Theme is a misunderstood concept. Defining
it as the central idea of a subject as a dictionary does is inadequate. It is the heart and soul of an
artistic work - its reason for being. It takes the form of a social issue that the artist feels strongly
Theme is similar to the title of a work. The title, in theory, should reflect the
story as a whole; many, of course, do not, probably to make the reader/viewer think. Theme is most often character-related.
There should be one theme which defines the artistic work and can be simply
stated. For example, Full Metal Jacket is a film about _____. The
words which complete the statement is the theme.
Theme is associated with the
truth. But it is the artist’s truth – the way in which he views reality. It
is a reality viewed through a humanitarian lens which is often confused with politics. Social issues become
politicized and viewed as propaganda when disagreement or self-interest exists.
An artist should
be able to answer two questions which are theme-related: What is this work about, and how am I getting this statement/message
the featurettes which feature cast and crew and often the answers are heard, but not the questions. Often the response
to a question is what the film is obout, and so the question asks that question. Almost always the answers are varied
with no two alike. The theme, therefore, is elusive to almost everyone, except the filmmaker. No one questioned
describes the plot of the film, im part, because there is a concern that a spoiler will be revealed.
An artist should
be as conscious of the theme as he is aware of the ending. Because a theme conveys a moral message,
it is often mistaken for the moral of the story which often is the ending. Theme is an element which should be present in
every aspect of an artistic work. It establishes a focus and serves as a reminder to the artist what
the film is about.