Horton Chapter 5 – Developing character narrative:
In this reading about dialogue I found some things really helpful when writing my script. The concept that ‘in any fictional media, dialogue is not only a conversation between characters, but it is an illusion of conversation. Real conversation is random, repetitive and often pointless while dramatic dialogue is ordered and purposeful.’ – I found this especially informative when writing my script, as our TV Drama is only going to be 5-6 minutes in length, the dialogue is very important as it has to be kept to a minimum, everything said between the two characters has to be very meaningful. When writing the dialogue between my two main characters Eli and Imelda I wanted the conversation appear to be really random. Imelda approaches Eli who is standing at the edge of a cliff and starts waffling on about her husband Gerald and their dead dog Benji, at first glance it just seems like a nosy old woman getting in the way of Eli committing suicide. The when Imelda says ‘Do you want to go first or shall I?’ the audience is brought to the realisation that she is going to commit suicide herself. This brings meaning to all the things she was saying about her husband. Is he dead? Is that why she wants to end her life?
The function of dialogue
The role of dialogue in a screenplay is to:
- Advance the plot towards its climax
- Advance the audience’s understanding of the main characters
- Advance the audiences understanding of the story by providing information which can’t be shown
- Set the tone for the film
I really wanted the audience the understand the main characters in my screenplay, with a limited amount of time for the audience to ‘get-to-know’ the characters, I had to do this through the use of dialogue. For the character Eli, I wanted the audience to immediately understand that he has a bad relationship with his family, I chose to convey this through his use of dialogue: “We had a dog when I was growing up. Well it was my dad’s, (he says ‘dad’s’ bitterly) a greyhound called Hercules. What a stupid name for a dog.” The fact that Eli seems bitter about how much attention his dad gives to the dog, shows that he feels unloved by him. This is emphasised further when he says: “It was the fact he didn’t trust me to look after his precious Hercules.” the bitter tone in which he says ‘precious Hercule’ suggests that him and his dad don’t see eye-to-eye, and the dog is a metaphor for the broken down relationship they have. All this talk about his dad, to a complete stranger, suggests he is deeply unhappy. Confiding in a stranger is quite an unusual thing for someone to do, unless they are desperate.
What characters say and what they don’t say are primary ways they reveal and define themselves. Physical action is considered the best revelation of character in a film: having Eli throw his phone off of Beachy Head in my script when he sees ‘home’ calling him, is clearly revealing the fact that he has a dysfunctional relationship with his family/parents. Throwing, something as precious in modern day society, a phone, off of a cliff into the sea is a very dramatic and somewhat desperate thing to do. An inability to communicate with the rest of the world, is a scary thing for a young person living in the 21st century, not many people would resort to throwing their phone off of a cliff in order to avoid talking to someone. Our current world revolves around technology and being connect so much, the fact that Eli does this, says a lot about his character. And suggests that he is at the end of his tether. If he’ll throw his phone off of the cliff, what else is he willing to do?
A film character should face extraordinary circumstances when something compels him to drop his guard and reveal himself or his innermost feelings. When character revelation of this sort is properly motivated, it provides a powerful comment on the character. – I have tried to achieve this through Eli’s revelation of his hurt regarding his fathers inability to show him the sort of love he showed his dog Hercules.
Expository information in a film is essential. Dialogue plays an important part in conveying the main exposition. Information given in dialogue must be consequential to the story or characters. If the audience does not need to know it to understand the elements, don’t offer it. – I tried to keep the dialogue as relevant as I could, having Imelda talk about her husband and her dog, which then gets Eli talking about his father and their dog is essential information for the audience to truly understand where the characters mental states are at.
Setting the tone:
When dialogue helps set the tone of a film, it is usually in a comedy. A sense of foreboding or catastrophe (like in my film) is best achieved through visuals and drama, not through poetic or overly dramatic dialogue. I definitely used this advice when writing my script, I was aware that having the film location set on the edge of Beachy Head was a very visually powerful place to film. It’s pretty clear from the first scene that Eli is planning on committing suicide. The fact that he is standing at the cliff edge on his own, strongly suggests this.
