Drama is a genre that offers wide scope for experimentation in movies and that is the reason perhaps that most nominations for Best Picture awards come from this genre. Usually drama deals with the emotional dilemmas of people which we come across every day. It is usually achieved by in depth characterization. Themes around which dramatic movies have been constructed ranges from racial discrimination to infidelity but basically dramas revolve around a crucial moment of conflict.
The earliest movies were melodramas but actors like Marlon Brando brought in more realistic acting.
Over the years, subjects for movies in the genre of drama have reflected the events and transitions in society. The 60s had many political and war movies such as Judgment at Nuremberg, Flashback and The Manchurian Candidate. In the 70s, modern dramas such as The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, musical drama New York, and sports drama such as Rocky were made. The dominance of male centric themes is evident in the 70s, which in 80s, gave way to themes that underlined the issues such as racism and African Americans with movies such as Do the Right Thing and The Color Purple. The 90s had zeitgeist dramas such as American History X and Philadelphia which had stories on AIDS and discrimination. The 90s has also comedy dramas such as Forrest Gump, Jerry Maguire and As Good as It Gets. The new century focused on biopic dramas such as Ali, Frida, 8 Mile, Ray, Walk the Line, Gladiator and The Last Samurai along with Gulf war inspired movies such as Black Hawk Down and Jarhead.
Let us have a glimpse at a few of the best films in the genre of drama.
The Godfather is a very engrossing drama about Italian mafia don, Vito Corleone based on Mario Puzo’s novel by the same name. The movie’s screenplay is also by Mario Puzo. The movie begins with the Italian tradition of Don Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, granting favors to his family and friends on the eve on his daughter’s wedding. Vito’s youngest son Michael, played by Al Pacino, is on leave from the military and has brought along his girlfriend Kay to introduce him to the family. Michael who is deemed to be the only son to have the smartness required to inherit his father, is not interested in the family’s illegal business and is regarded as an outsider to the business by everyone.
Virgil Solozzo, who is a drug baron, asks Godfather Vito Corleone to use his influence with politicians to protect his drug business. However, the Don does not believe in dealing in drugs and refuses. Backed by Tattaglia family, which is Corleone’s rival, Solozzo attempts to murder Vito Corleone but he is hospitalized and saved. The Don’s elder son, Sonny takes over, but Solozzo makes another attempt to kill Vito. The second attempt is thwarted by Michael but Solozzo continues to pressurize Corleone into supporting him. Things go out of hand when Sonny orders, Bruno, Solozzo’s son to be killed to avenge firing on his father. Michael executes a plan to kill Solozzo by inviting him to a restaurant on the pretext of bringing an end to the dispute. This results in all the gangs resorting to open shootings and killings. At the same time, Sonny beats up his brother in law Carlo for abusing his sister Connie. Some days later, Sonny is killed by assassins. Vito regrets that Michael is involved in the illegal business against his wishes.
Fearing that Michael may be attacked too, he is sent away to Italy, where the family belonged. In Sicily, Michael is struck with young Apollonia Vitelli’s beauty and marries her but his happiness is short lived as she is killed in a car bomb. After Vito reaches a compromise with the Tattaglias by giving up his claim to revenge Sonny’s death, Michael returns to New York. He marries Kay who is still not in favor of his getting involved with the family business. He assures her that he will soon create legitimate business and put an end to all illegal business in the next five years. The Godfather dies a peaceful death and Michael takes over the reins. Further drama enfolds with Michael finding out about possible treachery and confession by Carlo that he aided Sonny’s assassination. Michael lies when Connie accuses him of ordering her husband’s murder. Kay accepts it silently and looks on as Michael is hailed as the new Don. Released in 1972, The Godfather won three awards, including the Best Picture award. The movie continues to top the lists of must watch movies, years after it was released.
The Sixth Sense
The Sixth Sense is a psychological horror drama that holds your attention for the full 107 minutes. M Night Shyamalan directed this drama involving a boy called Cole Sear and a psychologist called Malcolm Crowe.
The role of a timid and introvert Cole who can see ghosts and talk to them is played well by Haley Joel Osment. Bruce Willis plays the role of a psychologist who helps Cole to deal with his visions. The film opens with a dramatic scene where on their return from an event where Malcolm’s work is recognized, his wife Anna complains that everything in his life is second to his work. Suddenly a young man with a gun enters and tells Malcolm that he held Malcolm responsible for his failure and he does not want to live in fear anymore. Malcolm recalls that he had treated this man called Vincent Gray when he was a child for hallucinations. The man shoots at Crowe.
