2018, Chas Fisher & Stu Willis
Draft Zero: a screenwriting pocast
Intro: Vs Audience
[0:00] Man, this whole episode is versus audience. We are memento-ing our own podcast.
[0:11] Hi, i’m Chas Fisher and welcome to Draft Zero, a podcast where two Aussie filmmakers, try to work out what makes great screenplays work.
[0:13] And I’m Stu Willis.
[0:21] And in today’s episode, the very final part of our epic,
tiring, exhaustive and exhausting look at sources of antagonism, we’re talking about,
films that are versus audience. To recap for those who for some reason, weren’t listening to the previous four parts, which you should probably listen to.
before we talk about this one, we talked about films that their central conflict was versus. Human versus human human versus self human versus nature and human versus systems.
And when we originally talked about this fifth mysterious episode that somehow we would possibly reach this promised land of part five, we were originally calling it versus other,
As in we will want to look at films that didn’t seem to have a central source of antagonism.
But what we realised in this homework is for at least these kinds of films, and we’re going into more,
detail in a about the specific thesis, because I don’t think it’s — there is still — are other films, but they’re so out of the ballpark of narrative like Stan Brakhage that,
there’s no point, really screenwriting podcast talking about Stan Brakhage because it’s video art basically.
[1:40] Well, let let’s say what the films that we are looking at are art because I think some of these are, arguably video art as well.
[1:49] You need to watch more video art man.
[1:52] No, no, I don’t.
[1:55] So tell me, Chas what are these films that we’re looking at?
All right, so we’re looking at this year’s Ocean’s 8,
F for Fake, Sans Soleil, this year’s The Second, which is an Australian release.
And we’ll talk more about that later, particularly whether overseas viewers can watch it or not.
And we’re finishing off strong with Forrest Gump.
[2:21] Finishing off with the MAGA wet dream of Forrest Gump.
I think that’s what you wanted me to say, people’s, a bad i’m gay, that’s, that film, and we want to thank our patreons for making this episode of Draft Zero possible.
[2:36] They help us to have more Draft Zero more often.
But in the case of this episode, they also voted on the films that we’re going to look at, and Forrest Gump itself was a suggestion of one of our patreons Jules and people voted it, and when we looked at it, it really nailed the thesis. So thanks to Jules for the suggestion.
So if you also want to have more Draft Zero more often, or have a say or the illusion of a say.
[3:04] the delusion of a say. Please feel free to follow the links to our patreon in our show notes.
And now we can begin.
[3:12] Yeah, yeah, good, for the first time ever, we got a timer running, and I think it’s just going to end up scaring me to look at. I’ll start developing a twitch.
So you have here that you’d like to actually start with your learning’s, or our learning’s as opposed if do it one after another from the series thus far.
And hopefully lead to some kind of thesis that we can take into these films.
Antagonists – Learnings Thus Far
[3:39] Yes and this will also tie into what we mean by versus audience having listened to our key learning’s over all the previous four episodes we kind of came to the conclusion,
by the end of part four that the antagonistic forces I’m going to talk about that word itself soon,
that these forces of conflict forces of whatever you want to call them that these forces pressure the protagonist to make,
decisions to make a final decision and I want to take that a step further and I think there’s two ways you can look at the question which is that these sources of antagonism all stand from a kind of
[4:22] a patern of conflict and that’s what we mean by human versus human or human versus self. It’s like that is the source of the conflict and that leads them to make their final choice or I think there’s the flip-side of that which is the sources of pressure,
lead the character to make a choice about,
the central source of conflict. So in the case of Shame his choices are ultimately about himself that the sources of pressure which includes his sister are actually about him,
coming to in dealing with his sex addition whereas in systems which we talked about the choices that ultimately the characters were pressured into i.e the coming to the system escaping the system, destroying the system or overthrowing it which is the same kind of thing,
and so I think that’s kind of the structure of all these films.
What I think is interesting about all these films that we’re talking about is the central source of conflict is- – well between the film and the audience.
And that there are pressures within the film that make the audience make choices or at least ask questions in a way that I don’t think these other films do.
That’s actually kind of my central thesis, because I think that idea of pressuring, the character to make choices is true. Whether you’re talking about some kind of scene level, a sequence level and act level or over the whole film.
[5:39] While I’ve been, you know, editing a lot of these episodes, I’ve been compiling my list of questions that I want to apply to my own work as I go, so using them as craft tools, so,
I’ll quickly throw those out there, and then we can leap into into Matt’s question.
So, you know, I think your summary is perfect, I think it summarizes all my points, my points- -, my questions of my own work, are more about delving into that so,
right at the very beginning, I kind of started in with the “want”versus “need” that drew one of our patreons,
comments slash criticism earlier, but I do think there’s a difference between if your protagonist has stated goals and obstacles that are in between,
the character and those goals.
So I think those are clearly plot antagonists, and they’re getting in the way of what the protagonist wants. Now,
you know, for all the issues with “want” versus “need”, I think there’s definitely,
a difference between a “want” that the character is aware of and a “want” or “need” that the character doesn’t know that they, you know, want or need certain or at the beginning of the story.
[6:52] As we talked about the need is something that the writer is imposing on the character, rather than the character themselves being self aware of.
[7:00] And then I’ve got the question how did the antagonistic forces pressure the character to change and those are often,
as you’ve used the word like enablers or pullers there they’re not necessarily obstacles and they’re not in the way of a goal that as you say there,
they’re forcing change on the character because that’s what the writer wants to take the character,
I’ve got what pressures are negatively or positively forcing your character to make choices that they would not otherwise have made,
and I think that’s really kind of how,
I came to the realization I can’t remember which episode it’s in but it has gotten stronger with each episode that we’ve done that really what I now look at the protagonists and the protagonist’s journey as this kind of I know.
[7:50] bit of rock and the it’s the antagonistic forces that chip away at the rock and reveal it. It’s not that the protagonist is going around doing things it’s the sources of antagonism that are sculpting the protagonist sculpting the choices,
sculpting the journey and the plot,
I’ve got the question how do your antagonistic forces mirror your protagonist wants or needs? And
[8:13] my clearest example of that was the choice of the wolves from the Gray. What is at stake if your protagonist fails?
I mean these are some obvious one-o-one screenwriting questions but you and I- – I feel like we’ve revisited these screenwriting basics and tenets through the this idea of antagonism because the stakes are pressure,
the stakes are, you know, driving the decision.
What decision do you want your protagonist to make at the end of the film and how the antagonistic forces pressure the antagonist to get to this point from the beginning of the film?
I mean, when we did systems, I still marvel at how that the lobster took a character to a point where it makes perfect sense.
that at the end of the movie he’s sitting he’s, standing in a bathroom, considering cutting his eyes out with a steak knife, and it makes perfect sense because the forces of antagonism have built it that way.
[9:11] I’ve got the question are your antagonistic forces sentient? Can they be bargained with? Do they have wants or needs that can be met?
What tactics does your protagonist use or learn or attempt in order to overcome the antagonistic forces?
What tactics are completely unavailable to your protagonist because of the antagonistic forces being sentient or non sentient and a kind of extension of that is how defeatable are antagonistic forces?
Is your protagonist even aware of them in the same way that the characters in Mudbound aren’t aware of racism or white supremacy as a system?
They’re not making their decisions in relation to furthering white supremacy or trying to overthrow it?
[9:53] It’s sort of it’s not a conscious conspiracy. Except in many cases, it was.
[9:56] Yes, within that story, but it wasn’t like it wasn’t part of the character’s consciousness if that makes sense, is your protagonist trying to overthrow them, enforce them, or just abide by them?
Does your antagn-? Does your protagonist ever hope to defeat the antagonistic forces, or does she just want to survive them or give up?
As was the case with our man in All, is Lost.
[10:22] I think you should take these notes and send them out to our patreons. And then you.
[10:27] All right, which only cost them a dollar an episode.
[10:31] God that feels like I’m- -we’re actually demonstrating versus audience antagonism right now,
because there’s a few observations I want to make about what you’re saying, I think that’s a great summary overall, but I think there’s a few things because it’s, how does this relate to our specific topic now of films that there there is a conflict between the film and the audience?
And I think there’s two things, which is you talked about, which is pressure, and I realized that we never specifically talked about the idea that time itself is a form of pressure on characters.
We often talk about ticking clocks, and really, the ticking clock is about increasing the pressure on characters, and we know it’s in many ways that’s what game shows are about you pressure you put them under a ticking clock to make people make choices.
We do it to ourselves 30 seconds, and we- -you could decide what your eat you know, whereas if we give ourselves all day to decide what we eat then we all often make, you know, take our time.
[11:53] Better choices.
[12:21] because he gets way too much air time as he goes in terms of airing his grievances,
So he made two observations one which is what what makes you think antagonism is about making characters change? And I thought about it and I’m like,
that’s actually the whole point that’s what an obstacle does a character has a goal and if there was no obstacle in their way that is going to take the goal they don’t have to change they don’t have to make any choices even if the change is I’m going to step around this rock that is in my path from,
you know continue on the path that is actually forcing them to change on a little level and we talked about a lot about in the tactics about really minute,
changes but I think ultimately that’s what obstacles are they force you they’re forcing the characters to change like it’s actually inevitable and I think a good example of that which I’ve actually recently cited somewhere else and I love my Star Wars examples is in the-,
– and this kind of relates to the whole sequence structure thing is the first kind of act of Star Wars is the pressure on Luke that forces him to make,
the choice to go off with Obi Wan. Theses choices – -we talked about the heroes choice at the end these binary choices but films of full of choices and decisions for the characters and the the all the pressure that it leads to including like the killing of,
uncle Owen and aunt Beru and Obi Wan and all that stuff leads to Luke agreeing to go off on a crazy adventure with Obi Wan right? So that is kind of orchestrated to making that choice so I think that think those kinds of decisions are active throughout the film.
[13:49] Matt’s broader issue is with our use of the word antagonist he thought it was too imprecise and for the kind of that- – he said what we were doing which I liked was the taxonomy of conflict.
[14:01] But I think he suggested that something describing something as having an active hostility was a really useful way of thinking about it and I agree and this relates specific to this episode which is that there are things that are kind of- –
[14:15] Okay I can sit down and watch a foreign language film without subtitles and the film is impenetrable to me because I don’t speak any languages other than English and I don’t even do that very well clearly.
[14:28] So the film is impenetrable to me but it’s not doing it in an active way whereas to use an extreme like,
a lot of Evan God cinema or even like David Lynch’s stuff,
can be designed in such a way to be actively hostile to the audience understanding it,
and this comes to my time thing because I actually say there are two fundamentals to a movie which is one Time. Film unfolds over time and I think even there is video art that exists on loops and stuff like that and that’s. where it’s getting outside of the boundaries of what we are
talking about whether it’s a 10 hour series, or, 50 hour, 5 season show or a 1 hour, 5 minutes shot.
they’re all- – it’s time based and two the goal, then, is to get to the end of the film. You know, the character goal.
And so films that are, and ideally having a meaningful experience of films that actively challenge the unfolding of the narrative in such a way that you can get to the end of the film, knowing what it means, are kind of actively hostile to the audience.
If you get a film where people are like I don’t get it, you know, like Memento, that film is actively hostile to the audience.
And I think all these films that we’re talking about now, are going to be actively hostile, hostile in various degrees to the audience, not just have active hostility between characters or between themselves.