A characters individual voice is one of the most important ways he reveals himself. Voice is more than just how a character talks. It reflects where he has come from and where he has gone. It gives an indication of how he thinks, what’s important to him and what’s not, and to some degree, of psychology. I wanted Imelda to have an Irish accent, I know this might not be possible, depending on whether I can find an Irish actress who fits the category. When I visualise the scene in my head, Imelda has a warm Irish accent which contrasts Eli’s North London accent. This section discusses how important a characters birth place is, as it will influence who he will become. After reading this I decided to write a character profile for my character Eli Wells:
Age: 23 Years old
Appearance: Tall, brown hair, brown eyes
Height: 5ft 10
Occupation: Just finished a law degree, but doesn’t want to be a lawyer. His father paid for his law degree for him, but he regrets doing it and feels he’s wasted time doing something that doesn’t make him happy.
Hometown: North London, Highgate
Class: Upper middle class family
Parents: Dennis and Christine Wells. Dennis is a Tax Lawyer, defending big corporations and Christine owns a posh cafe near their house in Highgate
Religious beliefs: Both Eli’s parents are Christian, but Eli is atheist
Relationship with parents: He doesn’t get on with his father, his father is a very controlling and manipulative man, he forced Eli to go to law school even though he knew he wasn’t passionate about it. He believes his only son should follow in his footsteps. He gets on very well with his mother but she is weak in comparison to his father and never sticks up for Eli, which he hates.
Siblings: Eli had a twin brother Eric, but he drowned at the age of 4. Eli believes his father has always thought Eli was responsible for Eric’s death because it had been his idea to go swimming in the sea when they were on holiday, which is how Eric had drowned. Eli has always felt a sense of being incomplete since Eric’s death.
When he was younger he had always dreamed of being a captain of a ship, but his parents hadn’t wanted him to pursue his, because of his brothers death at had been too painful for them. His mother developed a fear of the sea after his brothers death, and refused to let Eli go anywhere near the sea.
When Eli came back from university he fell out with his father because he refused to follow his fathers ambitions for him, as being a lawyer. He has since moved out of his house in London to be near the sea. He’s currently working on cruise ships, but he isn’t happy as he has more ambition and wants to be a captain of his own ship.
Eli’s love for the sea links in with the films location of Beachy Head.
I’m aware that this character profile may be a little too detailed to give to an actor, but I wanted to convey as much information as I could about the character, so my actor can have a full understanding of what Eli has been through in his life and where his pain stems from. I may cut it down at a later date.
To understand how different people speak, a writer needs to develop an ear for words. As long as a writer works within his own scope, dialogue should not be a problem. But when characters are introduced with back-grounds divergent from his, research becomes a true ally. – I have deliberately given my main character a background that I am very familiar with, having lived in North London all my life I feel I have a clear understanding of what many North London middle class families are like, in their morals and in the way they behave. For Imelda, I wanted her to be Irish as I have Irish family and I’ve always been very fond of the Irish accent. I’ve always found it soothing, and I want Imelda to be a soothing character that gets Eli to question himself.
Many screenplays depend too heavily on dialogue to communicate every aspect of the story. Proportionately, short films tend to use even less dialogue than features. – this is also something I have become aware of through doing research into short films. All the short films I have watched have minimal dialogue, and this works really effectively.
Film is a visual medium and dialogue need not tell the viewer what he will learn by watching the screen.
In our short film we intend on having fantastic visually imagery alongside minimal dialogue, as I feel the concept of suicide is very prominent due to the characters actions (such as throwing his phone off the cliff) and the location being Beachy Head which is a top UK suicide spot, with this is mind I believe it doesn’t need dialogue to explicitly discuss the idea of suicide.
When dialogue is too direct or too clear, it often rings false, especially when speeches involve emotional issues. In real life most people have difficulty expressing or communicating their emotions, tending to conceal or deny them. – I have tried to apply this to my script where the characters are both contemplating suicide but don’t explicitly discuss it, as the topic of suicide isn’t an easy one to have, especially with a stranger. I felt the dialogue would be more realistic if it was casual and informal, I didn’t want it to be a dramatic conversation between two people talking about the meaning of life, as I don’t believe that would be at all realistic.
