Category Archives: Sunday afternoon

Screenwriting course – Assignment Four

OK, so this is a bit more developed and I have removed any directorial comments.

The Search

Scenes of young lovers in the dark making wonderfully intense love are folded into the sudden horrific burst of an IED on a sun baked dirt road.  We can’t clearly see any of the faces, but the stark contrast of colours from the dark night with muted street lamps to the bright sun is blinding and the images blur and become abstract so we can’t fully identify the faces.

We close on a cold empty house that is achingly neat.  It feels starched and sad.  It is evidence of a person living quietly and trying not to disturb things in their daily habits.  Someone who lives a solitary and self-contained life. On the sideboard bookcase in the hall there is a letter from Lara that details to her soldier husband Rob why she has decided to leave him.  It refers to a lover, who has made her realise how lonely she was with his absences and his lack of emotion, but how, even with that, she finds it difficult to leave .  It says how she has not taken this decision lightly and that she is so sorry that it is going to cause him so many problems.  It describes all of the good times and how she hopes they can still remain friends.  We see this letter propped up near the phone while it rings and rings. Next to this letter we also see a photo of how he proposed to Lara – it is a colour photo of a garden with candles that say ‘will you marry me?’ in a heart.

Lara is a primary school teacher who has always done everything right for her parents, her husband, who she married at 22, and her friends.  She was never in trouble at school, did well at university and has always worked hard as a teacher. People assume she is completely fulfilled by her job, seeing friends occasionally, keeping up with her book club and baking cakes to take in for colleagues.  We next see her get into a car in an agitated state and start to passionately kiss James (her lover and a work colleague who at 27 is a year younger than Lara and has never been in a long, sustained relationship) Her mobile starts to ring loudly. She ignores it, until she can’t any longer and with a frustrated reaction she answers it. Everything becomes blurred and we see her pained reaction, although we can’t hear what it says.

We see Lara at the airport waiting to see what Rob looks like.  Her face reveals her guilt, her frustration, her fear and her anticipation.  Rob (a man who enjoys his job as a soldier and sees the world in black and white.  He has always admired Lara and her quiet confidence, but found it frustrating that she is not more adventurous in bed.  He feels that men should be masculine and women feminine in everything) is shielded by people and airport screens for a long time until Lara sees his damaged face and that he is in a wheelchair. He doesn’t need the chair long-term, but it’s the initial trauma. The IED exploded near his left side and broke his collarbone, some ribs, punctured his lung, damaged his pelvis and shrapnel landed around his eye and jaw.  Rob looks dazed and closed and he sees her muted reaction, although she looks happy to see him and immediately willing to support him, her eyes reveal her turmoil and guilt.  On some level he has understood this, but can’t process it.

They go through the rehabilitation process and we see Lara throwing herself in to it.  She physically helps the nurses move Rob around, helps organise the house to make it work for him, discusses his progress with doctors and throughout keeps a fixed ‘smiling, but suffering wife’ expression.  He doesn’t seem to have reconnected with her in any way and resents having to be treated like a child.  He is friendly, but clearly frustrated with his new secondary position.

During this time and increasingly as the physical recovery has finished, Lara and the audience understand the amount of mental damage that Rob has.  We see Rob struggle with  nightmares, flashbacks and anger outbursts about insignificant things.  Lara struggles with these as she is still feeling incredibly guilty about her betrayal, but is even more removed from Rob. He doesn’t understand how he is hurting her feelings, that he is cutting her off and often almost getting violent, but stopping himself just in time. We continually see her reaction intimately and how she is struggling to cope.

The relationship keeps deteriorating and she meets up with James one night after telling Rob she is going to a ‘wounded wives’ support group. They have an angry and sad sexual encounter in a car that is incredibly physical and she is clearly craving lustful, sensual contact.  James initially wants to talk to her, but she avoids any conversation and is kissing him when he attempts to speak.  She is petrified that he is going to ask her to make a decision or burden her with his problems and a desire to see her more often.  During their encounter, we see her face, which shows a mixture of disgust, lust, desire and pain.

These scenes are combined with scenes of Rob watching her leave the house.  Her seems to initially not mind that he is left and carries on watching television.  We then move through the house with Rob and watch him select some books to read.  He picks one on the hall bookcase and discovers the leaving note she had written on the day he came home. She had hurriedly tucked this into a book when she brought him back from the airport.  We watch him slowly understand the contents and how both flashes of anger and enormous sympathetic pain cross his face.

After her unsatisfying tryst, we see Lara enter the seemingly empty house and in a panic look all around to find him.  He is out in the garden, which is covered in candles and he has recreated the engagement picture, but with ‘I love you’ and asks her to give him time to recover and work out what the post-traumatic stress disorder has done.  He doesn’t mention that he found the letter and never will. He also doesn’t mention the fact that he now knows that she has been cheating on him.  This is a conversation that he is not prepared to have with her and respects her life and what she has also had to go through.

Lara realises that the husband she loves is in there somewhere and they look at each other properly in the eye for the first time since his return.  She has shed the power of her guilt and silently understood that it doesn’t matter anymore and that there is a future.

