Yves Lavandier’s “Writing Drama: A Comprehensive Guide for Playwrights and Scriptwriters”, translated from the French by Bernard Besserglik, is by far the most comprehensive book available on the subject of screenwriting coming from a European author. Instead of giving the reader a set of fixed rules to craft his story by, as most of his American colleagues do, Lavandier approaches drama and the rules thereof, in an academic although pragmatic way, that not only provides the reader with extensive footnotes on every page, but also with deep insights on origin, theory and method of drama and storytelling since the dawn of mankind. Lavandier’s ideas inspire with each and every page, they invite to break dramatic rules and experiment with story and structure while utilizing clever dialogue in order to tell compelling stories. While the book takes the interested reader on a tour through the famed halls of European drama by analyzing the classic works of the likes of Hitchcock and Moliere, it also readily delivers hundreds of examples and references from some of the most influential and best films of all time. Lavanider discusses the great works of Lubitsch, Gabin, Godard, Renoir, Truffaut, Altmann to name only a few. One is tempted to think that whoever doesn’t show in this book, has probably never created a work of substance or quoted the famous “include me out” in order to be left out. Be it the teachings of Jung or Kafka’s magical realism, be it the writings of Brecht or Beckett, Lavandier understands to cross reference and lay out the entire world of drama in front of the interested reader. Lavandiers “Writing Drama” is the perfect companion for anyone interested in universal storytelling. If you have already read through the armies of screenwriting bibles from LA to NY, if neither MacKee nor Syd Field has made you rich quick yet, perhaps you should rethink your take on storytelling and go back to the start, join the masterminds of European storytelling, which happen to be the same minds that formed Hollywood during the first half of the 20th century. Not only is “Writing Drama” the most comprehensive book on the subject, it is also a lonesome star sparkling far above the vast crowd of cookie cutter recipe books on how to make dough in Hollywood. While I do not recommend the book as a beginners guide to screenwriting, it makes for a perfect reference book and lifelong companion to the dedicated storyteller. Consider.
(Review by Robert Huttinger)