[15:48] What I what I appreciate about what you’re doing here is tying it back to the films and laying some good groundwork for us talking about how we think these films are quite unquote versus audience but I just want to,
I completely agree with Matt’s point of view that we’re doing a taxonomy of conflict and you know I’m happy to take his point that maybe our use of antagonist or antagonistic forces is not,
doesn’t work for him but I do think it is useful in,
for me as a writer and then also in any kind of development context where,
there’s a scene in Shame or it’s a sequence that we talked about was one of my favorite sequences in the in the film where he’s trying to develop an intimate personal relationship with a coworker and,
he takes her to a hotel room he’s a sex addict she wants to have sex with him he’s getting everything that he wants they are developing a personal intimate relationship and yet his,
obstacle his addiction his fear of intimacy with whatever it is himself,
gets in the way of it there was no obstacle there.
[16:58] There was only a person trying to reach him and go along with him and I mean we kind of posit the view that the obstacle was himself but to me if I’m ever in a,
in a development meeting or even with myself I can go well this scene does have an antagonist.
It does have, a, a source of conflict.
She is an antagonist in that she is, you know, representing everything he needs and can’t have.
And to me, it it works for me to use the term antagonist in, you know, outside of just a villain or an obstacle.
[17:37] Yeah, I think people confuse which we’ve talked about antagonist with villain and self including once upon a time they use the words interchangeably,
and then often not the same. I think the other reason to defend our use of it is that antag- – and I really like the phrase active hostility I actually think that’s a really,
good term of reference is this actively hostile?
You know maybe it needs to be more active in it’s or maybe it needs to be more hostile in terms of what it’s doing but I think the idea is that,
just because the nature of the way we speak about script antagonism or an antagonist implies a relationship with the protagonist and often what we’re talking about as we talked- –
[18:18] We’re talking about the relationship between a protagonists and a source of conflict we’re talking about the relationship between John Anderton and PreCrime we’re talking about the relationship between Brandon and his sex addiction we’re talking about the relationship between,
John McClane and Hans Gruber you know it implies a relationship and therefore I think it is in this case we’re actually saying that there is a relationship- – a more complex relationship between the audience,
and the film itself and that and then he’s active an intentional conflict between the audience and the film itself in all of these films. It falls on a spectrum which is why we’re starting with Ocean’s 8 because I don’t think it’s deliberately trying to alienate you,
and we’re ending with Forrest Gump because I don’t think Forrest Gump is trying to alienate you either but in the middle kind of F For Fake Sans Soleil even in The Second all to various degrees are trying to make,
a little bit quickly towards the audience.
[19:13] You know and whether- – and because if the- -and because what we’ve been talking about antagonistss can be sequence based or act based that you might want a film that is,
Sans Soleil of it is- – and I’m kind of getting our learning’s at the beginning but I think it’s worth saying because I know we had a listener Paul he was like,
“this sounds a little bit Odd House shit” and it’s like shit but you know, you know Odd House weren’t for me I want to write comedies and so I was like, “well yeah, you don’t have to do a whole film like one of those but you could do a sequence like it you could do a scene like it”.
[19:48] You know that you can take one of those ideas and go “won’t it be interesting if the film at this moment the film was actually to- -make the film interesting at this point we actually playing in a particular way and as we’ll talk about in Ocean’s 8 the easiest way,
is to put the audience in a position where we’re behind the characters we know less than the film.
The film is deliberately withholding information and coming back to my thesis that the goal is to finish a film feeling like it’s, a worthwhile experience.
You don’t understand, what happened at the end, then you feel “you want to know you want to pick up the clues and feel like you’ve gone on a journey.
So this is me trying to transition into Ocean’s 8. I mean, I’ve looked at the clock now it’s 55 minutes, so we’ve obviously had a really long introduction.
[21:12] What I like about this topic is that we didn’t as you said at the very beginning so we didn’t come into this,
looking for versus audience films we watched we deliberately set out to pick films that were less narrative based because we wanted to see how,
conflicts or antagonistic forces worked within you know less narrative based films see if we could learn anything to then take back to our own writing and it was only after watching F For Fake and Sans Soleil,
that I think you and I both got the firm idea that if you take out all sources of narrative conflict,
then you don’t necessarily have narrative on a grand scale,
what is left to keep you engaged and it was clearly then as you said developing a relationship between the film and the audience now Ocean’s 8 is clearly not in the same leagues of doing this,
in terms of Sans Soleil and F For Fake but
[22:19] I think it made some really interesting decisions from a narrative structure point of view and from a character point of view that unusual and I think they fit this mold because they,
let the audience- – the enjoyment from the film.
What compels you to keep watching the film is the audiences relationship with the film less than with,
what’s going to happen next which might be plot driven or what’s going to happen to those characters you know out of concern or where they’re going to end up is that fair?
[22:55] Yes I mean I think on one level,
genre implies relationship part of you know thwarting expectations of genre is the film itself understanding how you,
process its structure you know or getting into it and I think Ocean’s 8 being heist film is absolutely about that there is a whole- – there’s a long history of heist films and,
what ways they do and don’t thwart our expectations of the genre which is kind of like on a macro level so before we go into it,
too far we should probably summarize what Ocean’s 8 is,
Ocean’s 8 is kind of a spiritual sequel to obviously the Ocean’s not obviously may or may not be obvious is a spiritual sequel to the Ocean’s film but it’s a all,
all female ensemble cast and it follows Debbie Ocean who’s the younger sister off the apparently late Danny Ocean who’s the George Clooney character in the other films and her former partner in crime Lou and their plan is to steal,
some jewelry from the Met Gala,
that’s it and that’s kind of more or less their goal it’s stated very early on this is going to be a heist crime,
and they’re going to be putting together a crack team an A team,
of people to go and steal this diamond that’s the goal that we’re told at the beginning and there’s not much into personal conflict between any of the characters.
[24:25] They kind of all get on the onl- – and in terms of the villain and so they’re but.
but what we’re missing is like unlike the Ocean’s filming, and you recently watched re-watched Ocean’s, Eleven there’s, no big kind of quote unquote antagonist because there’s, no villain, because there’s no casino, the closest is the- – them.
still, they have to steal the necklace from Daphne who’s, played by what’s, her name? Anne Hathaway.
And there is and he’s, not even really a villain.
But he is a personal villain for Debbie, which is her ex, Claude Becker, an art dealer who ,we learn very quickly ratted her out to the police when he was discovered for art fraud, he basically framed her as doing all the fraud on his behalf.
[25:10] I think what- – like you said there’s a clear goal right? It is a clear plot.
and yeah, and the heist sequence is very densely micro plotted.
[25:16] Clear goal that we are told about.
[25:25] But I think the big difference between, as you said, I just re-watched Ocean’s Eleven. And I was wanting to find out how similar or different was this to Ocean’s Eleven in Ocean’s eleven.
[25:40] I think. I think there’s actually less of a, villain than there is in Ocean’s 8, because Andy Garcia is only actually really introduced,
halfway through the film, and he doesn’t do anything particularly villainous.
We hear he does villainous things, but we don’t see it.
The main kind of the reason he’s an antagonist is because Julie Roberts, his character Danny’s, ex-wife Tess wants to be with him.
Right? So he is not- – to me he is less of a personal villain
than I can’t remember his name. But this art dealer who threw Debbie in jail, you know, Claude.
So Claude, you know, the very first thing that that Debbie does almost when she comes out of jail is to go and, you know, cut buttons off his shirt and threaten him with a shiv.
[27:09] And then, as you said throughout the film, we find out what what he did to her.
[27:35] And a lot of the plot is about her setting him up for the fall for their crime.
[27:41] Well, that’s what emerges,I think ultimately, all these films are experienced linearilly by the audience.
Our relationship with the film will change at the end, but the revelation of information is very important.
We’ve talked about that a lot and it’s specifically and very important with all these films, because your relationship with the film is experienced through that linear relationship.
And at the beginning we were told that the goal is to steal this necklace, and we’re not sure that she’s planning to use the boyfriend and, in fact, Cate Blanchett kind of warns her about
Why did you go and see him? You know, he’s, a dick head, and then,
it’s kind of a surprise to us that Debbie Ocean it’s kind of a surprise to us that Debbie Ocean wants to involve him in the plan, because he’s going she’s going to set him up as the date with Daphne and everyone’s, kind of worried that.
[28:36] Well, just loathe.
[29:06] Look, I- – what I’m trying to boil down to is I think the major difference between Ocean’s 8 and Ocean’s Eleven is that the film itself is less concerned about the heist in Ocean’s 8 than it is in Ocean’s Eleven.
The joy in Ocean’s Eleven is the stakes of breaking into the casino are really well established, like how hard it’s going to be.
And then the actual heist sequence is a series of payoffs to misdirect, as you said, like,
in essence, I think Ocean’s Eleven lies to its audience more than than Ocean’s 8 does in relation to the heist so, you know, a particular example is the older character in Ocean’s Eleven Saul he’s, he’s like,
eastern European arms dealer pretender.
But you’ve got a lot of scenes leading up to the heist where he’s like feeling faint and looking like he’s going to have a heart attack and all those kind of things.
And then during the heist, he does actually have a heart attack.
And so the film has made you think “oh shit is this something going wrong? Was that supposed to happen?”
And then it turns out it was part of the heist.
[30:19] It’s using your genre- -your expectations of the genre, which is, you know, if we see the plan it’s going to go wrong, if we don’t see the plan, then it’s going to go right.
That’s, kind of the rule of thumb, but Ocean’s Eleven plays with that and it’s like just because we’ve been told the plan doesn’t mean it’s the actual plan. it’s just what they’ve told us or told the people they’re going along with.
[30:40] And the real satisfaction at the end is that the what we were told was the was the plan was never the plan.
And that everything that happened was planned.
[30:48] To me in a way, Ocean’s Eleven is doing exactly what you know it’s a versus audience film.
[30:53] In a in a different way to Ocean’s 8 because Ocean’s 8 the plan is not carefully laid out for us, right?
So we don’t know when the plan is going wrong.
It’s not actually about the heist when we’re in the heist sequence, there’s
lots of micro points of tension, one the only one that I can really remember.
that’s a very kind of plot tense bit of the heist is when the Mindy Kaling character is in a toilet, like dismantling the jewels and replacing them with zirconium and there’s a
, like an Israeli hit man approaching the door, right?
[31:31] Security guard.
[31:33] But other than that, the the heist seems to go exactly as they wanted to without us, knowing whether that was the plan or not right?
And then the last sequence of the film is actually kind of the aftermath of the of the heist.
[31:55] It’s again, using your expectation because you like, oh, I thought they’ve just won why is the film still going?
[32:00] So that was to me the major difference between Ocean’s 9 and Ocean’s Eleven
is that there is there are micro obstacles, like every single scene in the film, even the initial like scenes of bringing the a, you know, bringing the team together.
There’s all these, like each individual scene, has a goal, has antagonism, obstacles to be overcome, and they do.
But there doesn’t seem to be this overarching drive towards anything, and I’m not saying that as criticism, it’s, that this is what I actually think is quite astounding about the film.
The film is just the joy of being with these characters.
[32:41] It’s simply a hangout show. But I think you’re underselling the value of having scenes that are entertaining within themselves because there’s obstacles or there’s moments of surprise and revelation, which again is of audience thing.
So you know you’ve got probably one that stuck out to me the most,
as an example of this is when they need to basically go and get a photograph of the necklace the 3D with these fancy cameras to get so they can build a replica of it.
And they send Helena Bonham Carter’s character, whose name escapes me Rose.
Yes Rose who’s, a disgraced fashion designer and Amita, whose theme indicating character to go and get the photographs off the necklace and essentially there’s a few characters in there that work for the.
[33:29] work for Cartier and then to get the photos and basically there’s, not and it’s, you know it’s, a spy gadget glasses will will do the model and the damn end they don’t have reception.
[34:37] And that’s, a small micro, as you say, micro plotted scene but it’s still the same with obstacles. So I’m not saying that this film is without conflict at all.
It’s, without interpersonal conflict and it’s a and it’s not necessarily sequence level, I guess on one level there is a sense of pressure of like we need to get all our shit together before the Met Gala.
