Nicola Monaghan's news, events and general thoughts about life and writing.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Structure in movies and Inglourious Basterds.

I went to see a brilliant movie this week, Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (I hope I've spelled that suitably incorrectly...) I don't want to say too much about it for fear of spoilers but I will say that (no surprises) it was brutal, inappropriately funny and had a spectacular ending that left my jaw hanging for about three entire minutes (which is actually a long time to keep your mouth open like that...) The soundtrack (as ever) was amazing and I was particularly struck by a version of Fur Elise that meandered into Western-style classical guitar at each main chord. Brilliant. The acting was brilliant too. Best ever Brad Pitt (except for perhaps his performance in 12 Monkeys) and a particularly compelling performance by Christoph Waltz as Colonel Hans Landa. (Sorry for all the brackets. Not quite sure why...)

It also, like Pulp Fiction, had an unusual structure. Pulp Fiction is told through various 'stories', each having its own clear narrative structure like a mini film, but over lapping. Chronology is all over the place so that characters dead in one scene are suddenly back in another. You can only truly understand the opening when you've seen the end of the film. I adore this movie.

Basterds is also set in chapters, although the characters, rather than the action, overlap, and the action is shown more or less in the order that it happens. It's still an unorthodox way of writing a script, but it works really well for this story.

I've been working on The Killing Jar treatment for months, trying to turn it into one smooth, straight A to Z story like I was taught in screenwriting class, succeeding on some limited scale. Then I saw this and felt like I'd been struck by lightning. Immediately it was obvious. I'd already sketched out TKJ as three part TV, but also knew it was too extreme for British telly. But just because it's a film, it doesn't mean it can't have three parts, does it? Well, not according to the Tarantino school of script writing, and he's my man when it comes to the movies.

I've put it down in a skeletal way and it works. I think I hang onto much more of the spirit of the book this way and I genuinely believe this isn't just the author of the novel in me trying to hang onto too much. I just have to see if I can persuade the world this is a good idea. For me, three chapters really fits with the story The Killing Jar tells but also, its major themes. They could almost be the caterpillar, pupa and emerging insect of the story. Bang on.

I just hope the world can see that and doesn't think you have to be Tarantino to get away with it. Answers on a postcard please...

1 comment:

SummerSoul said...

Inglorious Basterds - and Tarantino in general - is brilliant. The story presentation that Tarantino utilizes is without equal. So much can be learned from a man who can completely destroys conventional story-telling and makes it engrossing and shocking and thrilling all at once. I would also like to study his technique and harness it in some way. Being open to different ideas - even disturbingly crazy inventive ones such as employed in Inglorious Basterds - can only improve your writing... Go for it. -Dana