- Always read your dialogue out loud, the best indicator of how it sounds is by listening to how it rolls off your own tongue
- Speaking the dialogue aloud can also indicate whether or not emotion builds through a scene
- Dialogue is best in face-to-face confrontation because confrontation equals conflict
Dancyger Chapter 6 – Text interpretation:
This reading discusses the way in which a director interprets a script, in my case this isn’t something I need to worry about as I am both screenwriter and director. It states that directors first decisions must be whether to approach a story as an interior, psychological story or as an exterior story relying on a series of events out in the world. Interior stories are preoccupied by psychological aspects of their characters, such as their inner life, spiritual values, or search for deeper values. Dancyger states that the ‘directors interpretation is the critical first step of the decision-making process.’ I am aware that in ever story there exist many interpretations, the way I visualise the film may differ from the way in which Nelly visualises it. However, as director it is my job to make the creative decisions that shape the film.
Interior/Exterior – My short film The Edge, is definitely an interior film where the story is preoccupied by psychological aspects of the characters. My film is about the mental state of the protagonist Eli, and how he copes to loss and isolation. The character Imelda is metaphorical for his need to confide in someone, and be shown love and comfort. The film is based on the psychological dilemma that Eli is having, whether to continue living a life he feels he isn’t allowed to live, or to end it and finally experience peace and serenity.
Dancyger then goes on to discuss Young/Old. He states that ‘Conventionally, youth implies enthusiasm or optimism, and old age represent regret or reflection.’ In my short film The Edge, I would like to almost reverse these roles, the character Eli is neither optimistic nor enthusiastic, if anything Imelda possesses these characteristics, and she is 70 years old.
I believe that using both an old and young character in the film is creates an interesting perspective. It’s not often that a young man and an older woman are positioned as allies in films. I wanted to create something unusual, I felt it would be very predictable if Imelda was a beautiful young woman who was also contemplating suicide, I didn’t want my film to become about a romantic encounter. But rather the unlikelihood of two complete strangers, one old and one young, confiding in one another.
‘Directors can use other genres that enhance, or allow writers and directors to alter, the voice. Those other genres include satire, moral fables, docudramas, experimental narrative, and non-linear films. Each of these story forms provides the director with a larger palette to strengthen their telling of the story or expand the tonal possibilities of the story.’ (Dancyer)
Cowgill- Dialogue, The search for the perfect line:
The function of dialogue – the role of dialogue in a screenplay is to:
- Advance the pilot towards the climax
- Advance the audience’s understanding of the main characters
- Advance the audience’s understanding of the story by providing information which can’t be shown
- Set the tone for the film
I found these tips particularly influential when I was writing dialogue between my two characters. By revealing that Eli’s twin had died, shows a lot about his character and loss he must be experiencing. I would of not been able to show this through action. The fact that Eli was willing to tell Imelda something as personal as his twins death, shows that he trusts her and wants to confide in her.
Seeing as my short film only consists of dialogue, it’s important that all the dialogue used has a meaning, rather than just being mindless conversation. ‘If a line does not serve one of these basic functions (above), the writer should consider cutting it’ (Cowgill)
Cowgill explains that what characters do and don’t say are primary ways they reveal themselves. – the fact that my character Eli is very hesitant about talking to Imelda at first, suggests he isn’t used to having someone to confide in. ‘Dialogue allows the audience to more specifically comprehend the character and distinguish him/her from others.’ (Cowgill)
Cowgill states that expository information is very important, that character makes discoveries about each other or about their dramatic situations, and most often they need confirmation and elucidation through dialogue. – While it seems quite obvious to me, as the director and screenwriter, that the two characters standing at the edge of a cliff in my short film are both contemplating suicide, the audience may mistake it for only one of the characters contemplating suicide. For example, it could be interpreted that Eli is contemplating suicide and Imelda is there to try and talk him out of it. So I decided to use dialogue to reveal this, by Imelda asking Eli ‘Do you want to go first or shall I?’.
Paul Lucey – Scene structure and the Basic Dramatic Units:
The building blocks of a screenplay are sequences, scenes and bits. Understanding the structures and the dynamics of these units is essential to writing dramatic scripts.
Lucey explains that the two main building blocks in film writing are the bit and the scene. Bits and scenes, as units are dramatised with dialogue, action, music and sound effects in ways that advance the plot, reveal the characters, establish relationships and/or communicate thematic values. She states that bits tend to deal with plot and exposition rather than what the characters are feeling. A bit can reveal character, communicate theme, establish relationships, and/or advance the plot. Because bits only play for a minute or so, they are more likely to advance the plot than reveal character, which usually requires more time. The fact that Eli is a short film means that it is much more difficult to reveal character in such a short amount of time. I have tried to reveal character through subtext and minimal dialogue, which has been difficult, because neither character gives much away. When directing my actors I told them that it was very important to convey a strong sense of emotion, as my intention was to leave the films meaning open to audience interpretation, I wanted there to be a strong sense of subtext rather than explicitly telling the audience what is going on.