But you never really feel the time pressure. They could have pushed it more if they wanted to.
The biggest obstacle, which is kind of the mid point.
Just before the heist, as we learned that there’s a special magnetic lock on the necklace that they thought they could just do a sleight of hand and take it off Anne Hathaway’s, neck and turns out it uses some special magnetic lock.
But then there’s just a small sequence where it turns out that Rihanna’s bad ass sister could make them an unlocking mechanism.
But it does like this is a structure is that we need to do this but this, therefore we make a decision to do that.
You know if for almost every single scene if not every single scene has that.
[35:34] But my, my, my broader point is what is impressive about it is it is not doing the,
the hero’s journey and it’s not even doing you know, what is the, as you say, the genre convention of heist movies, which has almost been reestablished by Ocean’s Eleven.
So it’s almost subverting that by saying, we’re not going to tell you what the plan is when they’re not going to, you know, subvert what you think that the plan was, although they kind of slightly do at the end with the big reveal.
But as in they were stealing something else other than the Cartier necklace.
but yeah, that is basically sustained through micro conflict on a on a scene level.
[36:16] And our relationship with wanting to know how they’re going to pull it off.
So when they pull off the heist, we don’t have all the information. We just got the bigger bits of it and it’s, like “oh they are trying to make her vomit. Okay, what are they doing? Okay, okay, you know, these characters are, completely aware of what the plan is. We’re not right?
And so part of the joy is that- – those connected moments when we as an audience go one plus one equals two, that we have those sparking moments that exists.
Those moments exist purely for our pleasure, rather than a like a that moment of revelation, that closing of the information gap, the correction of point of view, we’re catching up to these characters. So much of this film is about us being behind the characters.
[36:58] Yeah, and I think I want to make that broad point.
Unlike Ocean’s, Eleven, where the film is deliberately misdirecting you, I don’t feel that this film is deliberately misdirecting you, it’s it’s the way that it’s playing with as an audience is through POV.
You know, we’ve done whole episode’s on micro use of POV and then macro use of POV and that’s what it’s doing here? It’s constantly withholding information and then letting you catch up to the characters.
[37:27] And the biggest withholding information is in the spoiler spoiler spoilers.
What is more or less the final sequence of the film. It feels like a four act film.
But it’s, not it’s like a three act, I guess, because there’s the planning the heist, the heist snd the aftermath.
And there is a sequence level antagonist, which is James Corden’s as John Fraser who’s, the insurance fraud investigator.
[38:02] So James Corden comes along he’s the insurance fraud investigator trying to make sure that Cartier isn’t doing a dodgy for this 150 million dollars necklace,
that’s putting on pressure on the characters in the final sequence but this is something they do in Logan Lucky when the Hilary Swank character comes along in a way it’s like the little miss sunshine,
parts of the- – of the beauty pageant pageant being like a sequence level antagonist for the final sequence James Corden there putting on pressure and we learned through his investigation as he kind of pulls the noose around them following the threads that
[38:37] the plan is to actually frame Claude Becker and ultimately what happens which makes us go is,
much to our disappointment Debbie Ocean kind of gives over every- – well just give over everything she frames him and gives away all the money and we’re like “oh why did she do that?,
and it turns out that there was a heist within a heist which we are having explained at the very have very explained at the very end that really the whole thing itself was a magic trick to make,
a distraction of sleight of hand to make everyone focus on this disappeared Cartier necklace where they,
rob the Met museum and with what’s his faced from the Ocean’s film,
the whole film is a sleight of hand we’ve been lied that their goal- – we’ve been told the goal at the beginning is to steal the necklace. Turns out the goal wasn’t.
The goal was to steal the necklace in order to frame the boyfriend and distract everyone from them, stealing all these wealth of jewels that’s it.
[39:36] Can I? Can I do? I like I want to make one point.
Is that where I feel like this film lost
seem there was. There was definite pleasure in watching the James Corden sequence, but I felt like because they”d gotten away with the heist of the Cartier necklace at that point, and they had gotten away with it. No one- –
there was no chance of them being caught, right? James Cordon was investigating, but it wasn’t like you felt at any point he was closing in, and anyone was that that Debbie wasn’t in control of the situation.
[40:55] So there was a definite- -while it subverted the expectations of the genre to carry on the film
after they pulled off the heist, there was a definite feeling, like the film took off its foot off the gas because there was no real stakes and-.
[41:13] Well, she ends up having a meeting. Debbie ends up having a meeting with James Corden. There’s like ego, and so against it, takes the stake and we are like, okay, what’s her plan now, we’re once again catching up to where she is at we’re behind, and than we than we want to want.
[41:26] Yeah, yeah, and that’s and that’s it’s making us lean forward it’s making us curious. But there’s, no stakes there.
[41:31] Yeah, and maybe that’s what people are reacting to that the stakes, once it goes into that, feels low.
The other observation I’m going to make now is that there’s no big- – if we’re saying that it’s about pressuring these character to make choices, particularly to make choices that they wouldn’t have otherwise make, it doesn’t feel like there’s, any big choice for Debbie or any of them at
the very end, the choice could have been that maybe she decides not to Debbie and Claude into drug pleasure.
You know all that she’s got some other, you know, difficult choice, you know, but she doesn’t there’s, no actual, difficult choice for her at the end.
[42:06] Yeah, absolutely. And, well, there’s, none there’s no character development, really, for any of the characters, they’re not changed.
I mean, some of them want money, but none of them. It feels like other than Awkwafina’s character need money, like when we’re introduced to them, they’re all kind of perfectly happy, you know, the.
[42:27] Well, maybe Mindy Kaling’s character Amita feels like she might need money.
[42:30] Yeah, yeah, she’s. You know, the thing that got her onboard- – I mean, she’s, the only one where it felt like she had a really convincing, risk- – convincing reason to come on board.
for the heist to move out from being with her mom.
[42:42] Yeah, so there’s look a lot of enjoyment in the film, but it’s about it, pulling the rug over the audience’s
eyes you know, like deliberately mis- -it is a misdirection. The whole film itself is a misdirection.
[42:55] Yes, but I think I feel and I’m you know so we’ve got this regular listener Ben who I think was really frustrated by this film and I got what he was saying which is,
the misdirect that they were actually stealing the jewels he personally saw it a mile off like as soon as they saw that the jewels were in the museum it’s like “oh that’s what they’re really stealing” so he didn’t get that sense of satisfaction from the reveal at the end of the film,
I didn’t have that pick up but to me I didn’t even really care at that point either,
them realizing that they’d stolen the jewels from the Met wasn’t all that,
wasn’t what satisfied me about the film I guess because yeah it never felt like.
[43:42] I guess what I feel like I’m sounding really critical of this film and what I actually want people to go and do is watch it to marvel at here is a film that has made a satisfying interesting experience almost,
by from scene to scene rather than looking at the overall,
aspect of it because the heist was,
so secondary and and I think your your main point is a fantastic one like the main tool that it uses to,
create conflict between the film and the audience and also to maintain audience interest is using POV the audience is constantly behind the film and it’s just letting us catch up,
ever so regularly, just to keep us tagged- –
keep us- – keep tagged keep bringing us along with it, keeping us engaged.
[44:33] Yeah, even just looking at the opening sequence with Debbie coming out of prison and she’s got not much and she’s like old sort of out and it’s the pleasure of watching her, um,
enact the plan of the how she ends up staying in hotel that’s it it’s,
actively hostile is not perhaps the right word, but I think it’s like it’s actively hostile and they’re making a conscious decision that Debbie doesn’t walk in and go, I’m going to stay in this. This is my plan and this is what I’m going to do.
We get to watch it unfold and you can’t or you can’t maintain that point of view because audiences do get frustrated.
But this film, once you catch up, that’s what she’s trying to do that’s what she’s trying to do. Isn’t she clever? Isn’t she clever?
Isn’t she clever, she’s super competent and it makes the film, as you say, enjoyable from moment to moment surprised it gives us all these constant surprises and jokes are often surprises, you know, and this film, to me is very funny, you know,
um it’s, a film structured around surprise rather than,
well, revelation, but not suspense like we’re not massively ahead.
[45:36] Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s a that’s. It. I think you just hit the nail on the head.
Unlike, I think, Ocean’s Eleven and other heist films, it isn’t about suspense. It’s about surprise.
[45:48] Yeah, all right.
[45:51] So that was our fluffy entry into how you know films can, you know, have less interpersonal or plot antagonism.
And in that absence, the film is more the antagonist.
[46:07] So I think this is a good opportunity to go to the most common genre.
I think for this kind of act of hostility, it’s thrillers and psychological thrillers that play with time, the kind of puzzle films.
In a way,I think, probably, for most audience, most- – not most of audiences most writers listening to this, they’re more likely to write one of those than Sans Soleil,or , F For Fake.
So I think that-,- and it builds on the kind of techniques that you’ve seen that we’ve seen in Ocean’s 8, which is point of view and what character’s point of view.
And so I think, this basically made kind of awkwardly
[46:48] awkward I’m trying to awkward my awkward. I’m trying to awkward into The Second
[48:14] So The Second is an Australian, , a recent Australian release.
It is, as you say, is to, a thriller. It’s, set in a remote but very beautiful, expensive house in rural Queensland, feels very sort of outbackie,
and deals with,
a writer, her publisher and her,
muse, as she’s credited and the kind of psycho sexual tensions and reveals of back stories and lies and deceit, as they all kind of slowly, mentally unravel.
[48:56] It’s good summary, Chas.
[48:57] Well, thank you. I feel like I mean Sue may cut this in the edit. But I have to kind of declare my interest here, where I’m working with the producer of the film. On another project and, I got to read.
[49:10] And I kind of have that’s what it’s like rather than just saying, I read the script for the producer, like I’m working with the producer.
[50:11] What’s important tonight is the film is very essentially concerned about lying. The- –
[50:22] What is? I think it must be the kind of turning point is this idea that the office book was a memoir, and it was kind of saucy and that there’s some dark- –
and – -. I don’t think that is that’s the mid point, isn’t it?
[50:40] Around- – its around the mid point that, yeah, the muse character reveals that it wasn’t a memoir of the author’s life. The author’s, basically just been stealing
the Muse’s life and minding it. And not, you know, potentially is The Writer.
[51:26] And there’s a three plot that the The Writer is writing about, you know, she was writing the story of those three characters within the house.
So, you know, novel within the novel, that’s reflecting them as they talk about a childhood experience that the two girls shared growing up where they were, there was an incident where a young boy drowned.
And it turns out, or is revealed through the story that they, you know, arguably murdered him. Although there’s, an element of self defense in there.
[52:06] It’s unreliable, because- – so Rachel Blake plays, The Writer and Susie Porter plays The Muse and Vince Colomiso plays, The Publisher, and I say that in case we interchangeably use, the actors names
given that they don’t have any character names, The Writer warns The Publisher at- –
when the Mu- – The Muse arrives at her invitations, The Writer has invited The Muse off screen.
[52:31] But we don’t- -that’s actually revealed. We get to see from the messages it feels like when The Muse arrives, that she’s just kind of dropping in uninvited.
And then it’s kind of revealed later that The Writer actually brought her in because she was suffering from writer’s block and needed her muse.
[52:47] Which is okay, so this is a good example of what this film does throughout, which is withholding information for us, the audience rather than from the characters. This is, very much a film, in which what we know and what the characters know are not aligned. They are, not-,-
the point of view is not about helping us understand and feel for the characters.
It’s about creating an experience for us, kind of a meta textual experience, right? Does that
does that make sense? You know, I think, like Memento is a great example. And you know, we could have done Momento as an example, but it was nice to do an Australian
film made by an Australian female filmmaker rather than you know Christopher Nolan, but ultimately because Steven- – you know, Momento is structured about- – is about the audience experiencing that rather than kind of giving- -getting us into Guy Pearce’s head. This is similar.
