Saturday, April 25, 2015

Creating Drama When You Know The End

Scott D. Parker

There's a moment in the musical "1776" a little over halfway through the film where the delegates are debating the wording of the Declaration of Independence. The issue is over the inclusion of slavery in the document. The Southern delegates want it out of the final draft, the Northern delegates want it in, and Thomas Jefferson, the author and a slave-owning Virginian, is caught in the middle. They are at an impasse, neither side willing to budge, and the South threatens to walk out of the convention. John Adams and the North calls their bluff and the Southerners walk.

Holy cow, I thought for the briefest of instances back when I first watched the film, I wonder if they'll come back and resolve their differences? But then the obvious fact entered my mind the next instant later: Dude, you're living in the United States of America in then-1995. Of course they figure it out.

But for a moment, the movie had me.

Yesterday, I watched the new movie WOMAN IN GOLD and had a similar experience. The movie tells the story of Maria Altmann, an Austrian Jew, and her crusade to win back a painting stolen from her family by the Nazis. Helen Mirren plays the elder Maria circa 1998 and we get some of her story in flashbacks to 1938. At one point, she and her husband are escaping Europe and there was that moment when my palms started to sweat, my heart beat faster, and the “Will she get out?” question popped into my head. Dude: you’ve already seen her as an old woman in America circa 1998. Of course she gets out.

But for a moment, the movie had me.

It’s a pretty powerful film that can make you forget the real history and get caught up in the sweep of the story. The movie, WOMAN IN GOLD, is, by the way, quite well done. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried, and at a very specific moment. Yeah, yeah, I know: You’re asking “Scott, what film didn’t make you cry?” Quiet. I wear my heart on my sleeve when I give myself over to a story. And this story ensnared my heart and took my away.

What is it that makes you forget history and get wrapped up in the story? Is it the characters or is it the craft of the storytelling process?

What films/books made you forget the real history while you were watching/reading them?

1 comment:

Dana King said...

Still the undefeated champion in my eyes, DAY OF THE JACKAL. I saw it in college in the mid-to-late 70s, and I KNEW that's not how DeGaulle dies, but I was enthralled. Fantastic movie.