Death and the Maiden, written by Ariel
Dorfman explores the use of power and the repercussions of abuse in this gripping play. In reading the play, and then seeing the play, you will note the differences between one medium and another. Both plays and films utilize space and persons to put forward the plot and characterizations. The set in a play is a facsimile of a location while in a film, the actual location can be presented. In both, actors interpret the work to bring it to life. Films do not have the same sort of immediacy as the theater, and the theater is never able to completely an absolutely duplicate its performances because the audience and the theater itself is always being modified. Because something is on film, it can be fairly exact every time it is shown. Nevertheless, audiences for films do change too. Everyone of us is sure to remember if we have seen a film or television show repeated that the people we are seeing it with can react differently than the audience we were with the first time we saw it. In that way, films have similar problems because audience do not always react the same way.
Read Death and the Maiden first. Take note of the stage directions and the arrangement of the set. All the action takes place primarily within the first set that we see. There is a terrace in view, a bedroom door, a sideboard. As much as you can, picture that set in your head. Also picture the characters. Even though the actors are pictured on the front cover, as much as you can try to see Gerardo and Paulina as clearly as you can. Imagine their home, its comfort and feel. If you can read to the end of the play. Then get the movie. It should be available at any video rental store or the library. It is a well-known film. Watch the film and even follow some of it in the book to get a feel for what is left out. In film pictures are considered more important than words. In the theater, we do not have the option of getting a close-up of an actor or actress, so there have to be more sweeping gestures and obvious action that will take our attention to where we want it to go. On the other hand, we are a captive audience in the theater. We can?t stop the production to make a sandwich or go to the bathroom.
Once you have followed this process, write down some of the things you notice in either format. What is left out of the film? What comes across more dramatically in our minds than on the silver screen.
In a paper indicate the significance of this story. Like Wiesel, Paulina has had some devastating experiences. She is remarkably normal despite these events in her past. However, the appearance of Roberto at this particular time in her and Gerardo?s lives may have triggered a kind of delayed stress syndrome, or, if we believe her, she is coming face to face with her tormentor. Make a case from the text for Paulina?s actions?either for or against her certainty that Roberto is the man she believes he is. While the text is ambivalent, does the author of the story seem to indicate one way or another more likely? Is it possible that depending how Paulina is interpreted by the actor, we may be content with one view or another? In what way does the dramatic movement of the play suggest the validity or lack of validity concerning Paulina?s accusation? If she is correct, what does the play mean to say? If she is not correct, what do we make of this event she has constructed. Discuss your ideas based upon the characterizations, the camera angles or set design, the pacing of the play, and the significance of the ending. In other words, as I have said before, use the text to back up your opinion.
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Dorfman, Ariel. Death and the Maiden. Play.
Duke University. Ariel Dorfman. 06 March 2004.
Death and the Maiden. January 1995. Director: Roman Polanski. Starring: Sigourney Weaver,
Ben Kingsley, and Stuart Wilson. Producers: Thom Mount and Josh Kramer.
Screenplay: Rafael Yglesias and Ariel Dorfman based on the play by Ariel Dorfman.