Screenwriting II — Week 11-12

 Greetings everyone,

In class we talked about your step outline, my comments, and your Final Exam  — a  REWRITE of your step outline based on the feedback from me you received via email and the comments from your groupmates on Blackboard.  You don’t have to follow our comments blindly, but read them carefully, see if you agree with them, and try to find dramatic and visual ways to address them. 

Some of you still struggle to understand the difference between SCENES that are BEATS and transitional/passing scenes.  This is important to remember: every BEAT / STEP is a scene, NOT every scene is a BEAT.John Truby’s (The Anatomy of Story  has an interesting and useful advice regarding beats (his term for Step Outline / Beat Sheet is Scene Weave):

“The point of the scene weave is to get one last look at the overall architecture of the story before writing it. Therefore, don’t go into too much detail, because this will hide the structure. Try to describe each scene in one line. For example, a description of four scenes in The Godfather might look like this:

 -Michael saves the Don from assassination at the hospital.

-Michael accuses police captain McCluskey of working for Sollozzo. The Captain slugs him.

-Michael suggests that he kill the Captain and Sollozzo.

-Clemenza shows Michael how to execute Sollozzo and the Captain.”

Put a Structure Step next to a pivotal scene. For example:

Bombs falling. An airplane whooshes overhead, spraying fire. Jack gets off the ground starts to walk away, paying no attention to the mayhem around him. (CHARACTER REVELATION #2  or SECOND PLOT POINT or whatever it is).

Note that the Final /Extra Credit link is now active on Blackboard (left sidebar).  You’ll need to do a COVERAGE of a screenplay for your final take-home exam.  If you want to do an extra credit assignment,  choose a second screenplay (there are four uploaded, unproduced screenplays) on the page and cover it. We’ll talk more about the art of screenplay analysis / coverage in class.

Okay, now on to Shame.

 A colleague provided a link to a streaming video of the film, which you can see for FREE online:  Regrettably, there are no subtitles in this video.  But since you’ve already seen the film, you will pick up many more interesting details on second viewing. And the quality of the beautiful  b&w cinematography by Sven Nykvist is much better than what we saw on the projector in class.

You guys are very discerning viewers and excellent critics. You’ve caught and understood a lot of nuances in the story and the relationship between Jan and Eve.  Even though this is not your typical love story, it is a love story nevertheless.  The lovers are together in the end, but they are miserable together, ashamed to be in the world, ashamed for what they have and have not done. Let’s look at Jan’s and Eva’s character arcs.

We introduce them on a peaceful farm,  hiding from the conflict that’s present in the cities. He’s an indecisive complainer. A rather weak man whose retreat form the city represents a sort of selfish retreat. “It’s better to know nothing,” says Jan. “We can only hope for the best.” Eve, on the other hand wants to know the “news” and is upset by Jan’s escapism, but is quickly distracted by the promise of having fish for dinner and good wine. In a way she too is complicit in the shame that she feels at the end of the film.

Both of them are sensitive people, classical musicians, artists who are supposed to help the world deal with pain. But as the war interferes in their lives, it not only changes the world around them but their emotional world and the relationship between them.

Here are few  important structural moments:

1. Jan and Eva visit their friend, the antique dealer, who’s about to go off to war. He’s wearing an ill-fitting uniform and represents the world that is no more, the world of yesterday, with its porcelain figurines and things of the past.  He disturbs the tranquility of the peace that Jan and Eva think they live in.  This scene starts the story and is the clearest inciting incident.

2. Jan and Eva see the dead parachutist in their backyard and are pounced upon by the rebels who tell them to leave at once. This is the first revelation (Plot Point 1 and the end of Act 1 — it happens about 30 minutes into the film).

3. The midpoint is clearly when both Jan and Eva are interrogated by the current, probably fascistic government. This is where the former mayor Colonel Jacobi saves from the concentration camp and send them home. The relationship between Eva and Jan are more strained now. She’s sick of his cowardice and feels that she has to protect the family, because he seems unable to protect them.  (Note that you may see other reason for the continuing strain in their relationship. This is a complex film and allows for multiple interpretations and requires multiple viewings).

4.  Plot Point II, which marks the end of Act II and comes right after Jan’s lowest point (apparent defeat / ordeal) when he finds Colonel’s money and realizes that Jan essentially “sold” herself to the Colonel. Why? To protect them?  Or maybe because she wants to assert herself with a “real” man, with someone who gets things done, with someone who has power and influence? Like in all Bergman movies, nothing is obvious.  Something not being obvious is different from something that’s confusing or not clear.  Bergman refuses to spoon-feed his audience and prefers that they work with his movies instead.  That’s what distinguishes art from mere entertainment.

5. The final battle is between Eva and Jan after Jan kills the young soldier and takes his boots. When crying she asks him “What did you do with him?” He pushes her away and is willing to go to the boat without her. She despises him now, but drags along because it’s the only way for her to survive.

6. Resolution. The scene in the boat, with dead bodies floating in the water. Bergman’s grim statement about the state of the world and our collective mental health.

The film has been accused by some critics for failing to represent a “real war”. But as Paisley Livingston in her book Ingmar Bergman and the Rituals of Art correctly states: “Bergman’s film is one of the few films…  which does not obscure the fundamental reciprocity of violence and the senseless identities of oppositional  parties. The film directly confronts the impossibility of distinguishing between good and bad forms of barbarism when barbarism implies the destruction of all.”

Watching the movie for the third time, I realized that in this film about musicians there’s no music on the soundtrack. It’s another important point that Bergman wanted to make without hitting us over the head with it.  If you want to add anything to the discussion about the film, please bring it up on Monday.

Your assignment for Monday:

A REWRITE of your entire step outline, based on my and your classmates’ comments.
DUE MONDAY, May 5th no later than 9:30am, in your respective folders on Blackboard.

READ the BREAKING BAD Pilot (Screenplays page). 

Start reading the screenplays and making notes now, so you don’t have to do it all at once later.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: