Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Exposition with Mark Haslett

I thought I’d start with Mark’s wonderful submission because the non-verbal example comes from a film by Ingmar Bergman, who, as I’m sure most of you know, passed away recently.

Mark’s a new friend. Wonderful guy. He can be found here on the IMDB. He wrote the remake of Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left, which (correct me if I’m wrong, Mark) is due to arrive in theaters in 2009. In any case, Mark’s involvement in this remake accounts for the Bergman reference because Last House was Wes Craven's take on Bergman's The Virgin Spring. Mark’s a huge Bergman fan (as am I).
In fact, I've been watching Bergman films all week in his honor.

Thanks so much, Mark.



The BAD example that I regret most is from Star Wars I: the Phantom Menace -- The worlds and events of the movie could have been sewn elegantly together into a terrific adventure, but instead the exposition scenes tear the viewer out of the experience over and over. Alien races drop big explanations of their behavior, Jedi explain their actions before doing anything and remind each other (and the viewers) they are "running out of time," trying to cover their momentum-killing scenes of exposition (Midiclorians are... zzzzz), then the "big plan" is acted out holographically before the heroes act. This last bit was supposed to be an homage to the dramatic Death Star run in the first Star Wars movie-- but it demonstrates its own lack of craft by totally missing that we already understood the Death Star threat in that older movie. The newer scene shovels in whole new concepts and scenarios that either don't need to be explained or should have been set up earlier. A tragedy that such a long-awaited film should stumble on such a fundamental piece of the craft.

The GOOD verbal expostion scene that I always carry around is the explanation of the Ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The CIA guys want Indiana Jones to help them understand what the Nazis are after. Jones explains to them and the audience what the whole movie is about-- but his enthusiasm matched with the (then) relative obscurity of his information creates a riveting scene. We get right away that this is BIG-- we even sense that it's bigger than Jones realizes. The CIA/Jones relationship is funny and interesting, and Jones' comraderie with his partner Marcus allows the hero to reluctantly be pushed into giving the exposition-- creating a desire to hear it which makes it go down so well.

The GOOD NON-verbal exposition I'd like to mention is from Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring. Max Von Sydow's daughter travels from home alone and gets murdered. The travelling killers end up begging Von Sydow for a place to stay that night on his farm without anyone realizing each other's identity. Max's wife goes to check on the guests in the night and the killers offer to sell her a garment worn by her (now dead) daughter. The mother recognizes the garment but hides her reaction and takes it. She locks the door and shows the garment to Von Sydow. He gets out of bed... In this virtually wordless sequence, the true nature of all these hidden relationships are exposed and the next twenty minutes of action are perfectly set up. The garment takes the place of any verbal explanations-- no one needs to speak.

Those are three that speak to me. Thanks!



crossword said...

Cool! Thanks Mark and MM. Poor George Lucas... he gets top honors in both categories! Sweet of you both to cite Ingmar Bergman btw.

Mim said...

I think I'm most excited to see the examples of non-verbal exposition. It will help all of us with our action writing.

Mystery Man said...

Len - I've got a number of exposition examples I want to share (if no one else writes about them first). And in particular, I'm going to offer some more Bergman examples. There are some real treasures in his films.

Mim - Me too, in all honesty. I've already received some really great examples. Plus, I love a good excuse to watch films!


crossword said...

More coolness! I must admit at first I wondered if everyone would quote the same films but I should have had more faith lol.

There's quite a few examples of the craft out there & available for all to see.

PS. Wasn't there a lot of ironic moments in Bergman's stuff... I seem to recall (The Seventh Seal?) where a man returns from seeing a plague victim and when he's asked whether the victim spoke (he did not - he was dead!), the reply was something like "most eloquently!".

Mickey Lee said...

I was going to do "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" but I don't want to turn this into a Lucas love/hate fest!

Mystery Man said...

Len - I always worry about two people writing about the same thing, but that never happens, oddly enough. Everyone has written about different films.

No worries, Mickey. I don't think anyone else has written about a Lucas film.