The movie jumps to next autumn where Crowe is seen counseling a nine year old child named Cole. Cole talks of seeing strange things and when Crowe eventually gains his trust, the child tells him that he can see ghosts and talk to them. He tells him of the horrible scenes of a sad lady cutting her wrist and a boy with a gunshot through his head which he can see. Initially, Crowe thinks that Cole may be just having some psychological problem but later he strongly feels that Cole is telling the truth. Crowe thinks of his failure with Gray and thinks that Cole may have a similar gift and there may be a purpose for it. Cole is advised by Crowe to talk to the ghost and find out what they are seeking from him as the dead may have something in the living world that still concerns them.
Cole is very much frightened by the ghosts but gathers enough courage to address them and listen to them. He talks to one of the ghosts which regularly appears as a very ill girl and frightens him whenever he enters his play tent. The girl leads him to attend her own funeral. At the funeral, Cole sees that the girl’s parents are very much worried over their other daughter who is also sick. The ghost then leads him to a room in the house and gives him a video tape which Cole hands over to the girl’s father. The tape shows the girl’s stepmother mixing some cleaning fluid in the girl’s food while she was being treated before her death. Cole and Crowe feel that they have found out the purpose for Cole’s visions.
When Cole tells his mother Lynn, his secret, she refuses to believe him but when he talks to Lynn about her own mother and tells him an answer to a question she asked at her grave, she believes him. Crowe goes home to find his wife fallen asleep while watching their marriage video. Crowe sees his missing wedding ring in his wife’s hand and it dawns upon him that he had been killed by the bullet from Gray’s gun. He also realizes why he feels sad rather than angry when he sees his wife’s colleague visiting their home and also why he was not able to open the door to his office. He tells his sleeping wife that he had never regarded her as second to his profession. Finding that all his business including correcting his failure to understand Gray has been finished, he finds peace.
A Royal Affair
A Royal Affair is a period drama based on true events ensuing from the romantic relationship of a Queen with a physician who treated the mentally ill King of Denmark. The film is set in the 1770s Enlightenment era, precluding the Revolution. 15 year old princess Caroline Matilda of Great Britain was married to 17 year old Christian VII, King of Denmark. Christian did not have the most desirable childhood and was labeled as a difficult child. Mikkel Folsgaard plays Christian and Caroline is played by Alicia Vikander. Initially, he was passionate about Caroline but very soon he lost interest in her. The king fell to excesses of every kind including wine and women.
Christian was never believed to have sound mental health but it deteriorates at a fast rate. The need for a full time physician is felt and Johann Struensee is appointed with a view to improve Christian’s health. Actor Mads Mikkelsen plays the role of Struensee. The physician makes no effort to stop the king’s erratic behavior and rather encourages it by joining him in the same. Once when the two walk in late at night and come across Caroline, she expresses her disgust. The king simply says that she was always grumpy and the physician says that she is in a bad mood.
The film shows Struensee and Caroline influenced by the ideas of Enlightenment and slowly building a bond over this shared passion. The movie has altered the story for its own needs and the romance between Struensee and Caroline is shown to be pure and charming, deleting the fact that at the same time Struensee was romantically involved with the queen’s lady in waiting too.
The affair leads to a lot of gossip and scandal in the subjects. The thing that outraged Denmark even more than the affair was that the physician openly walked the streets arm in arm with the queen dressed in men’s leather breeches and coats. Copenhagen could not forgive the transvestism, especially because the queen was rather sturdy and stout. The movie of course has a delicate Vikander as the queen.
A political drama enfolds with Struensee’s power at court rising with the Queen’s support. Struensee uses his power to usher in some desirable reforms. The most notable being the order that even aristocrats could be jailed for not repaying their debts. Obviously, such reforms were disliked by the court which was full of aristocrats and thus all are up against Struensee. Struensee’s rule lasted for ten months. The tragic costume drama is directed by Nikolaj Arcel and was released in 2012.
The genre of drama continues to be popular because it directly appeals to human emotions. Also, there is a wide scope of subjects in the present, past or future along with a receptive audience.