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Six Degrees of Separation: Two Sides to Every Story
John Guare’s “Six Degrees of Separation” is an outstanding play transformed to the screen in 1993 by director Fred Schepisi. Given that Guare himself wrote the film’s screenplay, one would expect the film and the play to be—if not identical—closely related. Thus, the script’s marvelous play on words, repeated phrases, and cultural allusions come alive through the cinematic possibilities, immersing the audience in the live theatre even in the motion picture. Just as there are two sides to a painting and two sides to every story, “Six Degrees of Separation” literally and figuratively shares this duality in the respective interpretations of the play and film. It is a sincere commentary on the hidden motifs that drive people: wealth, fame, social acceptance, and status, alongside the barriers that exist: social structures, race, and age, among others. However, nuances between the two mediums exist, as certain themes are portrayed in a different manner. In particular, the film emphasizes New York elite society more than the play does, ultimately rendering Ouisa’s transformation at the end more believable.
In order to fully compare specific scenes from the film and the play and the respective discrepancies between the depictions of high society, we must first note some of the general differences between theatre and film as mediums. Thus, we will turn to Stanley Kauffman’s essay, “Notes on Theater-and-Film.” The strongest aspects—yet also the most relevant in this discussion—that he tackles include attention, the need for an audience, opening up, and time. With regard to attention, Kauffman emphasizes the difference between the audience’s focuses; in particular, film has more room for manipulation given its ability to use a wide range of camera shots and each scene is crafted to convey something specific. Conversely, theatre utilizes the whole stage and thus, it presents more of a challenge for the director and the...
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