Drama Films are serious presentations or stories with settings or life situations that portray realistic characters in conflict with either themselves, others, or forces of nature. A dramatic film shows us human beings at their best, their worst, and everything in-between. Each of the types of subject-matter themes have various kinds of dramatic plots. Dramatic films are probably the largest film genre because they include a broad spectrum of films. See also crime films, melodramas, epics (historical dramas), biopics (biographical), or romantic genres - just some of the other genres that have developed from the dramatic genre. Dramatic themes often include current issues, societal ills, and problems, concerns or injustices, such as racial prejudice, religious intolerance (such as anti-Semitism), drug addiction, poverty, political unrest, the corruption of power, alcoholism, class divisions, sexual inequality, mental illness, corrupt societal institutions, violence toward women or other explosive issues of the times. These films have successfully drawn attention to the issues by taking advantage of the topical interest of the subject. Although dramatic films have often dealt frankly and realistically with social problems, the tendency has been for Hollywood, especially during earlier times of censorship, to exonerate society and institutions and to blame problems on an individual, who more often than not, would be punished for his/her transgressions. Social Problem Dramas:
Social dramas or "message films" expressed powerful lessons, such as the harsh conditions of Southern prison systems in Hell's Highway (1932) and I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932), the plight of wandering groups of young boys on freight cars during the Depression in William Wellman's Wild Boys of the Road (1933), or the lawlessness of mob rule in Fritz Lang's Fury (1936), or the resourcefulness of lifer prisoner and bird expert Robert Stroud (Burt Lancaster) in John Frankenheimer's Birdman of Alcatraz (1961), or the tale of a framed, unjustly imprisoned journalist (James Cagney) in Each Dawn I Die (1939). In Yield to the Night (1956), Diana Dors relived her life and crime as she awaited her execution. A tough, uncompromising look at New York waterfront corruption was found in the classic American film, director Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront (1954) with Marlon Brando as a longshoreman who testified to the Waterfront Crimes Commission. The film drew criticism with the accusation that it appeared to justify Kazan's informant role before the HUAC. Problems of the poor and dispossessed have often been the themes of the great films, including The Good Earth (1937) with Chinese peasants facing famine, storms, and locusts, and John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (1940) about an indomitable, Depression-Era Okie family - the Joads - who survived a tragic journey from Oklahoma to California. Martin Scorsese's disturbing and violent Taxi Driver (1976) told of the despairing life of a lone New York taxi cab driver amidst nighttime urban sprawl. Issues and conflicts within a suburban family were showcased in director Sam Mendes' Best Picture-winning American Beauty (1999), as were problems with addiction in Steven Soderbergh's Traffic (2000). Films About Mental Illness:
Two films from different eras that dealt with the problems of the mentally ill and conditions in mental institutions were Anatole Litvak's The Snake Pit (1948) with tormented Olivia de Havilland's assistance from a psychiatrist, and Milos Forman's adaptation of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) with Jack Nicholson as a rebellious institutional patient who feigned insanity but ultimately was squashed by Nurse Ratched and the repressive system. Bette Davis played a neurotic and domineering woman in John Huston's In This Our Life (1942). Sam Wood's Kings Row (1942) examined the various fears and phobias in a small-town. Repressed and prohibited from consummating her love with...
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