This article is about the theatrical movement. For other meanings see Naturalist. For philosophical meanings, see Philosophical naturalism. Naturalism should also not be confused with naturism, i.e. nudism.
Naturalism is a movement in theater and film. In theater, it developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It refers to theater that tries to create a perfect illusion of reality, through detailed sets, an unpoetic literary style that reflects the way real people speak, and a style of acting that tries to recreate reality (often by seeking complete identification with the role, as advocated by Stanislavsky).
Naturalism was criticized in the mid twentieth century by Bertolt Brecht and others who argued instead for breaking the illusion of reality in order to encourage detached consideration of the issues the play raises. Though it retains a sizable following, most Western theater today follows a semi-naturalistic approach, with naturalistic acting but less realistic design elements (especially set pieces).
Naturalistic performance is often unsuitable when performing other styles of theatre, particularly older styles. For example, Shakespearean verse often requires an artificial acting style and scenography; naturalistic actors try to speak the lines as if they are normal, everyday speech, which often sounds awkward.
In film, which permits a greater illusionism than is possible on stage, naturalism is the normal style, although there have been many exceptions, including the German Expressionists and modern directors such as Baz Luhrmann, who have revelled in artificiality.
See also Naturalism (literature).