[53:35] I think what this film does to distinguish itself from Memento is very interesting in how it- – so Memento
it never lies to the audience, is very much a versus audience film, because, like you said, with these kind of puzzle thrillers,
the way that they’re keeping the audience engaged is to constantly make the audience ask questions, be it what’s going on?
Where am I? Now Memento’s inherent structure, where it’s telling time, backwards in sequences, is constantly making with each reveal of information, the audience re-evaluate everything that they’ve seen before.
So that is, like Ocean’s 8.
The main tool is about his point of view.
What does the audience know when? Now this film plays out fairly linearly.
[54:26] Except for flash as flah cuts. So we understand that there’s, a bit of a frame- -and I think that’s important, because they-
[54:32] Yeah, you know, there’s- -yeah, but, yes, you carry on and I’ll clarify my point after you.
[54:38] So there are some flash cuts that build in the intensity. So we think it’s playing out in linear order.
And then there is a moment within the first act and it’s within the first act, where we jump forward to The Writer being interviewed talking about the book.
[55:25] And then we presume it is the book that she is reading on this trip, because the set up is that she is going on this trip with The Publisher to finish work on her novel, which has-
[55:33] Her second novel.
[55:34] The second, the second novel, which is she’s, been given- -and as we learned, she’s been given the advance for it and it’s overdue, and she hasn’t started.
But we are then told within the first act that she actually succeeds.
But then there are questions in that interview that we begin to make us reassess what we are seeing, but it’s important, because then we know the film reveals to ourselves that the film is in- -is in a different time line.
[56:03] So, yeah, so, as you say, I mean, even I think it’s over the opening credits that that interview has started. You don’t see any visuals, but you can hear it happening so
[56:26] there’s- – there’s two timelines going on, as you say, the- – what we’re experiencing as the the writing of the book or the conflict between the three characters in the house,
intercut with her,
interview with a- -, a woman.
One of the reveals that happens is that you think early on that it’s, a press release interview with a journalist.
And then it reveals that it’s actually a police detective, interviewing the-
[56:57] And that’s a very late, very late, reveal. And
we very much transgressed to the chagrin of our audience that were now in conflict with. My point, when she was The Writer because it- – tells The Publisher to not trust The Muse.
And basically everything The Muse says will be a lie.
[57:26] And so we are immediately distrustful of The muse. We’ve got no information
on the contrary , and they start contradicting each other and soon enough- –
I mean, this is a very short film, so it feels like I’m probably compressing it in some ways.
They after one night, they decided to throw The Muse out because she’s going to be too much of a distraction.
[58:18] And Rachel Blake’s character kind of nods her head
Yes, she does. She wants help with her second book. But in fact, The Muse says, I can give you the second book, but yes, she does.
She wants help with her second book, and her and The Writer have a plan that we- – come up with a plan that we are not privy to.
But when we don’t see what they discussed, there is a time jump. So, again, the film is withholding it, and I think that is more or less the first acts turning point.
[58:45] Can I- – Can I make a broad structural observation about the film and then we can dive into specifics?
[58:51] Yeah, of course. We just- – well this whole episode is versus, audience it’s going- -, you know, we are memento-ing our own podcast.
[59:28] Because we are being told to give her six hours of [unintelligible 00:59:31]
[59:31] So we think that that’s happening linearly. Now what I think the film does very cleverly, is as it goes on, what you begin to realize is those scenes with the author by herself.
[59:42] Okay I’m going to- – I don’t think it’s important I’m going to let you do it I’m interrupting you because that’s a versus audience conflict I know you got to goal,
but I think that’s really good observation because it’s a good good rule of thumb for timelines. So there is timeline A timeline B and timeline C,
and they all seem to be unfoldedling- – they themselves are linear,
the interview with the – -what- -is revealed as the police detective but that’s a revelation based on the questions. The questions themselves start like a press and get more and more pressure on The Writer the writing of the story that we hearing is intercut -,-
corresponds to the events that we are that we are also seeing. So there is a question of like as is she write- -is she basically writing a memoir of the- -the set up is such that we believe,
that she’s The Muse in The Writer’s plan is for The Muse to literally be a source of antagonism on The Publisher,
in order to give him- – give The Writer something to write about,
you know that’s- – that was my interpretation but I think that’s what does make you led to believe that it’s some kind of plan where there are all pushing him along. Though it starts to get more and more murky about- – like it’s like how the fuck did they know he was going to do that?
You know you start questioning their ability to realize the almost the coincidences.
[1:01:02] Yeah, okay.
[1:01:02] Anyway now you can continue, because I think- – I’m just giving context for your observation.
[1:01:07] Thank you. So what you begin to realize is that the scenes where she’s writing the book are not actually the same timeline,
as the action that’s playing out the interplay between the three characters and you realize this because her clothes don’t change she’s always in the same outfit, and the the edits are very clever.
They actually go increasing the audiences awareness of that it’s a separate timeline.
So, for example, Vince Colosimo gets to the point where he grabs the author by the neck and pushes her against the wall,
and you then jump cut, to her as the author saying he grabs her by the neck and pushes her against the wall and calls her a fucking bitch.
So we suddenly then realize, oh, this is happening in a different time, then the final kind of bit where the film- –
the final lie of the film that gets revealed to you is that it isn’t her in a different timeline
remembering what’s happened and writing the book.
It turns out that everything she wrote is potentially a work of fiction. You don’t know whether it’s, real or not, and-
[1:02:28] Kind of the key choice that we think- -and I’m going to jump in before you spoil it, because I think it’s very clever it’s about honoring choice. Essentially they put down a police statement relating to this dead boy.
[1:02:31] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mmm.
[1:02:39] When they were young girls.
[1:02:39] Which- – kids. So The Muse and The Writer were caught up with the death of a boy by drowning, right?
And then they put a book and she put the books down that contradicts that event-, – those events,
and makes it sound like that it was more deliberate, and the film plays with whether or not you should believe it was sexual assault or not.
And I would say that I personally felt uncomfortable with how I was made to feel about it in the context of me, too, because The Writer just sits there and watches it happen
but it doesn’t look like she’s scared to intervene and it’s, like,
so there’s, some writing on on on this film that I want to share that kind of deal with that at- – those aspects of sexual trauma and stuff like that because it’s something that possibly I can’t access.
But they put- – the police detective puts down the book relating to- – and the statement and says which one of those is true?
[1:03:55] And The Writer rather than giving an answer says “isn’t it obvious?”,
Meaning to the- -it’s actually asking the question of the audience this coming back to my observations at the very beginning about pressuring the character to make a choice between two things you know Luke, do you believe in the force or not?,
It’s actually re-framing and making a question which one do you believe? And then you like okay all right
okay, I think I realize what’s happened is what you think at that point is that they – – or I did anyway, I think other audiences will have a different experience in that moment I am like okay they- – her and The Muse have orchestrated the events which escalate,
with The Publisher effectively being dragged down to the river and the gun in the head and someone shooting themselves in suicide because he was the brother of the- – he was the brother of the boy that was killed and it’s related to,
the boy potentially sexually abusing The Muse that you sitting sitting there going “okay one of them is a memoir and the other one is the police statement. Right and that they orchestrated these events so The Publisher would believe it. I thought it was about getting The Publisher to believe,
what they were saying so she could write a memoir that was not true but he was kind of be able to witness it and verify it,
and then the film does something else.
[1:05:13] Well, I think you’re absolutely right. What you think as you’re watching the film is that these guys are kind of going a little bit crazy because these girl- -, these women now grown women. But ever since they were girls, have this very kind of twisted, incestuous relationship.
The Publisher is worried that his author isn’t the author of the book that he published, nor the one that he’s going to publish and he’s, then also kind of wrapped up in.
I don’t have a book, and I also think this person is lying about being a murderer, and they are then kind of framing him for sexual assault and other things.
To murder him and, you know, almost re-create the exact same thing that happened to them, allegedly when they were girls, and then be the fodder for the novel, yeah.
[1:06:00] In self defense and it part of the memoir. Um.
[1:06:04] Yeah, now the key lie and it’s really highlighted.
I’m glad you mentioned that one of the characters committed suicide because one of the key lies you then see that character,
in the police station as the author is walking out alive, having made the complaint like you read the book and said, “ah these women obviously this is a confession that they murdered my brother”,
and and the he’s there. So what that does to me is, as you say, it’s a- –
As you said it’s, a puzzle film, is making you lean forward it’s making you ask questions. How does this all fit?
But it undoes the truth or the reliability of anything that you’ve previously seen. You have no idea- –
well, I think you can reliably say they then show her at the launch- – at a book reading, and clearly The Publisher never went with her to the house.
Clearly, The Muse never went with her to the house. You have no idea.
[1:07:02] The Publisher and The Muse- – well, I know The Publisher may have gone to her at the house. But we’ve never seen them together in that alternate timeline. And importantly the muse and the publisher have never met.
[1:07:08] They never met.
[1:07:13] Yeah, so I mean nothing that we’ve seen for the entire film, except for the police interview, can we confidently, within the world of the film, know happened or not.
And that’s the point of it, that’s, the the thrill of it, the joy of it. The satisfaction of it is in the film, lying to the audience and then making the audience reassess everything that they’ve seen.
[1:07:43] And then- – and this we’ll talk- -we haven’t mentioned it yet but this episode is going very,
nicely segue into our next episode which we’ve already recorded which is on thematic sequences with Steven Cleary because in a way this film the whole point of that revelation is for you to make- – to reconsider the film on a thematic level not to me,
you know and we know that recently had listened to the podcast this is kind of to her you know to me it makes you reassess it on a thematic level not necessarily an emotional one,
the- – as has been observed with these puzzle films probably because they’re prickly towards the audience they actually distance you from emotionally engaging.
[1:08:25] You know with with the films and I think the point of this ending of you- -I got really invested like I was- – I put this film on like one o’clock last night,
before this podcast and I was up till 3 to finish it like I was like I thought I was going to only watch half but no I watched and then the other half this morning. No I had to stay up and finish it. Like i was really engaged with it and that moment where it was like revelation and then the double revelation,
it was like made me reassess the film on a thematic level about what it was saying particularly in the context of,
assault. I mean I think you could look at it as a kind of airport thriller, that’s about the puzzle and that’s it, and their revelation that it was all- – that
basically, we have watched the film reenactment of the book, inter-cut with her, writing the book that’s one way of reviewing the film, I think it’s- –
I think it’s meant to be a little more complicated than that and that’s, part of what I’m going to think about and that’s why there’s some theme paces about it, so.
[1:09:16] There’s- – a there’s a lot of complex stuff in the interplay between the characters but unfortunately, that reveal at the end makes you go well, did it- – none of that happened.So then-
[1:09:28] Well I assume it happened on some well they talk about being-
[1:09:33] Emotional level.
[1:09:34] Yeah it’s kind of like her dramatizing is The Writer drama confessing to something that she did but she’s,
she’s making it dramatized that’s what I mean about you ponder at the end of the film the conflict and the choice for the audience is not about this character is making a choice it’s for you- – it forces you to consider what the film is about and,
you know this is one of those films that people go and watch and they go I don’t get it and if people say,
I don’t get it about a film,
they’re probably watching a film whose central conflict is with the audience and look they might not get it because they’re watching a film that is effectively in another language to use my example at the beginning right because you’re watching something that’s so far outside your understanding of,
cinematic language and we’ve all got like like there is music I listen to that people are going to listen to and they just go what the fuck is that shit you know. I’m listening to [unintelligible 01:10:28] recently and it’s so outside the boundaries of what most people consider songs,
but it’s all- – but that actually to be honest that music is designed to antagonize the audience that it’s about forcing you to go you know,
you know that’s kind of like a thematic question of the music itself.
