Saturday, May 23, 2009

If the audience never understands the plot, it can be counted on to be attentive to the very end

The concepts of plot, narrative and story have been occupying my thoughts a lot lately. Not just in connection with my own writing, but more generally as well.

I like being confused. I like having no idea what the hell is going on. When I read a book or see a movie that is. I'm not talking a story with unnecessary twists and turns, confusion for the sake of confusion, but a well-crafted tale that asks as many questions as it supplies answers. Open-ended stories, or stories that end with a punch in the stomach, are my favorites.

One problem I have with a lot of movies, and TV shows for that matter, is that they assume the viewers are stupid. When a character has a flash-back to something we saw only 30 minutes ago, they see the need to show that specific flash-back instead of assuming we can get into the character's head. This dumbing down, the assumption that those watching cannot think for themselves, infuriates me to no end.

And yes, this is the kinds of things I fill my head with. What I walk around being irritated about. I can't help it.

So, when I see or read something which doesn't assume I have the attention span of a six-year old with ADD, I get excited. When someone sees fit to craft a story that doesn't end the way you expect, or that simply goes against convention and ends badly, if it's an American movie, I get excited.

We're watching Stranger Than Fiction tonight. A movie that at its very center deals with the concept of narrative. If you haven't seen it, see it. It excites me.


Joel said...

I love Stranger than Fiction. Have you seen No Country for Old Men? I'd be interested to know what you think of the end.

beardonaut said...

Yeah, I saw it. Up until Josh Brolin is shot, it is one of the best, most intense thrillers I've ever seen. Then it all goes sideways for me, and the ending was one big, awful disappointment. I haven't been that upset coming out of a movie theater ever. I don't know if the book goes that way, and I probably won't find out, which is a shame since I love "The Road" and I'm reading "Blood Meridian" now.

Your thoughts?

Joel said...

Much the same as yours.

I'm used to foreshadowing giving you a slightly longer lead time before it pays off instead of killing off the protagonist in the very next scene.

They warned us, I get it. And evil lives to walk among us, and people are more concerned with who's getting paid rather than who's doing right and wrong. Yes yes yes.

The very end though where Tommy Lee Jones is describing his dream completely threw me. The thought that came to mind was that in order to understand it, it would require another viewing to decipher the dream. And I couldn't rationalize that to myself or my girlfriend. I think I'll just let it be one of those little cinematic mysteries.