I love interesting conflicts and dilemmas. So much so, I often pick my favorite movie conflicts and analyze them on this blog:
- The Ledge: Kill Yourself or Your Loved One Will Be Killed
- The Hunt: Your Daughter’s a Liar or Your Best Friend’s a Pervert
- Return to Paradise: Spend 6 Years in a Hellish Prison or Your Best Friend Hangs
- Equilibrium: Live Numb or Die Feeling (Die Being Yourself)
Look at these conflicts!
You either have to commit suicide, or someone will murder the person you love.
You will either live with the guilt of your friend’s death, or you’ll “live” 6 years in prison. Right. And that is if you trust the authorities who gave such an option in the first place.
You either suppress every single emotion and live, or fight for the right to feel and die trying. Ouch…
The Hunt, though, is probably the most heart-breaking one of them all. Either your young daughter was molested by your best friend or she’s lying and you’re screwing up his life for…nothing. Holy Crap!
It is a great, albeit expectedly depressing movie. This 2012 Danish film is still on the top 250 list on IMDB, and I’m shocked it didn’t get the Oscar for best foreign film. (Mads Mikkelsen’s luck, always the nominee movie, never the bride winner).
LET THERE BE SPOILERS FOR THE HUNT and RETURN TO PARADISE
So what would you do if you were the father? What would you do if you are the friend? Because guess what? She’s lying, and he is innocent.
The whole town turns on him for nothing. They don’t even bring in an actual child psychologist. And this almost drives our protagonist insane. I don’t get that when it’s revealed that he’s innocent, he stays in that small town where some people still don’t believe him.
What the f…?
Seriously. Look, I get that he grew up there. His teenage son is there. But are your friends still your friends after they believed the worst about you? And it’s not like he lives in a third world country. There are many more towns and countries he can go to, find work and make money, while minimizing the homesickness. Yes, he has a son, who could in a few years join his dad wherever.
But that is me. I grew up in a big city. I don’t feel homesick much. I don’t mind living abroad. I tried hard to put myself in his shoes. I still don’t agree with what he decided. I wouldn’t look twice at those people.
And the ending doesn’t quite indicate he made the right choice if you are honest about last scene.
However, while the ending might not be the most believable (to me at least), it creates the biggest impact. The director Thomas Vinterberg is also the co-writer, so that presents an advantage. He could shoot the movie the way he wanted.
What does this mean about your screenplay’s conflicts and characters’ reactions?
In my drama feature, I have a story conflict that’s hard to sell. In other words, one of the main character’s actions is extreme, though in line with what he’s going through, and what he has experienced.
And not only are some readers having trouble with the conflict (despite enjoying the premise), they are not particularly fond of how a certain character handles the conflict, which puzzles me.
Because if I were that character, I’d do exactly that.
When I ask people around me what they would in that situation, they choose my character’s way.
So how come some readers aren’t into it?
Well, for one, our personalities and outlooks on life determine a certain percentage of how we react to movies (and screenplays). Remember, a couple of years after seeing The Hunt, I’m still singing the “I would so get out of there!” tune.
Whenever a character takes a cheating spouse back, I’m disappointed until that movie/story ends. Cheaters don’t deserve a second chance in my book, unless the situation is extreme, like the person being cheated on is a complete psychopath or something. You can enjoy my fun cheating-condoning posts on my movie blog.
- Don’t be afraid, I approve of regular folk taking justice into their own hands only in revenge movies
- I can relate to the pain that will result in losing a loved one. Of course they will go crazy and do drastic things. So while the level of Bacon’s character’s success might not necessarily be the realistic aspect of his movie, his losing it over the not-so-certain outcome of the trial makes sense to me. Yes, Braveheart and The Crow are among my favorite movies. How did you know? 🙂
The point is, we react, judge and interpret differently. I find my character’s action, and the other’s reaction completely in line with their personalities, life experiences.
Would I react the same way if I were in the same situation? Yes. But would I be in the same situation? Not likely. For one, I’m not a musician, and my crow-like voice wouldn’t earn me any fans. So I have my characters, my obsession with the rock music world and my imagination to guide me.
So, we again come back to listening to your gut.
But am I to blame a little? Of course I am. Chances are, I couldn’t reflect the extremity & uniqueness of the situation, as well as I should have.
It feels like mission impossible to balance exposition, good dialog, enough (but not too much) backstory while capturing and holding everyone’s attention in a freaking drama. No matter how engaging I try to make it, it’s still a drama, albeit a glamorous and larger-than-life one at that.
So what do you do?
You work on your craft and draft until the story, the story you know is the right one to tell, shines and eliminates (or minimizes) doubts and let everyone enjoy the ride.
I immensely enjoy the stakes in Return to Paradise. I can honestly say I wouldn’t trust the authorities and go back to save my friend, love or no love. But then again, I wouldn’t do drugs so I wouldn’t be in that situation. That doesn’t stop me from rooting for these characters.
You hear stories about screenwriters who can only sell their 11th script. Then you hear the ones about the first/second or third script they wrote being sold. Who wants to bet there were like 30 drafts of that sold script before it got the greenlight?