Dramaturgical approach in cinema : elements of poetic dramaturgy in A. Tarkovsky's films

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Doctoral thesis (article-based) | Defence date: 2016-02-26
Degree programme
105 + app. 50
Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 16/2016
This thesis by publication examines dramaturgical screenwriting theories as operative methods for producing cinematic narratives, their regularities and evolving constructions. In spite of a wealth of studies and analyses on film and publications and guidebooks on how to write a screenplay, there are, nevertheless, few critical academic studies on dramaturgical techniques from the screenwriter’s perspective. Thus authorship serves as the basic premise for this study and generates the theoretical framework for the research, which is defined as practice-led research. The thesis introduces the dramaturgical approach in film, which is employed as a framework for a dramaturgical analysis of two Andrei Tarkovsky’s films – Ivan’s Childhood (1962) and Nostalgia (1983). The analysis identifies certain dramaturgical tools and techniques, which can be characterized as poetic. The adoption of a dramaturgical tool relates to the story material and to the theme/meaning conveyed through this material. Thus the function of the dramaturgical tool can be identified only within the overall story composition as generated by the author. In addition, this study aims to define the aesthetic independence of the screenplay using a dramaturgical approach. The aesthetic independence is typically defined by the direct relationship between the viewer and the artwork. The screenplay, however, is actualized for the viewer only via its cinematic performance. The aesthetic independence of the screenplay is explored by studying the contribution of the screenplay to the cinematic performance and, consequently, to the viewer’s experience of it. The study suggests that particular visual poetic elements within a film originate from its screenplay, and therefore contribute to the aesthetic independence of the screenplay. The study demonstrates that dramaturgy can be understood as dramaturgical activity, that is, all those choices made by the author in order to build a cinematic performance for the viewer to experience. In addition, the study demonstrates that in order to understand the core of dramaturgy within cinema, it needs to be detached from the context of the theatre and examined within the context of dramatic composition for cinematic performance. The results suggest that modern film has developed a variation of dramaturgy, with its own cinematic characteristics, which forms part of the screenwriter’s craft and affects current storytelling practices in cinema and TV. This variation of dramaturgy can also be used to create dramatic content for other platforms, such as Internet and digital games. The study also indicates that critical research on film dramaturgy as practice-oriented research is required both diachronically as well as contemporaneously.
Supervising professor
Helke, Susanna, Prof., Aalto University, School of Arts, Design, and Architecture, Finland
Thesis advisor
Timonen, Eija
screenwriting theories, dramaturgical techniques, cinematic narratives, Tarkovski, Andrei, Ivan's Childhood, Nostalgia
Other note
  • [Publication 1]: M.-R. Koivumäki The aesthetic independence of the screenplay. Journal of Screenwriting, Vol. 2:1, 2010, pp. 24-40.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/josc.2.1.25_1 View at publisher
  • [Publication 2]: M.-R. Koivumäki Poetic dramaturgy in Andrey Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood (1962) : Conflict and contrast, two types of narrative principles. Journal of Screenwriting, Vol. 3:1, 2011, pp. 27-43.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/josc.3.1.27_1 View at publisher
  • [Publication 3]: Marja-Riitta Koivumäki: Poetic dramaturgy in Andrey Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia (1983): a character without a goal? Journal of Screenwriting, Vol. 5:1, 2014, pp. 141-155.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/josc.5.1.141_1 View at publisher