Journal article Open Access

A Transmedia Overturning: Direct Address from Theatre to Cinema

Federica Cavaletti

A direct address – in visual and audiovisual forms of communication – occurs any time one or more characters inside the fictional world look straight at the spectators, blurring the threshold that separates the images from flesh-and-blood reality. However, different forms of direct address can take place in several media contexts, based on the specificity of each given medium.
This is particularly urgent with respect to two types of direct address: the theatrical and cine-matic ones. While the former has studied thoroughly, mainly based on Bertolt Brecht’s dramaturgy, the latter – also known as “look at the camera” – is arguably less understood. In the absence of a dedicated conceptualization, the cinemat¬ic direct address has commonly been treated merely as a transmedia counterpart of the theatrical one, thus overlooking the peculiarities of the two.
This article restores the autonomy of the cinematic direct address and elaborates on its specific non-theatrical effects. First, it outlines the nature and functioning of the theatrical direct address as theorized by Bertolt Brecht. Then, by adopting a semiotic approach, it demonstrates that this type of direct address must not be confused with the cinematic one. Lastly, it introduces three non-Brechtian types of cinematic direct address: namely, the diegetic, the meta-filmic, and the documentary look at the camera.

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