Sunday, August 27, 2006

Subtext - Finding Neverland



Got a whole slew of subtext coming this week. And no, it’s not too late to send me a scene. Please keep the submissions coming (via email)!

Meet
Kevin Broom (“kjb” on TriggerStreet). He is the Director of Media Relations for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, and he brings us a scene from David Magee’s screenplay, Finding Neverland, which was an adaptation of Allan Knee’s play, “The Man Who Was Peter Pan.” The script isn't available online, but you can get the transcript here.

If Kevin’s analysis is any indication of his ability to write, I think we can look forward to a lot of great things from him. Good job!



MM,

I'm enjoying your series a great deal. One of my favorite bits of subtext comes in a scene from Finding Neverland. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of the screenplay. In the scene (starts about 49 minutes in), Barrie has arrives home late in the evening after visiting the Davies family at the country house. Here's my transcription of the scene:



INT. BARRIE'S HALLWAY - NIGHT

The dog lies sleepily in the doorway. A key rattles in the lock. James enters the house. From down the hall comes a GILBERT CANNON's voice.

He sees Mary wearing an ornate dress and sitting close to a man in an impeccable tuxedo.


INT. PARLOR - NIGHT

James steps into the parlor and looks at Mary and the stranger. She stands quickly. The man rises slowly.

MARY
James.

James says nothing. Looks from Mary to the man.

MARY
Well you remember Gilbert Cannon,
don't you?

James nods slightly.

JAMES
Good evening.

MARY
Mr. Cannon has been working on the
Committee to Fight Government
Censorship.

She hands James a pamphlet. He glances at it.

CANNON
I know how involved you've been as
well.

MARY
(to James)
He wanted to speak to you. Did
think you'd be home so much
earlier.

JAMES
It's been a long evening, Mary.

MARY
Yes. Well, if I'd realized how late
it was, of course.

CANNON
(to James)
I should perhaps talk to you
another time? When it's not so
late.

James flips through the pamphlet.

JAMES
(over Cannon)
That would be fine.

Cannon gathers his coat and hat.

CANNON
We'll talk then. Thank you for your
patience Mrs. Barrie. Mr. Barrie.
Good night.

Cannon walks down the hallway. Mary and James stand silently until they hear the door open and close.

MARY
Well aren't you going to speak?

JAMES
What would you like me to say?
Curious how late Mr. Cannon stayed
I suppose. And then let's see, what
comes next? No later than you were
out James. And how is Mrs. Davies
this evening? Oh yes, I will have a
great answer for that one, wouldn't I?

MARY
How dare you? This isn't one of
your plays.

JAMES
I know that, Mary. It's quite
serious. But I'm not ready for this
conversation we're having, Mary.

James walks away.

JAMES
Perhaps we can talk in the morning,
yes? Good night then.

Mary turns off the light. Upstairs, James' door closes.

Mary notices James' journal lying on a table. She picks it up and squeezes it in her hands.



I love this scene as an example of subtext. All three know exactly what was going on. Mary and Cannon have "seen" each other. Whether or not they're actually having an affair at that point is immaterial. Cannon is in James' house far past the hour to be soliciting a donation for a political cause.

At the same time, James has come in far too late to be have the right to confront Mary. Plus, he has been with another woman. That the "other woman" is ill, and that technically his interest is primarily in the boys isn't really material. So, they all play nice and polite while Cannon is still there -- everyone going along with everyone else's cover story even though no one believes any of it.

When Cannon leaves, there's a slight shift. Mary's "Aren't you going to speak?" is really an invitation to argument. But she doesn't want to be the one to start it. James attacks her by saying aloud what each would likely say if they indeed argued.

She believes she's being mocked "how dare you?" and accuses him of living in a fantasy world.

The next bit of dialogue is brilliant. He agrees, then says, "It's quite serious." Would this be subtext within subtext? It sounds like he's talking about their marriage. But, Depp gave a brilliant delivery of the line -- he says it like he's talking about a medical condition. Which of course he might be, because Mrs. Davies is seriously ill.

Then he shuts down the conversation and leaves.

Finally, we have Mary picking up his journal and practically embracing it. Regardless of what else is going on, this is a woman who wants to be part of her husband's life. She goes on to read it in following scenes, which is a horrible violation of privacy (perhaps particularly horrifying to me because I've had someone read my journal and use information in it against me). Regardless, she wants to know what her husband is thinking, and he's either unable (emotionally) or unwilling to tell her. So she takes the journal. Altogether, I find this scene to be a world-class example of subtext.

Thanks again for the discussion in your blog. I just discovered it, and I'm enjoying it immensely.

- Kevin

9 comments:

Mickey Lee said...

This was a great scene -- it really stood out in this film.

MARY
Yes. Well, if I'd realized how late
it was, of course.

CANNON
(to James)
I should perhaps talk to you
another time? When it's not so
late.


I love the way "late" is hurled around like a four-letter word. Which it is. But, well, you know what I mean

Mystery Man said...

I just want to congratulate you, Kevin, on a great analysis. One could've fallen into the trap of writing a great big blow-out argument here, but all that is obviously not being said here says enough, wouldn't you say? I particularly enjoyed her embracing the journal in the end.

wcdixon said...

Might actually send you a script scene that I think has subtext.

First off - curious your take on MySpace thingee?

http://uninflectedimages.blogspot.com/2006/08/so-whats-deal-with-myspace-cont.html#links

miriamp said...

The Victorians were so good at subtext. The conversation at a Victorian social visit was as planned and measured as any script. What else can you expect from a society that covered the legs of tables and piano-fortes because to show them was unseemly?

Mystery Man said...

dix - it's about time I get a scene from you! I've been looking forward to this for quite a while!

miriam - they covered the legs of tables? In movies, victorian dresses were always so considerate when it came to cleavage...

Mickey Lee said...

MM

You're thinking about that late 18th century cleavage, I think. That "Dangerous Liasions" type cleavage. Victorian women wore those dresses that had such high collars on them they were practically turtlenecks!

And now we're WAAAAY off topic.

Mystery Man said...

Hehehe...

It's all the same to me.

kjb said...

Thanks for the comments. One thing I love about this scene is how thoroughly the writer understands his characters and their setting. To me, it shows how well this writer has mastered his craft. I'm dying to get my hands on the actual screenplay.

Mystery Man said...

I've been anxious to read this script, too, but I've never seen it anywhere. Not even Amazon. Hmmm... Hell, I'd be willing to read the play.

Good job, Kevin.

-MM