Blogger: Rachel Zurakowski
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Dim the lights and grab some popcorn! We’re going to the movies.
This week, I’m going to talk about movie techniques and how they relate to writing. Each day I’ll be giving my opinion of popular movies. If you disagree with me, feel free to let me know! I want to hear your thoughts on the films and the techniques, too.
Here’s a little disclaimer: Some of the movies I’ll be talking about include scenes or elements I don’t like watching or that I don’t approve of, but these particular films are good examples for the ideas I’m trying to make clear. I also tried to pick films that most people have at least heard of.
Let’s start out with a winner, literally.
“Slumdog Millionaire,” in my opinion, was a fantastic film. Why did I like it? There’s no way I can cover all of the reasons, so I’ll pick the main reason. It tugged at my emotions. This emotional experience was created for me by two main elements. First, the horrific living conditions of those children in Mumbai, India. It’s real! I saw a news broadcast about how the child-actors in the film are really from Mumbai and live under tarps. Because of their participation in the film, they are being given scholarships to school and eventually college if they can stay in school until then. Sad, right? But very emotionally gripping. The tragedy of their lives pulled me into the story. I’m not sure it was a cathartic experience, but it did cause me to appreciate what blessings I have in my life.
The second element that pulled me into the “Slumdog” story is the strong relationships between the three main characters. The children are very loyal in the beginning (the two brothers and the little girl) and they fight for justice, risking everything. Later in the film, when the older brother betrays the other two, I felt the pain of it because I had seen how strong and real their relationship was in the beginning of the film. I watched the rest of the movie closely, hoping for the reconciliation moment between the three grown children. There were many “almost” moments that kept me on the edge of my seat (and kept the tears in my eyes).
Both of these elements, the strong family connection and the true-to-life setting, create a powerful emotional connection with the audience. That is something we can apply to writing. A good book will connect with the reader on an emotional level. For the reader to appreciate what is happening in the story, he has to feel as though he is a part of the book. I know the best books I’ve ever read have been the ones that swept me out of my world and plopped me into the characters’ world.
“Rainman” is also a good example of the same elements that I saw in “Slumdog Millionaire.” The two brothers have a real-life tragic situation to deal with–the one brother is an idiot-savant (a disability). This disability hurts the tie between the two brothers because the healthy brother resents having to care for his disabled brother. His loyalty to his disabled brother grows as the story progresses. He starts to understand the love he has for his brother, despite the disability. The story contains the pathos and the strong family ties (both of the elements found in “Slumdog”) that play on the emotions of the viewer and draw him or her into the story. A strong emotional connection is the perfect way to draw the audience into a story, whether it’s written or on film.
Your turn! 🙂 What books or movies have you read/seen that do this really well? Are they some of your favorites? Did you like “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Rainman”? Why?