Cheating, but how could I resist…

The number one film was on this afternoon and I cheated and watched it.  How can you not watch ‘Vertigo’ when it’s on on a rainy Sunday afternoon?  The cats were also enjoying it…

I then was playing with my HarryCAM and found a suitably ‘Vertigo’ inspired piece of set: http://youtu.be/Wkgl1EwYVRE

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11. ‘Partie de Campagne’ Creative

Swing Theory…

I really liked the extended swinging shot in ‘Partie de Campagne’ and thought it would be a good excuse to try out the HarryCAM that Dad made me for Christmas.  I tried a variety of techniques, although I’m not sure that they are completely successful, but it was fun.

Results on YouTube – http://youtu.be/JGKLIHM8NeQ

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11. Joint 90th – ‘Partie De Campagne’ (1936)

During my research and as completely new to Jean Renoir’s work, I was really intrigued to find out that the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and the director Luchino Visconti were assistant directors. I was hoping to see this pedigree in the film and find some hints to their genius. I also found out that the film was unfinished because of bad weather and they released it without Renoir in 1946 at only 39 minutes long.

Unbelievably, I have never seen a Jean Renoir film, which is a little shameful, especially as he is considered the fourth best director by the BFI survey. I am looking forward to exploring what his work is like, although I possibly should have started with his full-length films.

I did find it full of comedy French cliches, including a man with a stripy top and a moustache holder, Pastis, an hysterical mother, the amazing beautiful French countryside, Parisians… I was almost waiting for Maurice Chevalier to turn up!

There were a lovely variety of shots used and, although used for a long time, I liked the shot on the swing, which set up the rest of the narrative.

With the 1860 setting and flattened black and white cinematography (by Claude Renoir, his brother?) it feels like an old world rediscovered and almost as if they are recreating the Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting ‘Chestnut Tree In Bloom’ – see below. It is interesting to think of the effect of Renoir’s father may have made on him.

The story was a perfectly contained narrative and would be all you needed in any film and although the kiss seemed hasty and slightly unlikely, I loved the way it was shot. It was almost like she was staring down the lens and the film got more interesting after it. The tracking rain shot was great.

Not sure I understand the genius yet… And mum and dad certainly found it soporific…

Creativity
Steadicam on a swing
Tracking of rain shot
Recreating an old painting

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9. Joint 90th – ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ (1946)

I have been really looking forward to re-watching this film and what a lovely Sunday afternoon matinee it is.  A Matter of Life and Death is a romantic fantasy film created by the British writing-directing-producing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and set in England during the Second World War. It stars David Niven, Roger Livesey and  Kim Hunter.  It is the second Powell and Pressburger film on the list already, which is great.  It seems slightly odd that these beautifully made, but rather eccentrically British films are so appreciated.  I have heard that Martin Scorsese is a particular fan.

A lovely, comfy Sunday afternoon

A lovely, comfy Sunday afternoon

I have seen it before, when my lovely friend Nat bought me a Powell and Pressburger box set a few years ago, but I was interested to see it again after reading Jack Cardiff’s autobiography and looking with a new eye at all his inventiveness with technicolor. There was a great DVD extra on the disc about him too, which was very interesting. A Matter of Life and Death has always been my favourite Powell and Pressburger film, it has such a great concept and is envisioned perfectly. I always like a movie with a court scene, especially Mr Smith Goes to Washingon and An Anatomy of a Murder.

Like The Ladykillers, I always forget that it’s going to be in colour, but the technicolor black and white of ‘the other world’ gives it a strange, pearly quality that is perfect for a heaven type place. It seems so contrary to make ‘the other world’ black and white and earth colour, but it makes a strange sense, especially as the colour of earth is amazing, particularly the early sequences of Kim Hunter on the phone and Niven on the beach. It’s crazy how much make-up they all have to wear to compensate.  I love the meta qualities of the film, such as when the incompetent Conductor 71 comes down to earth and watches his lapel flower turn to colour (in a beautiful graphic match) and says ‘we are straved of Technicolor up there.’  The Technicolor cinematography is lovely, Jack Cardiff is suitably revered, but it is generally so crammed full of visual and technical details – the camera obscura, the graphic matches, the cross dissolves, filters and framing, the eyelid closing. Wonderful.

I really like the Communist aspect of ‘the other world’, the American captain has issues after clearly managing to get to the top, but it’s lovely that everyone has a report and all are treated equally. This must have been fairly political then. I also love the look of ‘the other world’, all the Art Deco features and the fact that it seems to be run by beautiful women. It looks like a beautiful, shiny Fred and Ginger musical set. The escalator is brilliant and was constructed to actually work – an impressive engineering feat.

David Niven has always been a favourite, ever since reading his autobiographies as a teenager and Roger Livesey is great and I loved him as Colonel Blimp. His voice  is very comforting and warm, like a hot chocolate on the sofa.  Pretty much a symbol for this whole film.

I also love luxuriating in such an amazing view of Britain. I know it’s romanticised, but I love the thought of them learning a Shakespeare play or the view of the village and the country house. People cycling around, playing chess and being so polite to each other. And the focus on a British voice and poetry. The attacks on British history in the court room scene are also interesting, its criticism and its support by Livesey. The French man is also an amazing stereotype – very funny, although I imagine a French viewer wouldn’t see it like that!

Creative:
Something technically interesting
Maybe the same thing in colour and black and white or turning from one to the other in the same shot like the change from the operation to heaven.
Focus on light
Montage of different features