Lucey goes onto discuss scenes Scenes deal with content, structure and conflict. Scenes which mainly deal with the emotional life of the characters, make their points through physical action and through dialogue. Because Eli is a short film it doesn’t have scenes, but rather just one continuous scene. Lucey speaks about subtext: Subtext refers to what the characters think and feel but do not express through dialogue. Subtext content is indicated by how the actors infuse their lines with emotion and meaning. There’s much subtext throughout my script, particularly from Eli’s character. Rather than outright saying that he is having problems with his family, he implies it through subtext, stating that his dad never trusted him to walk their family dog, and that he trusted his twin brother. There is a strong subtext of suicide throughout my film, without the characters actually saying it themselves. The closest they come to discussing it is where Imelda states “Do you want to go first or shall I?”, to which Eli just smiles. Then towards the end of the film when Eli sits down at the edge of the cliff, there’s a tone of immediacy in Imelda’s voice when she tells him he should go back to Australia. It is implied through her tone, that she is trying to convince him to live, instead of just return to Australia.
McKee – Chapter 17
As William Faulkner observed, human nature is the only subject that doesn’t date.
I found the concept of the Mind Worm really interesting when thinking about the development of a character. The Mind Worm: Suppose a creature had the power to burrow into the brain and come to know an individual completely – dreams, fears, strengths, weaknesses. Suppose that this Mind Worm also had the power to cause events in the world. It could then create a specific happening geared to the unique nature of that person that would trigger a one-of-a-kind adventure, a quest that would force him to use himself to the limit, to live his deepest and fullest. Whether a tragedy or a fulfilment, this quest would reveal his humanity absolutely. – The writer is a Mind Worm. We burrow into a character to discover his aspects, his potential etc.
Characters are not human beings:
- A character is a metaphor for human nature
- Characters are superior to reality
- Their aspects are designed to be clear, whereas humans are difficult to understand
- A character is eternal and unchanging
- Character design begins with an arrangement of the two primary aspects: characterisation and true character
- Characterisation is the sum of all the observable qualities
- True character can only be expressed through choice in dilemma. How the person chooses to act under pressure is who he is – the greater the pressure the truer and deeper the choice to character
The concept of true character is particularly relevant in Eli, as the protagonist is faced with a great pressure of choosing life or death.
- The key to true character is desire. In life, if we feel stifled the fastest way to get unstuck is to ask “what do I want?”. In Eli’s case, he is torn between what he wants. Part of him wants an easy escape, and another part of him wants to live his life and leave the ghosts of his past in the past and move forward.
- A character comes to life the moment we glimpse a clear understanding of his desire – not only the conscious, but in a complex role, the unconscious desire as well. When the audience are first introduced to the character of Eli in my film, they are led to believe that he is going to commit suicide, it’s not until near the end of the film that it is revealed that he doesn’t actually intend on committing suicide; through his accidental slip, that shows the audience that he’s actually frightened of the possibility of death.
- Behind desire is motivation. Why does your character want what he wants? You have idea about motive, but don’t be surprised if others see it differently – I found this particularly insightful, as when I showed the first edit of my film to friends and family they all interpreted it in different ways.
- Do not reduce characters to case studies, for in truth there are no definitive explanations for anyones behaviour.
- Generally, the more the writers nails motivation to specific causes, the more he diminishes the character in the audiences mind – rather, think through a solid understanding of motive, but at the same time leave some mystery around the whys, a touch of the irrational perhaps, room for the audience to use its own life experience to enhance your character in its imagination
I have tried to follow this rule and leave some mystery by not having the characters explicitly describe their problems, and the reasons that have led them to contemplate suicide at a cliffs edge.
