Title: Grounded in Reality: Exploring the Impact of Realism on Literature and Film


Realism reflects the world as it is, presenting life and society in an unembellished, accurate manner. It began as a literary movement in the 19th century and has since permeated various artistic forms, including film. The impact of realism on literature and film has been immense, transforming the way audiences perceive and engage with stories and characters. This article explores the origins of realism, its manifestation in literature and film, and the lasting impact it has had on both art forms.

The Origins of Realism

Realism emerged as a response to the idealized, romanticized storytelling of the 18th and early 19th centuries. It sought to portray characters, settings, and events in a way that was true to life, eschewing the exaggerated, sensationalized elements of Romanticism. Realism was born out of the social and political upheaval of the mid-19th century, which led to a growing awareness of class divisions, urbanization, and poverty. As a result, realist works often focus on the lives of ordinary people, exploring their daily struggles and successes.

Realism in Literature

The realist movement in literature was spearheaded by authors like Gustave Flaubert, Leo Tolstoy, and George Eliot. These writers sought to present a truthful depiction of the human condition, often highlighting the ways in which societal norms and expectations can stifle individual growth and happiness.

One of the most famous works of realist literature is Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary.” The novel tells the story of Emma Bovary, a woman who becomes trapped in a stifling marriage and dreams of a more exciting, passionate life. Rather than presenting Emma as a romantic heroine, Flaubert portrays her as a deeply flawed individual whose ultimately self-destructive choices result from her inability to reconcile her fantasies with reality.

Realism in Film

Realism has had a similar impact on the world of film, with many directors and screenwriters striving to create stories that are grounded in reality. This can be seen in the works of directors like Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, and the Dardenne brothers, who have crafted films that deal with the grittier aspects of life, such as poverty, addiction, and mental illness.

One of the most notable examples of realism in film is the Italian neorealist movement of the 1940s and 1950s. Filmmakers like Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, and Luchino Visconti sought to depict the harsh realities of post-World War II Italy, often using non-professional actors and shooting on location to enhance the authenticity of their stories.

The Lasting Impact of Realism

Realism has had a profound impact on both literature and film, shaping the way we understand and engage with stories. By grounding their works in reality, realist authors and filmmakers encourage audiences to confront the complexities and challenges of the human experience, as well as the societal issues that influence our lives.

Moreover, realism has paved the way for other literary and cinematic movements, such as naturalism, social realism, and documentary filmmaking. These movements continue to push the boundaries of storytelling, challenging us to examine the world around us with a critical eye.


Realism has left an indelible mark on the worlds of literature and film, transforming the way stories are told and experienced. By presenting characters, settings, and events in a truthful, unembellished manner, realist works compel audiences to confront the realities of life and consider the societal forces that shape our experiences. As a result, realism has not only changed the landscape of literature and film but has also enriched our understanding of the human condition.