Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Limitation of Writing

In the film Storks, two characters who have spent the entire movie jousting verbally with each other find themselves in happier circumstances. One begins to joust again; the other says nothing, but merely nods -- a beautiful moment, beautifully subtle. The silent image by itself conveys a new emotion.

In Psycho, Norman Bates leans over to stare at the motel's guest ledger, and the unusual angle on his face, the chewing motions of his jaw, the deep shadows, turn him into something unrecognizably strange.

In Zootopia, Nick Wilde wears a shirt that matches the wallpaper of his childhood home; in his pocket, he carries his Ranger Scout kerchief. No one ever points out these hints of lingering sadness, but they become as obvious as old scars.

In a Tony Mitchell article from 1982, "Tarkovsy in Italy," the director talks about, "Examples of a form of thought and how this thought is expressed through film.... In Seven Samurai, in the sequence in which the youngest member of the group is afraid, we see how Kurosawa transmits this sense of fear. The boy is trembling in the grass, but we don't see him trembling, we see the grass and flowers trembling."

Films can reveal such details without comment, but in a story, they must be spelt out; they must be made obvious, which robs them of any magic we might feel in a chance encounter. An aching limitation.

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