Beachy Head – Poem by Charlotte Smith:
I came across this poem when I was researching Beachy Head, before we were made aware that we could not actually film there. Although this poem is about Beachy Head, and we filmed at Seaford Head, I feel that the two locations are incredibly similar, and while Seaford Head may not be a suicide spot like Beachy Head is, I still consider it to be a very beautiful yet dangerous place. I went through Smith’s poem and highlighted words that I found influential when writing my script and thinking about the sort of shots I wanted to achieve. I found that pinpointing descriptive language was very helpful when thinking about the sort of visuals I wanted to get for my film. Smiths description, ‘And Ocean now, reflecting the calm Heaven‘, inspired this shot:
The way in which the sunlight is reflecting off the sea waves reminds me of heaven opening up. The fact that Eli and Imelda are both transfixed on the horizon suggests that they are hypnotised by the ocean, which is a concept that came to mind when thinking about the calmness and tranquility of the sea.
Although I had written most of my script by the time I came across this poem, I found some of the words used by Smith so relatable to the storyline of Eli, in particular: ‘lost in shadow’, ‘Contemplation’ and ‘recording Memory unfold’. When I consider ‘lost in shadow’, I think of how Eli feels lost in his deceased twin Eric’s shadow, he feels unable to compare to his twin in his fathers eyes. The ‘contemplation’ and ‘recording memory unfold’ made me think of both characters, Eli and Imelda, contemplating their lives and recalling memories.
ON thy stupendous summit, rock sublime !
That o’er the channel rear’d, half way at sea
The mariner at early morning hails,
I would recline; while Fancy should go forth,
And represent the strange and awful hour
Of vast concussion; when the Omnipotent
Stretch’d forth his arm, and rent the solid hills,
Bidding the impetuous main flood rush between
The rifted shores, and from the continent
Eternally divided this green isle.
Imperial lord of the high southern coast !
From thy projecting head-land I would mark
Far in the east the shades of night disperse,
Melting and thinned, as from the dark blue wave
Emerging, brilliant rays of arrowy light
Dart from the horizon; when the glorious sun
Just lifts above it his resplendent orb.
Advances now, with feathery silver touched,
The rippling tide of flood; glisten the sands,
While, inmates of the chalky clefts that scar
Thy sides precipitous, with shrill harsh cry,
Their white wings glancing in the level beam,
The terns, and gulls, and tarrocks, seek their food,
And thy rough hollows echo to the voice
Of the gray choughs, and ever restless daws,
With clamour, not unlike the chiding hounds,
While the lone shepherd, and his baying dog,
Drive to thy turfy crest his bleating flock.
The high meridian of the day is past,
And Ocean now, reflecting the calm Heaven,
Is of cerulean hue; and murmurs low
The tide of ebb, upon the level sands.
The sloop, her angular canvas shifting still,
Catches the light and variable airs
That but a little crisp the summer sea.
Dimpling its tranquil surface.
And just emerging from the arch immense
Where seem to part the elements, a fleet
Of fishing vessels stretch their lesser sails;
While more remote, and like a dubious spot
Just hanging in the horizon, laden deep,
The ship of commerce richly freighted, makes
Her slower progress, on her distant voyage,
Bound to the orient climates, where the sun
Matures the spice within its odorous shell,
And, rivalling the gray worm’s filmy toil,
Bursts from its pod the vegetable down;
Which in long turban’d wreaths, from torrid heat
Defends the brows of Asia’s countless casts.
There the Earth hides within her glowing breast
The beamy adamant, and the round pearl
Enchased in rugged covering; which the slave,
With perilous and breathless toil, tears off
From the rough sea-rock, deep beneath the waves.
These are the toys of Nature; and her sport
Of little estimate in Reason’s eye:
And they who reason, with abhorrence see
Man, for such gaudes and baubles, violate
The sacred freedom of his fellow man
Erroneous estimate ! As Heaven’s pure air,
Fresh as it blows on this aërial height,
Or sound of seas upon the stony strand,
Or inland, the gay harmony of birds,
And winds that wander in the leafy woods;
Are to the unadulterate taste more worth
Than the elaborate harmony, brought out
From fretted stop, or modulated airs
Of vocal science.So the brightest gems,
Glancing resplendent on the regal crown,
Or trembling in the high born beauty’s ear,
Are poor and paltry, to the lovely light
Of the fair star, that as the day declines,
Attendant on her queen, the crescent moon,
Bathes her bright tresses in the eastern wave.
For now the sun is verging to the sea,
And as he westward sinks, the floating clouds
Suspended, move upon the evening gale,
And gathering round his orb, as if to shade
The insufferable brightness, they resign
Their gauzy whiteness; and more warm’d, assume
All hues of purple. There, transparent gold
Mingles with ruby tints, and sapphire gleams,
And colours, such as Nature through her works
Shews only in the ethereal canopy.
