In his essay Throwing Away the Walking Stick of Drama, Bai Jingsheng discusses the past and the future of filmmaking from the perspective of its relation with drama. Jingsheng argues that although film relied on drama in the early years of its existence in order to evolve into an independent art form, film and drama are now essentially different, and thus we should regard it as a completely separate form of art, and seize turning to drama as an additional film making resource. The author further discusses the differences in characteristics of film and drama to conclude that we should “throw away the walking stick of drama” as only then the film industry will be able to truly progress and develop.
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Although the author believes that the ties between film and drama have completely been lost, in reality, film and drama still retain a lot of common features, and since film not only relied on drama but also originated from drama, these ties are unlikely to ever disappear.
First, the author argues that drama and film have a different understanding of conflict, and in its nature film is closer to the novel in terms of conflict progression and the time that can be used for its development. Although the author insists that the nature of conflict is completely different, it can be said that film and drama conflict have more similarities than differences.
Just like drama, a film cannot exist without a certain type of conflict, sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit, and in both forms of art, the progress of the action is stimulated through this conflict. As they are different forms of art, of course, drama and film use different techniques and tools to depict the conflict and choose the time range in which it will be developing.
Then, there are limitations in drama imposed by the boundaries of the stage, and so the notion of time and space would be different for drama and film, too. It is true, that drama is more limited in terms of the time of conflict development, but in terms of stage, drama can be as diverse as film, and in film every set of decorations for various parts of the movie basically each represent a stage. The main difference between film and drama here is the scale to which film can utilize various ideas and resources.
Finally, dialogue in drama and film play very different roles: the author argues that in drama, the dialogue plays the pivotal role, while in film dialogues can be just supplementary to visual images or other sound effects. Indeed, the film does not necessarily employ particularly strong dialogues, and at the beginning of the film industry, films had no dialogues at all, so the filmmakers had to concentrate on alternative means of achieving the same effect.
Although historically, the drama uses dialogue as the main means of conflict development, the contemporary drama not necessarily concentrates on it as a single expressive means. Some of the contemporary drama does not employ any dialogues, and in some, it is, like in the film, supplemented by music or other special effects.
Thus, although film and drama have evolved into independent forms of art, they originated from the same root, and thus have a lot in common. This connection between film and drama cannot be broken just because someone would want it to be so. Their nature is more complex and intertwined than a human mind can grasp, and so “throwing away the walking stick of drama” would mean that the film will not be able to walk at all.