Yves Lavandier’s book Writing Drama currently rates as the absolute favorite of our book reviewer Jack Brislee.
To give you the opportunity to delve into Lavandier’s amazing knowledge and insight, we will be publishing a weekly excerpt from the book.
The spectator is an essential partner in the dramatic process. In fact it can justifiably be said that it is above all the spectator who must experience conflict or the prospect of conflict. There is a good reason for this partnership: drama is capable of producing one or several emotions in the spectator, and these emotions are produced by conflict or the prospect of conflict or its resolution—including when the conflict is a source of humour.
the spectator […] must experience conflict
or the prospect of conflict.
Our attitude towards our emotions, particularly in today’s so-called developed societies, is ambiguous. We often hide them; sometimes we repress them while remaining under their immense sway. This is above all true of the negative emotions.
Children, for example, are rarely allowed to express sadness or fear. Most parents require their children to master their emotions, to become insensitive. The only negative emotion many children are allowed to experience is guilt, or occasionally anger. As a result, many people replace their authentic emotions with racket feelings. But feelings, without exception, are natural, legitimate and powerful.
many people replace their authentic emotions
with racket feelings.
To ignore the emotions when trying to understand human life and the arts that represent it is as absurd as proposing to move around on only one leg. We know that the movements of History, small or large, arise from human emotions. But emotions lurk also where we least expect them. A Portuguese neurologist, Antonio Damasio, demonstrates in Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain  how the ability to express and experience emotions is an essential component of the ability to behave rationally. In other words, without feelings, we cannot be intelligent!
the movements of History, small or large,
arise from human emotions.
With children, symbolic play provides a means to explore sensations and feelings. It is probable that drama plays a similar role, for children as for adults. A film or a play enables us to feel, and above all to master, all sorts of emotions. In the context of drama we can give way with impunity to feelings of hate, we can train ourselves to overcome our fear or our frustration, we can weep with joy or sadness without facing the scorn of our peers. This is surely one of the fundamental attractions of drama.
A film or a play enables us to feel, and above all
to master, all sorts of emotions.
Of course conflict and drama are not the only phenomena capable of arousing emotion. There is hardly any drama in painting or in music and yet these are perfectly capable of moving us. On the stage or the screen, a tune, an actor’s performance, a carefully chosen succession of shots, and numerous other effects can produce emotion in the spectator. However it must be understood that there is nothing incompatible here.
Efforts to perfect film language or art direction need not stand in the way of effective dramatic technique. The movies Psycho, Rear Window and Citizen Kane are brilliant illustrations of this. Jean-Paul Torok  describes how French filmmakers at the start of the 20th century who refused to accept this idea contributed to leading a section of France’s movie-making industry up a blind alley.