[1:10:41] This kind of structure could be- –
look, I haven’t seen Nocturnal Animals, but I think Nocturnal Animals is probably a film.
You’re saying it doesn’t lie to the audience but the structure is about engaging you and forcing you to think about films.
I mean, probably even like The Talented Mr Ripley does this
on some level. There are a lot of films that structurally are about being actively hostile to the audience in terms of us engaging and connecting with the films or understanding what’s going on.
[1:11:08] Absolutely, I mean Nocturnal Animals.
It’s a- -it’s, an interesting companion piece to this because it’s, about a character who’s ex husband, has written a book, and he sent her the book and as she’s reading the book,
the the lead character in the book that she’s reading is played by Jake Gyllenhaal and he- – as she’s reading the book.
She is remembering her relationship with her ex-husband, who is played by Jake Gyllenhaal.
And by doing that, you always know as the audience.
It doesn’t lie to you because you always know when she’s reading the book, you always know which timeline is the book and which timeline is her life and he’s doing it to deliberately make you understand how the book is a metaphor for their relationship previously,
and how that makes her feel as a character,
re-experiencing her relationship through his eyes,
which is very different, like it’s, not structurally antagonistic in the way that The Second is. It’s antagonistic through other means it’s, a very transgressive film, but-.
[1:12:22] That’s not actively, hostile to the audience. So maybe a very good example which is like we talked about for this it was on our vote list, which was Mulholland Drive, you know.
[1:12:29] Yeah, I think if you go to any David Lynch work that is actively hostile to the audience and you know those, those moments of hostility, as you say, this will tie in, neatly with our thematic sequences.
episode, with Steven Cleary coming up next.
But often, when you’re forced to constantly go when you, when you are constantly asking yourself what is going on, why am I watching this?
[1:12:48] Or on early access for patreons.
[1:12:57] And I think this will segue neatly into Sans Soleil and F for Fake.
Those films do that so constantly that you end up watching it, asking yourself, what is this about?
It kind of pushes you through the questions of why is this person doing this? Where are they?
What are they doing? What do they want to a point of why am I watching this? Why am I being told this information?
[1:13:19] Which seems like a good segue, speaking about lying and why am I watching this, to F for Fake which actually doesn’t do service
because I think, I think, F for Fake is actually a pretty amusing film, it’s got some funny line one liners, I guess, um, it’s, a lot less self serious, then- – I mean, I love Sans Soleil, which we are doing afterwards.
I mean, we kind of maybe we should do F for Fake and Sans Soleil kind of together.
[1:13:47] I love Sans Soleil and I want to [unintelligible 01:13:48] went out, and you sure watch it, but it’s, really fucking hard to get your whole- – in America you can buy it in Blu-ray, and it’ll play in your Blu-ray players.
As we discovered Buying the Blu-ray podcast.
[1:13:58] It doesn’t play in Australian Blu-ray players, unless you’re got a multi- region. Talking about being actively hostile to your audience, not being able to play it.
F For Fake
[1:15:17] So it’s a- – F for Fake is a 1973 kind of doc-o-drama. Some people describe it as a film essay which is co- written, directed by and stars Orson Welles who worked on the film with Francoise,
Oja Koda who’s in the film, and also claims to have written part of the film.
[1:15:41] And it’s kind of more or less well, it is the last completed film by Orson, Welles and it’s a really hard film to describe,
which is that it ostensibly it’s about Elmyr recounting his career as a professional art forger,
and it’s kind of the film itself is this meandering kind of conversation about the nature of authorship authenticity and the value of art because the point is like, yeah, okay, this guy- – and it made you re-question what- –
like what you’re willing to accept as forgery because the idea is that Elmyr claims to have sold a bunch of forge- – forgeries to galleries around the world who don’t want to admit that they’ve bought forgeries,
once it’s come out that like he was potentially making,
forgeries and that’s kind of more or less the thematic idea which is in the end- – and the film raises it “on a long enough time line no one’s going to give a shit if it’s a forgery”.
[1:17:05] So the film is narrated by Orson Welles, and he is a- -as you said he stars in it, like he’s, a character in it.
And I think this is how it will link to Sans Soleil is it very much- –
His talking to the audience is a big part of what keeps the audience engaged now, he, ostensibly, starts out talking about these two inhabitants of this Spanish island. One of them is Elmyr
The other is Elmyr’s biographer who, told- – Irving, who told the world about Elmyr and then, according to the film.
[1:17:44] And it’s true, I looked it up. It’s true.
[1:17:45] , Let me make the point that he, according to the film, he then pretended to- – was to co-write something with Howard Hughes.
[1:17:58] He was, he said, he wrote the biography, the authorized biography of Howard Hughes.
[1:18:24] Okay, now, there’s, I feel like there’s a lot of that film that would be less antagonistic,
F for Fake if we were of that time because I think the the Howard Hughes scandal would have been a pretty- – we would have come into that film with a lot of built in knowledge because,
F for Fake it constantly raises a question, makes the audience lean forward and then, as it’s building towards the answer for the question,
cuts away to a brand new story, so there’s a sequence it will cut away to- – the two ones that stick out in my mind because,
that’s, the other thing to admire about the film is that it does have,
stand alone sequences it’s antagonistic to the audience because it keeps on raising questions involving you in the story.
So there are- – there is narrative there. It involves you in the story and then pulls the rug out from under you by just going off and telling a different story, and then, you know, there’s there’s in a very kind of postmodernist style there’s
a lot of repetition there is a lot of back and forth, but two of the standalone stories that he starts talking about is one is,
Picassos infatuation with a young girl who walks past his window every day.
[1:19:43] Is played by Kodar herself, which we are introduced to at the beginning of the film walking past all these guys. Yeah.
[1:20:35] And then the other one that really stood out to me is it just keeps cutting away to him, giving narration, in different locations and there’s- –
it keeps coming back to him at a dinner party, with friends in a restaurant and he’s, giving narration, giving narration. And then, eventually, it stays with him in the restaurant. And he starts telling this story about this other Hungarian artist, and forger.
[1:21:58] And then never really comes back to it at all. Nor gives any conclusion to the story and it’s very deliberate.
It’s a,- – those are the two main- -the main tool I feel of, F for Fake
to be antagonistic to you is to keep cutting away.
Like to keep going on tangents as is a common Draft Zero approach.
And then he even tells you at the beginning, I’m not going to lie to you for an hour.
[1:22:38] And then at the end of the film tells
this huge story that he then tells you is complete bullshit, because it happened after an hour of run, time had elapsed.
[1:23:14] It’s it’s, a film that is constantly making you lean forward and go “oh”- – it engages you through narrative, but then undermines and subverts narrative constantly.
And by doing that, it makes you sit back and go “what is this film actually about?” And it helps that it has a person there telling you, ostensibly what it’s about.
[1:23:56] There is some nice editing techniques, which I want to point out, because these are amazing editing techniques and some of them are purely editorial,
and but it’s, a good option, just to kind of recap from both The Second, because The Second does it, which it, does these flash cuts, and this film does as well, which is kind of these moments where the film- – like it is- –
as we said,it goes onto tangents, but they’re- -they are things that often screenwriters can put in their own material. You can put a flash cut, you can go and have a shot that we are sitting there going “I don’t know why I’m seeing this moment”, and the film is promising you that it will explain it.
And ultimately, F for Fake kind of does, even if it’s got this effusive, meandering style.
Ultimately, it does set things up and then pays them off. I mean, the only thing that-
[1:24:41] Well, we never- -we never hear how Elmyr’s story or even Irving story ends.
[1:24:49] And it’s self reflective, because it brings up his story. And this is what makes you- – it’s all historical information.
And this will tie to a future episode on character motivations, where it talks about what happened with The War of the Worlds, the infamous radio adaptation with people believing The War of the Worlds was true.
And so Welles is connecting it to his personal experience with being a faker.
And he faked himself. So the film kind of becomes unreliable, because it’s not lying all the time, you don’t know whether to trust it or not.
And our moment was like “would it work?”, well, this Howard Hughes stuff is true or not.
These darts, because obviously, Howard Hughes, you know, is not Leonardo DiCaprio, right like that, was that that the Martin Scorsese film fictional film, The Aviator.
[1:25:40] So I think the film itself is just about the nature of- – yeah, I mean it’s, a thematic film, it’s, about making you question – – it’s, making- – antagonizing the audience.
It’s, being actively hostile to you in terms of in the editing style, is part of this is making you question.
how do we know that things are true? And as much as I disliked the sequence 30 years on where the camera ogle, ogles, Oja, that’s, [unintelligible 01:26:05], Kodar,
basically, butt shots and there’s, these guys walking her and you think it’s kind of inter-cut footage, and they’re trying to make it look like she was being checked out by these guys
and then it turns out they actually really shot it. like reality TV.
The film is trying to show the way in which truth can be manufactured through editing, and it does it itself.
[1:26:28] Yeah, I mean, let me be clear. Why did we- – why did we pick this film? Because there is no villain
there is no force of nature. There is no system, per say, other than there’s moments where they talk about- – they discus, the system of art,
as an industry and art criticism and art sales.
[1:26:50] Yeah the expert. Yeah, all these experts that ver-, I mean, that’s, just funny.
The experts that verify these paintings, as real and it’s, like “how truly experts they are”. And then you find out that they by saying it’s real likely, to sell it for a lot of money, they don’t really want to question it.
You know, you happen- – come here there is a great line we will include, which is, like you happen to have a lot of whatever the painter is in the bottom drawer, but they don’t question it.
You know, I think all that stuff is incredibly amusing.
[1:27:16] Absolutely. So what we’re saying is, what keeps you engaged with this
ah, with this documentary? I mean, he could have rolled it out as a documentary where it’s, just about the satisfaction, is in the reveal of the information about these two big fakers, which is what he says the film is about.
But then he just sort of at some point casually forgets about them and the- – what makes this film engaging and and again, as you said early on, it’s
not that we want to encourage our listeners to go out and, you know, probably not even you or I are going to go out and make a film like F for Fake but it’s fascinating to see just how you can pull the rug out from under the audience and make them at that point
question what is this about? It’s almost a thematic tool.
[1:28:06] Well, I think the observation that you can make is that Orson Welles himself is the antagonistic force personified in this film. We talked about the film to the audience.We are the protagonist and he is the antagonist and I think perhaps that’s why what is interesting about doing this episode because it feels like it is a weird observation to put in the middle of it. I kind of want to do a documentary episode maybe next year where we look at a bunch of interesting documentaries because I think their style- -because of the way that they speak to the audience allows them to do things that you can’t in traditional narrative.
[1:28:16] So the audience is the protagonist.
[1:29:03] And it turns out in in The Second that they’re speaking directly to the audience. She’s essentially reading us her novel.
[1:29:11] Yeah, we’re seeing a reenactment of her novel, but we are not told. So I think there is something that you can- – you can take from that.
And I think just from understanding, kind of modern editing, you know, F for Fake is definitely worth looking at as a writer, and I think- – I think the story is really kind of fascinating, the whole fakery and where you draw the line.
[1:29:31] Yeah, I found it fascinating but it didn’t- – it didn’t answer any of the questions that it raised.
[1:29:39] I mean, the fact that we’re demanding it shows that it it worked but it was a versus audiences, but making us ask questions at the very end, because for me, I think it was about questioning the value of art. What is it that makes a particular person’s painting valuable?
Because if it’s about technical skill then there’s, other people that can do the technical skill is that it’s scarcity it’s about the industry that creates the value out of the art.
