CREATING MONSTERS

It’s been going on for years and years that authors turn a situation or person from the real world into a monster in one of their stories. Creatures of all shapes and sizes are used as metaphors for any and all eventualities and can provide a level of depth to what’s being written which may not have been as easily accessible without the outside influence.

I’m a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the different monsters which rumble across the screen each episode represent a different issue that may creep up in the real world. The use or overuse of magic is discussed as thinly veiled disguise for the same issues with drugs. A boyfriend giving a girl the brush off after they’ve got down and dirty together gets redeployed as Angel losing his soul and turning evil.

Now I’ve spoken previously about ways that writers can use their words as a catharsis to cast away pain and trauma but I’ve recently found a great example of an actor doing just that when creating his portrayal of a role.

While filming The Princess Bride, Mandy Patinkin was coming to terms with the death of his father to cancer and found himself able to place the brutal disease as the six fingered man so when he delivered the line, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” he was able to fight the very thing that robbed him of his father.

I’m doing the same thing in my head at the moment. I’ve managed to start some work on a handful of ideas for short stories and in all of them I find myself putting the death of my own father into different elements to try and work through the grief.

I can only hope that mine are even partially as successful a Mandy Patinkin’s delivery. Thanks to YouTube, here’s the clip for you.

You have to watch to the very end and I can’t echo the feeling enough.

 

NEAR OR FAR?

I watched Chappie over the weekend.

If you haven’t seen it yet I’d recommend it. I found it to be a compelling story about what goes into being human and how artificial intelligence would be treated. There were classic images which looked to be an almost direct copy from Robocop and the robot itself carried a very odd similarity to the droid army in The Phantom Menace but all in all I enjoyed it a great deal.

The film deals with issues of societal sub-cultures and battles for power but it does it in the very near future.

As with Neil Blomkamp’s earlier film, District 9, the human race is placed in a position of relative power over another species. Aliens or sentient robots are the ones that are marginalised and distrusted and the stories happily hold up a mirror to what the behaviour of the bully in a society looks like, but, it wasn’t the overt steps that made the story more powerful.

The narrative of the under class of people/aliens/robots has been explored in many stories in the past with Star Trek being a great example of a ‘property’ looking at how these things could play out but action is very often set in the far off future. Almost as a way to take a look at the details of how a race of people can be marginalised but without the need to look too close to home. What stories like Chappie do is take a single step rather than a mighty leap into the future. Rather than these things happening in a completely alien locale all of the horrible things are taking place in all of the environments we’re far too familiar with.

It’s by putting the horror of these stories in a world that’s only just beyond the reach of now, in a world that looks, feels and smells like the world outside our window, that so often makes the discomfort even more unsettling. We know the story is fiction but there’s so much that we can recognise that maybe, just maybe, there could be more to it.

The near future allows the far off stories to be told in a much more recognisable setting. There’s no chance to write off the actions as just being about aliens when everything is going on in the very world we can see out of the window.

All of the stories find their way much closer to you and if you stand still long enough, I’m sure that you’ll feel them breathing down your neck.

BOOK FILM

What’s your favourite book?

Has it been made into a film or TV show?

If it has, did you think that the version on the screen did the  book justice?

The reason I ask is I’ve seen a picture doing he rounds on Facebook which depicts a castle as the story, only a very small fraction of which is above the water line. The rest of the once majestic citadel is submerged and therefore, lost from view. The point of the image is that the film of a story is what lies above the water whereas the book includes that which is below as well.

In a book you have so many chances to explore and embellish any and all details that take the authors fancy. You can pour words all over any single point and bring every possible level of understanding you could ever need so the reader takes each and every facet away that the author intended. The film will often miss out on this kind of attention to detail, instead having to rely on the actors and the director to convey all the unsaid stuff that pops up on the page. You end up relying on glances, music and added dialogue to keep up with the narrative.

So the book is always better, right?

Potentially, only if the story that did so well on the page is brought well to the screen rather than just having the faintest link to the source material. When the Dresden Files TV show hit our screens, the Blue Beetle, Harry’s stalwart car which was an ever present in the books, was changed to be a old army style jeep. On the face of it, sacrilege but the reasoning became that they wouldn’t have been able to film the scenes because of limitations of space. They still had a vehicle which they could fit happily into the hole left by the beetle in terms of relevance to the story but which would allow them to do the business.

This just shows we can’t automatically assume that the book can’t be amended or changed without ruining the whole.

When my wife and I discuss books we’ve read, it sometimes happens that we pick up different things which then leads on to a discussion of what we think. Themes and meanings get mulled over and we dissect what we thought. But we do the same thing with film and TV. How do characters react together? What power was coming from certain words? But on the screen we’re treated to different images and our conversations go on anyway. “Was that a deliberately placed explosion? Symbolizing the characters loss of self?””Do you think the colours of costume show that the people are dealing with specific issues?”

I like film and books. They’re both different mediums for getting a story across, explaining what those who made the piece wanted to say. Why shouldn’t they be seen as different and not just assume one is better. I’m sure that should someone want to put my story on the big screen, I wouldn’t just say no for fear of the source material being corrupted.

It all just boils down to connecting with people and getting the story heard.