Thither aspiring Fancy fondly soars,
Wandering sublime thro’ visionary vales,
Where bright pavilions rise, and trophies, fann’d
By airs celestial; and adorn’d with wreaths
Of flowers that bloom amid elysian bowers.
Now bright, and brighter still the colours glow,
Till half the lustrous orb within the flood
Seems to retire: the flood reflecting still
Its splendor, and in mimic glory drest;
Till the last ray shot upward, fires the clouds
With blazing crimson; then in paler light,
Long lines of tenderer radiance, lingering yield
To partial darkness; and on the opposing side
The early moon distinctly rising, throws
Her pearly brilliance on the trembling tide.
The fishermen, who at set seasons pass
Many a league off at sea their toiling night,
Now hail their comrades, from their daily task
Returning; and make ready for their own,
With the night tide commencing:The night tide
Bears a dark vessel on, whose hull and sails
Mark her a coaster from the north. Her keel
Now ploughs the sand; and sidelong now she leans,
While with loud clamours her athletic crew
Unload her; and resounds the busy hum
Along the wave-worn rocks. Yet more remote,
Where the rough cliff hangs beetling o’er its base,
All breathes repose; the water’s rippling sound
Scarce heard; but now and then the sea-snipe’s cry
Just tells that something living is abroad;
And sometimes crossing on the moonbright line,
Glimmers the skiff, faintly discern’d awhile,
Then lost in shadow.
High on her throne of rock, aloof may sit,
And bid recording Memory unfold
Her scroll voluminousbid her retrace
The period, when from Neustria’s hostile shore
The Norman launch’d his galleys, and the bay
O’er which that mass of ruin frowns even now
In vain and sullen menace, then received
The new invaders; a proud martial race,
Of Scandinavia the undaunted sons,
Whom Dogon, Fier-a-bras, and Humfroi led
To conquest: while Trinacria to their power
Yielded her wheaten garland; and when thou,
Parthenope ! within thy fertile bay
Receiv’d the victors
In the mailed ranks
Of Normans landing on the British coast
Rode Taillefer; and with astounding voice
Thunder’d the war song daring Roland sang
First in the fierce contention: vainly brave,
One not inglorious struggle England made
But failing, saw the Saxon heptarchy
Finish for ever.Then the holy pile,
Yet seen upon the field of conquest, rose,
Where to appease heaven’s wrath for so much blood,
The conqueror bade unceasing prayers ascend,
And requiems for the slayers and the slain.
But let not modern Gallia form from hence
Presumptuous hopes, that ever thou again,
Queen of the isles ! shalt crouch to foreign arms.
The enervate sons of Italy may yield;
And the Iberian, all his trophies torn
And wrapp’d in Superstition’s monkish weed,
May shelter his abasement, and put on
Degrading fetters. Never, never thou !
Imperial mistress of the obedient sea;
But thou, in thy integrity secure,
Shalt now undaunted meet a world in arms.
England ! ’twas where this promontory rears
Its rugged brow above the channel wave,
Parting the hostile nations, that thy fame,
Thy naval fame was tarnish’d, at what time
Thou, leagued with the Batavian, gavest to France
One day of triumphtriumph the more loud,
Because even then so rare. Oh ! well redeem’d,
Since, by a series of illustrious men,
Such as no other country ever rear’d,
To vindicate her cause. It is a list
Which, as Fame echoes it, blanches the cheek
Of bold Ambition; while the despot feels
The extorted sceptre tremble in his grasp.
From even the proudest roll by glory fill’d,
How gladly the reflecting mind returns
To simple scenes of peace and industry,
Where, bosom’d in some valley of the hills
Stands the lone farm; its gate with tawny ricks
Surrounded, and with granaries and sheds,
Roof’d with green mosses, and by elms and ash
Partially shaded; and not far remov’d
The hut of sea-flints built; the humble home
Of one, who sometimes watches on the heights,
When hid in the cold mist of passing clouds,
The flock, with dripping fleeces, are dispers’d
O’er the wide down; then from some ridged point
That overlooks the sea, his eager eye
Watches the bark that for his signal waits
To land its merchandize:Quitting for this
Clandestine traffic his more honest toil,
The crook abandoning, he braves himself
The heaviest snow-storm of December’s night,
When with conflicting winds the ocean raves,
And on the tossing boat, unfearing mounts
To meet the partners of the perilous trade,
And share their hazard. Well it were for him,
If no such commerce of destruction known,
He were content with what the earth affords
To human labour; even where she seems
Reluctant most. More happy is the hind,
Who, with his own hands rears on some black moor,
Or turbary, his independent hut
Cover’d with heather, whence the slow white smoke
Of smouldering peat arisesA few sheep,
His best possession, with his children share
The rugged shed when wintry tempests blow;
But, when with Spring’s return the green blades rise
Amid the russet heath, the household live
Joint tenants of the waste throughout the day,
And often, from her nest, among the swamps,
Where the gemm’d sun-dew grows, or fring’d buck-bean,
They scare the plover, that with plaintive cries
Flutters, as sorely wounded, down the wind.