But then there’s that’s why the Oja story at the very end, because basically it comes down to there is this forger that ends up creating a series of paintings that claims they are by Picasso.
and everyone loves them, but because never painted them and they’re amazing,
and then Picasso hate,- – like, is really distasteful towards this forgerer, .The forgerer, is like I’ve given you the gift of a whole new era of Picasso and I think as much as that story is fake it’s about that,
idea, you know.
[1:30:31] Oh, absolutely. Yes, I’m not- – I’m not arguing with you there. I guess- -yeah, I’m just, you know.
[1:30:38] Oh, fuck!
O, man, I haven’t been recording for two hours.
[1:30:45] You’ve been recording for two hours?
[1:30:47] I haven’t been recording fucking stopped.
[1:30:53] When? I’ve only got an hour and thirty seven minutes of recording.
[1:30:56] I’ve got fifteen.
[1:31:04] Got you lying to the audience and Chas.
[1:31:10] Oh, my god! Ah!
[1:31:12] No. Yeah.
[1:31:15] You bastard I was- – I was already like halfway down the stairs to go to sleep, grateful that I could go to bed early.
[1:31:26] Wouldn’t we just re-record.
[1:31:29] Right now, no.
all right, now, now, I’ve done a fake out now, Versus Audience Versus episode.
[1:31:38] You know why that was a successful fake out is because this has fucking happened to us in the past?,
[1:31:46] Should we move on to Sans Soleil?
[1:32:39] So in Sans Soleil – -, look let’s, draw the parallels with F for Fake, first of all, which is there is a narrator.
And I think that is one of the main ways that it maintains audience engagement is by talking to the audience.
ah, the way that it lies similarly to F For fake, is that the narration is obviously-,- well, not obviously.
But it’s, written by the filmmaker and it’s, beautiful it’s, it’s, poetic and observant and amazing.
But it is portrayed as being these letters, written by-, -and even is credited as letters written by a fictitious person.
[1:33:19] The film is so versus audience, or at least so constructive is that it completely Chris Marker- –
is not- – doesn’t have the credit, on the film and that his letters that are written by him are – – so it’s fictitious. What- – is it Sandor Krasna?
[1:33:35] Yes, yeah, and not only that there’s another layer in between the audience and the filmmaker, which is the letters are being read by a woman.
who, allegedly-, -well the- – we would understand the letters, is being written to her from someone who’s traveling through Japan, New Guinea,
Scandinavia and, ah, Africa and the Pacific Island.
[1:34:02] So I think you could broadly call the film a travelogue.
I guess that’s, the closest thing, like a travelogue or a documentary in once upon- -, you know, people would put you know, there is a terribly shit version of on this that’s, like on Vimeo.
[1:34:21] But that’s kind of a structure like it is trapped, like in a weird way it is just travel footage, but like someone shooting, but they’re not in it.
We never actually see the fictitious narrator like this kind of person- -we never see them. There’s, no self referential, um, you know, which happens with some documentaries that kind of not Aaron Morris that’s like Sherman’s, and stuff.
[1:34:45] Like Louie-
[1:34:47] Yeah, yeah, yes, actually there’s a whole world of, like the Bill Bryon’s and the [unintelligible 01:34:51], which is about them and their travels and it’s a lot more about their personality.
This there only- – our only experience of these character is,
And they’re both official cannon voice overs.
But with with subtitles.
[1:35:20] And so it’s, it’s, another- -for us, it was another frame between us and them and the material, and you’ve seen it a number of times whereas this was my first viewing
[1:35:20] Because, I think.
[1:35:27] I do speak a bit of french, so i wasn’t constantly, you know, reading the subtitles, but it’s- – for such a visual experience.
I think being forced to read subtitles was- – was a very different experience of it, but
often, at least for the first half, a lot of what the visuals are showing you either in contra- -, they’re not they’re not actually necessarily what the text, what the oral,
stuff is talking about, you know.
[1:35:59] They all stayed talking about that early Japanese court and there’s all that shots of the missiles
That was the one that’s, the most stark contrast where you’re like
“Okay, there’s, a disconnect between what we’re saying and what we hearing and then-,- which is, I think where you are going for.
The question becomes why they- – why, why am I seeing this?
[1:36:49] And there’s often long stretches of the film where the where the run of sequence of images were being shown continues and the narration stops.
And in those moments, the only thing that I personally was filling that void with was why am I being shown these images at this point in time?
And there are moments with the film where the- – where it does that the visuals and the narration do match up.
I remember I’ve got it written here that I love the TV sequence where it’s showing like Japanese TV and he started talking,
The narrator starts talking about the experience of watching Japanese TV, but then it digresses in the narration, but not in the TV like not in what you’re seeing and, you know, there’s
lots of jump cuts back to images from the very beginning of the film, like there’s, this News that keep popping up there on this island and in France and,
you know, there’s there’s people asleep on a train, cross cutting to this really like sort of violent TV that to me, I’ve got written down it’s like commenting on- -it’s an ambulance society.
[1:38:07] Or where he talks about the video effects that becomes a thematic.
[1:38:40] So it’s hard for us to talk about this film in any precise moment, because unlike F for Fake F for, Fake did trade in narrative.
[1:38:50] And that, more or less F for Fake felt like a very clear sequences, you know you have the sequence of the opening of the girl being go- -ogled.
Oh, wow, yeah, they were ogling her in this nineteen, seventy three.
There is the moment at the end, the story about the Picasso then there’s the whole thing about War of the Worlds and then there’s the kind of the meat of that story of F for Fake early on. The story for about the fakers and that’s, only about 15 or 20 minutes, and you’re like, is that it?
Okay, this guy faked a bunch of paintings and then meanders off somewhere else. But there’s very clear, kind of like- – it was episodic in a way, unified by Orson Welles
voice over. Sans Soleil is episodic, but it’s, like a thousand episodes like it feels like every five minutes is a new, you know, it’s like a travelogue it’s like-
[1:39:38] Each letter is a new episode. But they but they don’t feel connected or moving anything because they are observations.
[1:40:15] Yeah, and it’s the heroic theme , there is a rhythm to it, which is something we didn’t- – we haven’t talked about, and then talking about option now because I was talking about interruption or the obstruction being a thing, so,
and this will come to character journeys and broadening our palate.
But repetition is like the reason that most jokes are in three is you need- – two is the minimum you need to build the pattern, right?
So it’s like we- – it’s not a great joke, but I can say there’s three of us on this , the podcast there’s, you know me, Chas and my being,
and the joke is terrible, but the idea is the pattern is this humans and there’s the surprise at the end and repetition and,
the change of repetition is or the obstruction or the interruption is kind of what give these things a pattern that make us process information.
I’m not sure if I’m articulating that very well, but I’m setting this up now for like in four episodes time when we start talking about character journeys because character journeys is all about,
and charact- – well, actually, character motivation is about the passion of the character and then the surprise of them doing something that is out of that pattern,
and pattern- – and the breaking of the pattern creates conflict.
[1:41:36] Well, what is narrative but pattern recognition ultimately? And I think-
[1:41:40] Rhythm music is.
[1:41:42] Sans Soleil and F for Fake very much trade in rhythm, Sans Soleil less of a repeated rhythm, although it does come back right to the end. Yea.
[1:41:54] Two locations. Lots of Japan, there’s, the foliage, the horrible- – and, you know, this film was 19, 84- –
It wasn’t the- -I mean.
I’m not Japanese, I don’t want to speak definitively about the cultural experience. But man, having a couple of atomic bombs dropped on you is going to cast quite the shadow and the and the war it’s- –
you know, the war itself is going to cast a huge shadow over japan.
[1:42:41] I think in some ways, the film as much as its exactifying Japan, has kind of got this fascination with it.
Um, and it actually used the word fascination in the in one of the letters about the nature of fascination.
[1:42:55] I actually was- – I found any of the bits in japan really engaging, and then when it left japan for these kind of short little episodes, when they went to Africa, or to New Guinea or something like that, I was constantly going- –
I was really getting into that. And then it came back to Japan a lot, which was, yeah, rewarding for me
anyway, I think we’ve probably made clear just how antagonistic the film Sans Soleil is with it’s audience through lack of narrative.
Is there anything you want to talk about in terms of tools that people could take away from Sans Soleil in particular?
[1:43:32] Its rhythm, actually, the way it feels unified.
The film is- – because it’s so meandering, it’s actually opposite with these other films.
Ah, like The Second is interrupting your viewing to give you a flash, as we’ve implied, with Sans Soleil it’s, a film, it it’s hard to talk about because it’s it’s very experiential.
You know, I think you kind of have to just watch it. And I, think with the subtitles versus
if you’ve got the head space to watch it with in English, if that’s a language you understand or French if that’s ,the language, you understand,
like hearing it and then seeing the images it kind of washes you experientially while having to read the subtitles and then having to look at the image was a little bit kind of,
dividing your attention a little bit too much for me, but the rhythm of the, he wrote me. He wrote me.
[1:44:41] Dividing the episodes the pattern is actually what unified it, that the film, if it’s left- – to me, Sans Soleil feels less antagonistic or actively hostile to the audience than F for Fake.
And I think that’s, because the rhythm or the structure of the film is actually trying to bring this stuff together.
It’s trying to unify it all and that’s why it’s got this repetition coming back to the zone, as they call it.
In this processed, video footage, um.
[1:45:06] And the zone being reminiscent of Tarkovsky obviously, which is another, you know, with Tarkovsky, along with David Lynch, you know, there, there are a number of different filmmakers,
[1:45:08] Yeah, of course, which is yet, um.
[1:45:19] who I think dealing in antagonizing the audience, is
their their their way that their process their, way they sit.
[1:45:29] Yeah, and they’re not actively hostile. They’re trying to force you to be actively engaged with the film.
They’re hostile, but they’re not trying to hurt you. I think that’s it’s hostility, and they’re trying to hurt you. I don’t think these films are actively hurting you but they are hostile.
[1:45:43] But there’s- – I think in comparison, today’s films, the traditional western Hollywood cinematic narrative.
What it’s trying to kind of do is put you at ease and not necessarily question why you’re watching what you’re watching until the end of the film.
Whereas these films with the absence of antagonism, the way that they create conflict to keep you engaged, is by being in conflict with the audience member.
And the result of that is making you constantly go what is this about?
[1:46:18] Year you know, when we started out, because I said it’s in the poll, I was like, Sans Soleil is definitely the film I want to do.
And what is interesting is because we’re focusing on versus, audience.
I think it’s, a hard film to talk about in this context, because ultimately, I think I wanted to kind of get into,
kind of broadly speaking, like visual aesthetics, like repetition and contrast and contrast in particularly and but how
rhythm, , both from contrast and patterns and all that stuff.
But in a way, I’m not sure that’s that useful to screenwriters. I thought it would be.
I thought it would be, and I still think there is something you could do a lot that’s, really formal.
[1:47:00] I think it’s, a beautiful observation.
[1:47:01] I think there is some level of formality that you can use like I’d love David Foster Wallace he is one of my,
all time favorite writers and he used to- -and I kind of played around- – fucked around with like experimental prose when I was younger. A lot of that was influenced by his formal experience and he’s not the only author that did that kind of formalism in the prose but the thing is prose itself,
is the medium and is the screenwriter as much as I generally believe that screenwriting is an art the form of screenwriting,
is not visible to the audience. Dialogue yes that you could- – and narration and to understand all these films and write and write it,
that the screenwriter could obviously use some kind of repetitious structure or as when we go into Forrest Gump there is a structure there is a repetition to how it binds those episodes together,
there were just other things those kinds of aesthetic qualities I think there is some that the screenwriter can put in their screenplays and have control over and there are others that are unfortunately going to come through editing as much as you can allude to it. Someone wrote,
Sans Soleil and it was Chris Marker he wrote the words that we heard and he wrote the images he just didn’t necessarily write them in 12 point career in a screenwriting program on a time writer he wrote them with his camera and his editing equipment.
