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What is the "fourth wall" in art, how and why is it broken
What is the "fourth wall" in art, how and why is it broken

Usually a film does not depend in any way on who is watching it in the cinema hall; the play can also be performed in front of empty seats. The book will retain its plot, even if no one skims through its pages. The world of art is fenced off from the real by an invisible and intangible, but solid wall. What happens if you try to remove this wall?

The fourth wall

It seems that the theater, by its nature, tends to fence itself off from the viewer in this way, but in fact, for a much longer period of its history, this art form was distinguished precisely by the absence of a “fourth wall”. In ancient times, the audience was a full participant in the action, the actors spoke from the stage, addressing the audience with both remarks and whole monologues. Much later, Shakespeare used this technique.

Addressing the viewer is one of the techniques for breaking the fourth wall. For this, a voiceover can be used - the main character comments on his adventures, as in the comedy "The Naked Gun"

This “fourth wall” may be invisible from the side of the audience, but from there, from the world of the characters in the play, it supposedly represents a very real wall. The audience seems to be "spying" on the development of the plot, in a sense, reminding the police in foreign TV series who look through a one-way mirror at the interrogated. It is not without reason that this film and television cliché has taken root in the art of the 20th and 21st centuries.

In the film "Amelie" the heroine from time to time addresses remarks to the audience

And by and large, all forms of art once ignored the viewer: there were plays that were played without looking at those who bought tickets to the hall, films in which the presence of a camera next to the heroes was not detected. With regard to cartoons, books - the same: a representative of the real world received the status of "peeping". But some time ago, experiments began with this "fourth wall", and the public already got a certain role in the development of the plot of the work. At a minimum, the characters in plays and films began to “notice” the viewer and turn to him. In books, the effect of breaking the fourth wall began even earlier - it was expressed in the author's lyrical digression and his address to the reader.

“Three men in a boat, not counting a dog”: Andrei Mironov's character, Jerome K. Jerome, not only often addresses the audience, but also “watches” the time when the children's audience should go to bed

How the fourth wall is “broken”

The term "fourth wall" in relation to the specifics of theatrical performance is attributed to Denis Diderot, but it really took root only in the 19th century, when experiments began in art, which also affected theatrical life. The conditional wall of the theater room-stage was no longer as impenetrable as before. The actors made jokes intended only for the audience, reacted to the lines from the audience. It turned out that in those moments when the invisible fourth wall disappears, the viewer is in a special way involved in what is happening on the stage, feels his own involvement in the plot.

During the filming of the show series, the "fourth wall" almost completely turns into fiction. The action takes place not in confined spaces, but in the studio in front of the film crew and dozens of spectators who also participate in the creation of the series. "The Big Bang Theory"

However, sometimes this happens in the literal sense - for example, in the Broadway play "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," the audience was asked to vote by vote who is the killer and which path the theatrical narrative will take. Charles Dickens' novel, not completed at the time of the writer's death, became one of the best examples of the "open ending" in literature; the manuscript breaks off, having managed to give the reader enough food for thought and reasoning, obviously, soon readers could be presented with the solution to the disappearance of Drood, if the life of the author had not been cut short so suddenly. For theatrical embodiment of this story, the involvement of the viewer in the dramatic process has become an interesting and promising technique.

From the movie "The Mask"

"The fourth wall" in film and television

In the destruction of the "fourth wall" a special role belongs to the creators of films and television series.According to the classical views on filming, actors should avoid looking at the camera, allow "eye contact" with the audience, it was believed that this destroys the impression of the film, interrupts the narrative. Now this position already seems outdated - too many pictures dear to the heart of the viewer exploit this technique, and others that involve the viewer in the plot, too.

In the cartoon "In the Footsteps of the Bremen Town Musicians" one of the characters, if not "breaks down the wall" between the invented world and the real, then, in any case, slightly tramples it with his feet

Probably the most common way to break a wall is to insert a voiceover into a motion picture or television series, which seems to be telling the viewer a story, most often its own. It can be both comedies and serious films. Sometimes the story is not conducted in the first person, but by someone who knows all the characters well, and in addition, is aware of the whole story, from and to, and seems to be conducting a conversation with the viewer, reinforcing his story with pictures on the screen.

In the film "The Purple Rose of Cairo", the line between the fictional world and the "real" (which, however, also remains fictional) is almost erased

In general, any glance of a film character into the camera, and even the inclusion in his text of the lines addressed specifically to the viewer, can become a "highlight" of the work. Woody Allen used this technique a lot, especially during the filming of the movie "Annie Hall". And in The Purple Rose of Cairo, the disappearance of the fourth wall generally becomes the main idea: the character of the film leaves the screen directly to the cinema to meet the heroine, and then spends several days in the “real” world, after which he returns to the screen.

The Truman Show, where the hero is unaware that he has been a reality show character for many years

The development of the theme of the "fourth wall" in the film "The Truman Show" took an unexpected direction: here the hero and his life are the object of close observation of millions of TV viewers around the world - until the moment when the whole truth is revealed to Truman. More precisely, not all of them - after all, he has no idea about the real world and real viewers, but a show lasting tens of years and a one-hundred-minute film ends simultaneously - with the hero going beyond the camera's line of sight. to the viewer? This is also possible - within the limits of his own universe, the character rethinks the reality that surrounds him, inviting the viewer to this fascinating reflection.

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