Rude, and but just remov’d from savage life
Is the rough dweller among scenes like these,
(Scenes all unlike the poet’s fabling dreams
Describing Arcady)But he is free;
The dread that follows on illegal acts
He never feels; and his industrious mate
Shares in his labour. Where the brook is traced
By crouding osiers, and the black coot hides
Among the plashy reeds, her diving brood,
The matron wades; gathering the long green rush
That well prepar’d hereafter lends its light
To her poor cottage, dark and cheerless else
Thro’ the drear hours of Winter. Otherwhile
She leads her infant group where charlock grows
‘Unprofitably gay,’ or to the fields,
Where congregate the linnet and the finch,
That on the thistles, so profusely spread,
Feast in the desert; the poor family
Early resort, extirpating with care
These, and the gaudier mischief of the ground;
Then flames the high rais’d heap; seen afar off
Like hostile war-fires flashing to the sky.
Another task is theirs: On fields that shew
As angry Heaven had rain’d sterility,
Stony and cold, and hostile to the plough,
Where clamouring loud, the evening curlew runs
And drops her spotted eggs among the flints;
The mother and the children pile the stones
In rugged pyramids;and all this toil
They patiently encounter; well content
On their flock bed to slumber undisturb’d
Beneath the smoky roof they call their own.
Oh ! little knows the sturdy hind, who stands
Gazing, with looks where envy and contempt
Are often strangely mingled, on the car
Where prosperous Fortune sits; what secret care
Or sick satiety is often hid,
Beneath the splendid outside: He knows not
How frequently the child of Luxury
Enjoying nothing, flies from place to place
In chase of pleasure that eludes his grasp;
And that content is e’en less found by him,
Than by the labourer, whose pick-axe smooths
The road before his chariot; and who doffs
What was an hat; and as the train pass on,
Thinks how one day’s expenditure, like this,
Would cheer him for long months, when to his toil
The frozen earth closes her marble breast.
Ah ! who is happy ? Happiness ! a word
That like false fire, from marsh effluvia born,
Misleads the wanderer, destin’d to contend
In the world’s wilderness, with want or woe
Yet they are happy, who have never ask’d
What good or evil means. The boy
That on the river’s margin gaily plays,
Has heard that Death is thereHe knows not Death,
And therefore fears it not; and venturing in
He gains a bullrush, or a minnowthen,
At certain peril, for a worthless prize,
A crow’s, or raven’s nest, he climbs the boll,
Of some tall pine; and of his prowess proud,
Is for a moment happy. Are your cares,
Ye who despise him, never worse applied ?
The village girl is happy, who sets forth
To distant fair, gay in her Sunday suit,
With cherry colour’d knots, and flourish’d shawl,
And bonnet newly purchas’d. So is he
Her little brother, who his mimic drum
Beats, till he drowns her rural lovers’ oaths
Of constant faith, and still increasing love;
Ah ! yet a while, and half those oaths believ’d,
Her happiness is vanish’d; and the boy
While yet a stripling, finds the sound he lov’d
Has led him on, till he has given up
His freedom, and his happiness together.
I once was happy, when while yet a child,
I learn’d to love these upland solitudes,
And, when elastic as the mountain air,
To my light spirit, care was yet unknown
And evil unforeseen:Early it came,
And childhood scarcely passed, I was condemned,
A guiltless exile, silently to sigh,
While Memory, with faithful pencil, drew
The contrast; and regretting, I compar’d
With the polluted smoky atmosphere
And dark and stifling streets, the southern hills
That to the setting Sun, their graceful heads
Rearing, o’erlook the frith, where Vecta breaks
With her white rocks, the strong impetuous tide,
When western winds the vast Atlantic urge
To thunder on the coastHaunts of my youth !