[1:48:15] I think that’s- – but I think screenwriters should watch it,
because it’s so different, you know, because it is something that is beautiful, and it is so different.
And it’s, good to remind ourselves that films don’t necessarily need to be about good guys versus bad guys and heroes journeys and all that stuff, like, where, you know, talking about this film 25 years later. And, you know, I know people still talk about Raiders of the Lost Ark and stuff like that.
But, you know, 80 years, a hundred years, people will still definitely be talking about Sans Soleil and maybe a few people at film school talking about the, you know, history of twentieth century film making.
[1:48:50] But, yeah, speaking of something more conventional.
[1:50:48] Well, yeah, I think we- – so, as you said, Jules suggested Forrest Gump and when he suggested it I just started thinking about it while I clearly know that that that film must be so conventional, right?
Because it’s so sort of famously sappy and emotional, but then as I was thinking about it, I was like, well, Forrest Gump,
in the film, he’s got lots of micro antagonist, but there’s no real villain to the film, unless you kind of look at it as a,
a romcom where he and Jenny are each other’s antagonist, but as I was thinking about, I’m like, let,
we should do this film and then you- – you re-watched it before I did and you were like, yes, let’s, let’s definitely do Forrest Gump because,
I think it does do- – it’s a great film to tie this together, about- – because unlike F for Fake and Sans Soleil,
while I think there is an absence of antagonist in Forrest Gump and I do think it is engaging directly with the audience,
it’s not doing so in an aggressive way, and it shows how you can use these tools to make very,
engaging material as well and very- -material that feels conventional while on a structural level, being actually quite remarkable.
[1:52:13] To summarize Forrest Gump, for those who haven’t seen it, it’s, based on the- -open the Wikipedia page.
Wow, Wikipedia, actually, says it’s, a romantic comedy interesting. Forrest Gump is kind of a loose adaptation of the novel of the same name, about a slow witted but kind-hearted, good natured and brilliant runner.
ultimately, from Alabama Gump and, the story is about him witnessing and in some cases, slightly influencing some of the defining events of the kind of post,
World War Two kind of not even 50 but 50s onwards, 50s to the 80s, of american history.
And it is extraordinarily it’s, not extraordinary. Well, actually kind of extraordinarily, very episodic, like you don’t see films as episodic , as this that much Frozen missed it. It was somewhat of a phenomena, I’m going to say up front the one aspect that I think it’s versus audiences in is because you see all these moments of, like, Forrest, like meeting JFK.
[1:53:35] And then later, that he’s kind of responsible- – that Forrest Gump is responsible for the not well, yeah, it gets to that but it starts off with I came in the Elvis and the dance that is that the hound dog dance.
[1:53:58] And it’s kind of like these amusing moments of like “oh isn’t that funny Forrest Gump taught Elvis how to dance like that where Elvis was singing this song”, because Fortest was in these braces,
and as it becomes clear, it’s, like him intersecting with history, has a bigger influence- – at least a bigger influence on the history or it kind of makes you rethink it.
So yes, he accidentally reveals Watergate, but there’s also him kind of surviving Hurricane Carmen you see him investing in Apple Computer except, you know, and I think part of the versus audience is,
something that is very contextual, which is your understanding of those historical events,
as we talked about with F for Fake and the Howard Hughes stuff.
What was happening at those- – at the time, for the irony of what is going on with Forrest Gump to have any kind of resonance.
And I think 25 years on, I’m like there is no irony anymore, um, like it kind of fades and whatever satire that was meant to be in the novel is completely lost in the film.
[1:55:03] It’s is amusing if you understand the context, but the film doesn’t tell you what that act- – the quote unquote, the truth of the moment is the film is lying to you about what happened.
[1:55:43] And I think, unlike Sans Soleil, Sans Soleil doesn’t lie to you. I think this film does lie to you. But in an ironic way. But it doesn’t tell you that it’s lying.
The other films reveal that they were. You know, this film is trying to be ironic about history.
But there’s a point when you forget history, that the film will become what he is, which is why I described, it as a [unintelligible 01:56:05] with dream because ultimately, this story is I’ll- -we’ll get to that when we deal with.
[1:56:10] Well, I’ve got less issues with- – I’m reading less subtext into it than I think you are.
But what the observation I want to make in relation to antagonist is, it is very episodic, so each episode often has- – it’s got conflict for Forrest and there’s, often a sequence level antagonist, you know, in Vietnam
it’s, the war, the it’s, the Vetcong, you know it’s, the loss of his best friend, but as a broad, overarching story.
Basically, this this is almost could be seen as the story told from the villains. point of view.
[1:56:50] Yeah, I think Forrest is the antagonist to everyone else around it.
[1:56:53] Exactly. He’s got one goal, which is live with Jenny, but he has no control over that whatsoever.
The- – all the urgency in his and Jenny’s relationship is with Jenny.
She decides when she can come and go, she, you know, he even says at one point, you know, why won’t you marry me?
It’s, like kind of the almost the low point of the whole film, is-
[1:57:48] And and so she comes and goes from his life as- – and as you say, part of the joy of the film is just watching him.
This very simple, very kind man butt up against all these other characters and he’s- -him, forcing them to change.
He forces Jenny to change. He forces even his mother to change, to recognize him for the amazing person that he is. He forces Lieutenant Dan, obviously to change.
[1:58:17] No. Okay, so let’s go through it, because it’s, not obvious if you haven’t seen the film.
[1:58:27] Don’t depress me, Stu.
[1:58:29] So the there’s two kind of quote unquote forces of antagonism for or conflicts or obstacles for Forrest Gump.
But I don’t even think they’re really obstacles, to him. So one is his low IQ.
But I don’t think it’s presented as an , obstacle to him.
The film certainly doesn’t show it as being that much of an obstacle other than in the context of Jenny.
The assumption I think that we make is that Jenny doesn’t want to be with him because he’s like you, the one that we- -it begins with him, is that he’s got a curved spine and he’s got leg braces, and that becomes an obstacle when he- – and he’s unable to walk properly.
But due to that, when he meets Elvis Elvis ends up imitating the dance of Forrest that Forrest Gump makes when Elvis plays to him.
And the sequence ends with him being bullied by his- – by these people. And then Jenny tells him to run.
[1:59:28] And he keeps on running. And then we see the braces break off him. He overcomes the obstacle.
And that’s kind of- – in terms of Forrest run, Forrest runs.
And then it becomes him getting into football and through football
there is, he’s gets involved with the kind of the desegregation. Oh, yeah, and this is, has the moment he’s, the one that followed three- – a girl drops,
It’s one of the African American girls, that’s trying to go into the university when they’re trying to desegregate, drops her folder and Forrest, picks it up, gives it to her and goes in.
And that kind of helps opens up other white students to do it. So he changes the school at that point.
Then he goes to Vietnam. And, yes, the obstacle for him is, yeah, but I don’t think wherever- – we are never afraid for him, because the whole film is framed with Forrest Gump sitting at a,
bus, stop park bench, telling these stories to whoever’s nearby they are episodic stories.
[2:00:21] Park bench yes.
[2:00:26] Because he’s, just telling the story about this time in his childhood, when blah blah blah.
[2:00:30] And he’ll draw – – he’ll draw an ending in any given episode by saying “and that’s all I want to say about that”.
[2:00:35] That. I think he’s absolutely and the anti- – he is the antagonist for Jenny, he is the antagonist for Dan he’s, the antagonist for Bubba so Bubba’s a soldier he meets, and they want to go in shrimping, and it does set up some quests.
But ultimately, he was responsible for Dan changing because he’s lieutenant Dan the whole unit really wiped out he’s- – Forrest saves lieutenant Dan, and Dan comes back and they become friends.
Forrest ends up becoming a ping pong person, and he meets Richard Nixon, and that leads to Watergate and so on, and so forth, he is a force of change on the others.
It’s not that he’s, an obst- -, in a way, he is an obstacle to those people.
He stops them getting what they want, what lieutenant Dan wanted to die in Vietnam, a war hero.
[2:01:33] You know, and I think the Jenny thing is the more complicated aspect of it. But almost all those sequences are about Gump
kind of being a shark. He is unchanging and he’s, belligerent and stubborn because he doesn’t know any better. He’s, a good person and-.
[2:01:47] Well, he doesn’t- -he doesn’t seem to make decisions.
This isn’t fair, like, I think he makes lots of decisions in the film, but it feels like there’s no decision, because he will always do the right thing in any given circumstance, because he’s, not smart enough, to,
you know, ever want to do anyone else harm or mischief.
And, like the, it feels like the one kind of decision he makes- –
he chooses to sign up, sort of, but again, that’s, like he graduates from college, and he gets a pamphlet for joining the army, thrust into his hands and, yeah, then joins up.
[2:02:28] The only thing that comes close to choices is that any time that Jenny is in danger he throws a punch.
[2:02:34] Yeah, and but again, that doesn’t feel like a choice. He doesn’t- – it doesn’t.
[2:02:39] He trying to white knight her.
[2:02:41] Yeah, it doesn’t feel like he would ever sit back and watch Jenny suffer, because he doesn’t understand, like, how complex the situations that she, that she may want to be in those positions to a greater or a lesser extent.
[2:02:56] And that’s definitely the irony. Like me, we, we the or- – and this is playing point of view, but the opposite to Ocean’s. 8.
We’re ahead of Forrest on so much right and and it’s in conflict, but the conflict, instead of making us lay in makes us amused or horrified.
So when we learned that Jenny is through context, that Jenny well-,- I mean, all of it, like the fact that Forrest’s mom sleeps with the,
Principal to get him into the school when we learned that Jenny’s being sexually abused by her father and he- – Forrest Gump just doesn’t seem to process it.
[2:03:56] The naiveity is amusing to us. It’s, a conflict between us and the- -, like the character.
We’re ahead of them at that point and that’s to do with the history. Like all of it, I guess we’re a head Forrest, like either we know that the history didn’t play out quite like it showed.
[2:04:03] Yeah, I think you’re making an excellent point like that-
[2:04:13] You know, particularly with their really bad CGI now 20 something, years later 25 years later,
you know or it’s, because we understand what’s actually happening, like when Jenny describes what she eventually becomes ill with as a virus, I think it’s Hepatitis C, but I always interpreted it, as AIDS.
[2:04:29] AIDS. Yeah, here’s what I found astonishing from about the film
looking at it through this lens is there’s no villain there’s, no real goal for Forrest other than Jenny.
[2:04:43] Which is, I think, underplays slightly how important that is, a driver for him.
[2:04:48] Yeah, but it’s, a driver for him, but he’s in- – it doesn’t drive any of his decisions, because he has no choice in the matter.
You know, he joins up, he goes to college, conveniently near Jenny, but that wasn’t the driver of him going there.
He did-,- goes to war, not to win Jenny over or not, he doesn’t play ping pong to win Jenny over or not, he doesn’t drive a shrimp- – shrimp boat to win Jenny over, or not like, they’re not driving his actions or his decisions.
He just wants her, and whenever she comes, he asks for her to stay, and she will either stay or go.
[2:05:22] The shrimp boat is actually a great example of what it is.
It’s all luck, like it’s already, a sex machine like this is the opposite of big size coincidences to get characters into trouble.
The Forrest Gump is about coincidences getting Forrest out of trouble, but we shouldn’t have the coincidence happen from his naivety. So when there’s a storm, he just naively buckets, the shrimp boat into the storm.
And as it turns out, that was a cyclone, and then the only ship that’s still around and incidentally they are in the shrimping business.
[2:05:50] What I wanted to say is the one decision it feels like he actually makes as a character.
