conversations also goes onto showing how family members could not afford to be honest with their plans and dreams for their future since the big American dream was clouding over their lives and future prospects. When Biff speaks of his liking to move away from a white collar job, Willy reproaches him by saying “even your grandfather was better than a carpenter”. Therefore we see how the simple conversations infused with facial expressions even though barricading spontaneity and imagination have created space to understand the realities of society better.

Stanislavsky also believes in actors being representatives of the actual, contemporary society which is far from fantasy and fairy tale settings. The entire movie is narrated within a clearly identifiable setting capturing a typical middle class atmosphere. The bleak and minimal set up further intensifies and prompts uninterrupted focus on conversation while grounding the story in reality. In addition, People during this era were abandoned in an ideal quite larger than life itself, ''I talk too much, I joke too much,'' Willy concedes, ''I'm very foolish to look at.'' The character of Willy encompasses “a bag of nervous tics and gestures” while shuffling “under the weight of the fabric suitcases he has been carrying


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