Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Stark Space of Chaos ~ Insights from the Dark Knight Script

joker behind bars

Recently I've been reading stuff suggested by a Stephanie Palmer in her Screenwriter Starter Kit. Among the blogs, articles, and podcasts she suggested she provided many different links to scripts that are available for viewing online, and I was flipping excited when I saw one of my favorites, The Dark Knight, as one of the firsts. She suggested doing them one at a time (which I totally agreed with) and it was a quick toss up between DK and Christopher Nolan's other incredible work, Inception. (Some of have called it his brain child). But DK happens to be a bigger love of mine, so...Inception will come second.

  Palmer suggested taking notice of the beat of the sequences, the major change in a given scene, see how it plays out into the scheme. It's also giving me a look at the structure of putting it down on paper, how the idea of the scene plays out in type on the page. One of the most interesting things is seeing little things that are different in the script than in the movie--seeing how they changed it when it came to filming.

  One thing really arrested my attention. In the scene when Joker unveils himself, and the bank manager is on the floor, Joker sticks the grenade in his mouth. When Joker moves away in the truck the attached string pulls out of the grenade, and we get a shot of the bank manager looking at the plume of smoke going up in the air. But in the script, he's surrounded by customers that scurry away from him when they see this. (In the movie they're far away in the background, the manager has a solitary presence).

  I immediately had a reaction of dislike to this version--and then tried to figure out why. Quickly realized the reason. It completely changed the interpretation of the scene, which was one that played into the theme of the story arc. The stark, mysterious and ominous landscape, that image of a city both dark with light in the distance, the singularity of an intimate psychological game on ground zero of your mind. An image of you, alone, forced to look at your own image, and discover what it is.

  This scene, if done as it is on the page, takes away the solitary experience. The truth that Joker even speaks of, when he points out that people freak out if "one random person is going to die", but don't if the papers say a truckload of soldiers will be blown up. It makes it personal, intensely personal, when the scene is done as it is on the screen. Private, at least in the frame of the screen. One on one, just you and the embodiment of chaos having a keen look.

  It amazed me, this proof and my own personal experience of it of how one scene plays into the whole. Definitely has been an intriguing lesson.....

  I'll be sharing more as I keep up my study in screenwriting.


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1 comment:

  1. That's an interesting and important note. It wouldn't have had anywhere near as much impact if he hadn't been alone - exposed - vulnerable. Great point.