That’s, really clearly him is when Jenny leaves him after the first time that they have sex is he just starts running and ends up running for three years.
And that is the only time where he’s, like I’m running because I want to run but there’s, no goal, there’s, no obstacle, and his running is suddenly inspiring all these other characters to do things and change the world around them.
[2:06:21] He is the force of change yea.
[2:06:22] To me, it’s. Remarkable to have a story about such a memorable character like there’s still so many lines in the film that people quite- – it so permeated, popular culture.
And yet it bucks so much of what is conventional screenwriting narrative about what a protagonist is supposed to be or supposed to do.
That’s what I find is astonishing about it.
[2:06:46] Yeah, because I think in a way there is- – Jenny is kind of a protagonist.
She makes the final choice, which is to marry Forrest, as hers. He asked- – him. Well, he proposes to her, but we know the answer’s going to be no. It’s waiting- -she’s got the urgency in the relationship, and we know he’s going to say yes.
[2:06:59] She proposes to him.
[2:07:48] Yeah, she- – I mean, he had proposed to her in the- -at the low point of the film where she leaves him.
But when she comes back to him, and she’s had a son it’s, four years later, or something, and at that point, she she proposes to him.
So he’s, like he’s, got no urgency, no goals- – no overarching goal.
No want or need other than Jenny, about which he has zero control. And I think, if anyone ever like says, this is how you write the story, you just point to Forrest Gump and say that is not how that film works.
[2:08:26] Yes so there’s a few observations to make that connects it to- –
like all the other films, it’s got voice over. It’s got voice over from the perspective of Forrest and he’s, speaking to the person in the context of the film next to them. But because he’s addressing them and we barely-,- they’re not characters.
They’re just surrogates but he’s, really speaking to us. And the conflict, as I said, is between a point of view, about his, naivety and and also that it kind of makes us feel kind of like concer- ,- like he’s, like a lost puppy dog.
Like, emotionally, we feel kind of like he’s, a bit childlike or whatever. So our relationship with him is one of concern, but not suspense concern, but kind of like a yeah.
[2:09:04] Well, like you said, the structure of the film takes out any suspense because we know he lives through whatever he’s telling us.
[2:09:11] You know, and then I think it’s to see how, as we said, there’s, like scene based obstacles for him, as much as we described his kind of jaws.
But he’s got no overall- -I mean, he’s, never in jeopardy, there’s, no stakes.
But there is a enjoyment to see how he changes
people and, how he’s naivety kind of creates.
moments of amusement like it is something totally different, you know, he and he’s naivety about Vietnam, like all these dialogue, that’s tension between what he’s saying and what we as an audience, understand of the real situation.
We’ll see how this film plays in a hundred years, you know, because it relies so heavily on that but it’s also got Jenny’s journey, and still a journey the film has chosen not to focus on it’s is, like Sicario,
and it’s the reason I call it like.
[2:10:03] And lieutenant Dan’s. journey is a big journey as well.
[2:10:06] Yeah, so the journey of those characters, like lieutenant Dan’s, loses his legs in Vietnam, and then ultimately comes to be thankful for Forrest Gump saving his life. At the beginning, he is not.
[2:10:21] And Jenny cunning-,- I mean, her, journey and relationship with him is a bit odd and that’s
why it feels thematic, because her story is like, you know, this is set against the backdrop of the counterculture, and and she literally just goes through all the cliches,
of a bad- -a girl falling in with the wrong crowd. She starts off as a nice girl from set- –
well, not a nice girl. She’s actually abused, but then she gets involved in hippies and black panther and drugs and she’s, a stripper, and she ends up getting AIDS
And the only person that can save her is the the propertied landowner from Alabama that will save her and accept her to look after him because she can’t look after herself like it’s such a weird-
[2:10:56] Ah, no!
[2:11:03] -politically, weird film 25 years later like it’s, kind of like.
[2:11:07] That is certainly a read that has been impacted by the times I feel.
[2:11:12] But, yeah, but I think they- – how else, can you interpret it? It’s like we don’t see- – we don’t have access to Jenny.
So we don’t see why she’s behaving this way, and the one time that Forrest, I mean talking about conflict with the audience. The one time Forrest actually has the opportunity to speak about how he actually generally feels about war, right?
It’s him in front of this whole crowd near the monument in Washington in WC you know, Washington, DC, and he goes- -they ask him, what his experience of Vietnam was and like
and then it cuts to another character pulling out this, obviously something pulling out all the cables, and we can’t hear what Forrest has to say.
[2:12:17] And we never know about whether he is like it was horrible watching all my friends die.
We should never have been there, right, or whatever the context is. So from being actively hostile to, the audience and having an obstruction in front of that goal of understanding what is going on.
[2:12:34] Yeah, absolutely. I think you’re read is a perfectly valid read, but I think you could also see it as a story about how,
simpleness and kindness , are the virtues to get behind.
If you look, at it as a very, very simple morality tale.
[2:12:57] Yeah, but they.
[2:12:58] He’s so he’s, so ah, slow that he doesn’t see race.
[2:13:04] Yes, I know what- – it’s kind of yeah, he’s, color blind. But then, well, that’s raises a whole bunch of other issues that 25 years later are more complex. Yes, I think there is a fairytale that that you can see his morality.
But I think that’s conservative conservatism. I mean, I don’t want turn this into a common sense.
[2:13:27] And I was like, I like to call it sleeping in with Stu Willis that’s going to be my version of the- – of the Sam Harris podcast.
I’m still at work I’m still asleep that’s ah!
Which is meant to be ironic. Everyone. I don’t particularly feel very warrick.
So I know I’m kind of mumbling at this point, which is probably a good sign for us to wrap up. But I think Forrest Gump is interesting to revisit because it does do sequence level antagonism, the voice over and and the relationship of the film with the audience kind of unifies it.
[2:14:11] So I think it’s, probably a good opportunity to wrap up. And I was going to suggest that we kind of return to Jack’s question man, you had a good value out of that fucking question.
That kind of kicked off this epic 10 hour- ,-I hope you are satisfied, Jack?
[2:14:33] I was wondering if you’d consider taking a closer look at films with the world of the story acts as antagonistic force, as opposed to a traditional villain.
[2:15:12] So how do you- – how do you write a film without an antagonist?
[2:15:17] A singular antagonist I think broadly speaking what we’re kind of talking about and what I said at the beginning,
that there is a- – there’s obviously scene level antagonists small obviously but they can be scene level antagonist sequence level act level whole film level I think what they’re- – he’s talking about for me,
is that the source of the antagonizing or is it a hostile,
actively hostile force.
[2:15:52] As much I like talking about active hostility I think it does. I think antagonist is a good name for it,
sorry man actively hostile is what it does antagonism or antagonistic forces is a way of describing it I think there way of,
they’re the organizing principle behind those forces and obviously some of those- – so now scene level forces are going to be physical obstacles even in a film that is versus self,
or is versus audience,
but I think ultimately relates to kind of the dramatic. Each of those
[2:16:30] questions which I talked about at the very beginning relates to the central dramatic questions,
that you’re dealing with in that particularly scene or sequence or act or film and the kind of questions you’re asking. And in the case of versus audience we’re asking questions often about theme which is what we’re going be talking about in thematic sequences why am I watching this?
What is the meaning behind this and the meaning may not be a thematic meaning. It can be what does this say about the character.
But the questions are not framed as character questions. Where versus self films.
I think the central conflicts are about,
the character, self recognition, and I think what’s interesting about versus nature, in hindsight, is that versus nature will either fall into versus self, or it will fall into versus- –
those questions will be versys self, or versus human, or maybe even versus system. I think versus nature is a way of dramatizing those sources of conflict.
[2:17:26] I mean, what, what are the main takeaway I had from versus nature, being distinct from the other ones, was the non negotiating with the antagonistic forces changes the tactics of the protagonist and how defeat able it is , and where you want to take your protagonist.
[2:17:44] No, you can’t negotiate with F for Fake either.
[2:17:49] , but I think that’s, kind of where I’ve come to the conclusion.
I think you’re going to have those forces in there to maintain interest. And I think they’re ultimately related to the kind of questions that you me- – you’re asking of your characters and your audience, and they shift, and they shift over the course of the film.
I think that’s what’s interesting about Forrest Gump is that it does vary. Those questions vary from sequence to sequence.
[2:18:12] And, you know, look, I think with this episode, we put a lot of our learning’s up front. So I don’t necessarily feel compelled to put so many learnings at this point.
But I have loved what this has done for my own craft and writing like this five part exploration into antagonists.
I feel so much more empowered, having done the work now, and I’m really excited about where we’re thinking of going in terms of diving into character decisions, character, motivations, character journeys.
Um, and, yeah, I hope I hope our listeners appreciated it as well.
going, to, maybe have the last word we’ll see. You might want to in a sec-
[2:18:58] Yeah, fire away.
[2:19:01] We talked about at the end of versus systems that there, and even in this episode about characters having the choice to escape,
or is it calm or overthrow to the system that I think that is true, whether it’s versus human, often versus human stories, they overthrew them.
What’s his face John Mcclane overthrows Hans Gruber but I think it’s also true of versus self if your conflict is internal do you escape it do you overthrow it or do you succumb to it?
[2:19:36] And then I think that obviously true of systems nature as well I mean I guess you’re quite like with supernatural with the Woman in Black or The Witch,
in The Witch the question is do you- -do they escape like Philip did or did they overcome him or do they escape him,
you may ask what’s that how does that work with with versus audience films and I’m going to end with- – and it’s an example from,
a video game but it’s- -I think it shows what the medium is- – all mediums are capable of. And I’ve talked about this before I think on our theme episode which is the video game Spec Ops: The Line had a level where you as the player character,
– it’s not even an option you find some white phosphorus and have to use it on civilians to continue progressing the level,
right? And I remember when I got there I’m like I don’t want to fucking- – I don’t want to do this the game has done a very great job of you walk through a level where people have been killed by white phosphorus which is like,
may palm turned up to eleven in only the way that the military industrial complex knows how like it is horrifying so you know the damage it does and then you are presented with this and there’s no wayto get around it you have to use it.
[2:20:57] And then to the point where I thought about quitting the game. But I didn’t I continued and was horrified by what I’d done but continued. This game which sets up,
the next episode because it’s inspired by Apocalypse Now. This game is more or less Apocalypse Now as a game the developers will like yeah you actually had an option you could’ve quit.
[2:21:18] We deliberately didn’t give you an option to get around it because this is an example of why these things happen in the real world that people believe they have a mission that they have to achieve the goal which is to finish,
in this case the game and so they’re prepared to do horrible things and that’s what our comment is and so that’s a game where the film is so actively- – the game is so actively hostile to the audience that you had the option of escaping,
you couldn’t overthrow it you couldn’t negotiate with a video game but you either succumb to it or you escaped it. But I didn’t escape it and I thought that’s it ends up being- – I’m talking about it like really,
eight years later of having to play because it’s a profoundly emotional moment and it’s it’s quite awesome and I think when these films do that correctly they can have moments like that.
But that’s kind of my looming. Now, in terms of antagonism, do you escape
Overcome or succumb? I think, it’s more complicated than educative or thwarted. It speak- – now, it’s your turn to esca- – if you hadn’t escaped earlier.
[2:22:21] Yeah, well, look, I just like to take this opportunity to thank our patreons once again, in particular.
Murib Musings Paul Sandra, Rob, Chris, Joakim and Khrob.
You guys I hope you enjoyed your 10 hours of antagonism, and we’ll be back relatively soon.
We hope, because we’ve already got it in the can with our latest episode with Steven Cleary on thematic sequences.
[2:22:53] And if you want to get it early before it’s released, sign up to patreon.
[2:22:56] I hope you all feel like arguing with either Stu or myself about anything on this episode or anything in general.
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