Scenes of fond day dreams, I behold ye yet !
Where ’twas so pleasant by thy northern slopes
To climb the winding sheep-path, aided oft
By scatter’d thorns: whose spiny branches bore
Small woolly tufts, spoils of the vagrant lamb
There seeking shelter from the noon-day sun;
And pleasant, seated on the short soft turf,
To look beneath upon the hollow way
While heavily upward mov’d the labouring wain,
And stalking slowly by, the sturdy hind
To ease his panting team, stopp’d with a stone
The grating wheel.
Advancing higher still
The prospect widens, and the village church
But little, o’er the lowly roofs around
Rears its gray belfry, and its simple vane;
Those lowly roofs of thatch are half conceal’d
By the rude arms of trees, lovely in spring,
When on each bough, the rosy-tinctur’d bloom
Sits thick, and promises autumnal plenty.
For even those orchards round the Norman farms,
Which, as their owners mark the promis’d fruit,
Console them for the vineyards of the south,
Surpass not these.
Where woods of ash, and beech,
And partial copses, fringe the green hill foot,
The upland shepherd rears his modest home,
There wanders by, a little nameless stream
That from the hill wells forth, bright now and clear,
Or after rain with chalky mixture gray,
But still refreshing in its shallow course,
The cottage garden; most for use design’d,
Yet not of beauty destitute. The vine
Mantles the little casement; yet the briar
Drops fragrant dew among the July flowers;
And pansies rayed, and freak’d and mottled pinks
Grow among balm, and rosemary and rue:
There honeysuckles flaunt, and roses blow
Almost uncultured: Some with dark green leaves
Contrast their flowers of pure unsullied white;
Others, like velvet robes of regal state
Of richest crimson, while in thorny moss
Enshrined and cradled, the most lovely, wear
The hues of youthful beauty’s glowing cheek.
With fond regret I recollect e’en now
In Spring and Summer, what delight I felt
Among these cottage gardens, and how much
Such artless nosegays, knotted with a rush
By village housewife or her ruddy maid,
Were welcome to me; soon and simply pleas’d.
An early worshipper at Nature’s shrine;
I loved her rudest sceneswarrens, and heaths,
And yellow commons, and birch-shaded hollows,
And hedge rows, bordering unfrequented lanes
Bowered with wild roses, and the clasping woodbine
Where purple tassels of the tangling vetch
With bittersweet, and bryony inweave,
And the dew fills the silver bindweed’s cups
I loved to trace the brooks whose humid banks
Nourish the harebell, and the freckled pagil;
And stroll among o’ershadowing woods of beech,
Lending in Summer, from the heats of noon
A whispering shade; while haply there reclines
Some pensive lover of uncultur’d flowers,
Who, from the tumps with bright green mosses clad,
Plucks the wood sorrel, with its light thin leaves,
Heart-shaped, and triply folded; and its root
Creeping like beaded coral; or who there
Gathers, the copse’s pride, anémones,
With rays like golden studs on ivory laid
Most delicate: but touch’d with purple clouds,
Fit crown for April’s fair but changeful brow.
Ah ! hills so early loved ! in fancy still
I breathe your pure keen air; and still behold
Those widely spreading views, mocking alike
The Poet and the Painter’s utmost art.
And still, observing objects more minute,
Wondering remark the strange and foreign forms
Of sea-shells; with the pale calcareous soil
Mingled, and seeming of resembling substance.
Tho’ surely the blue Ocean (from the heights
Where the downs westward trend, but dimly seen)
Here never roll’d its surge. Does Nature then
Mimic, in wanton mood, fantastic shapes
Of bivalves, and inwreathed volutes, that cling
To the dark sea-rock of the wat’ry world ?
Or did this range of chalky mountains, once
Form a vast bason, where the Ocean waves
Swell’d fathomless ? What time these fossil shells,
Buoy’d on their native element, were thrown
Among the imbedding calx: when the huge hill
Its giant bulk heaved, and in strange ferment
Grew up a guardian barrier, ‘twixt the sea
And the green level of the sylvan weald.
Ah ! very vain is Science’ proudest boast,
And but a little light its flame yet lends
To its most ardent votaries; since from whence
These fossil forms are seen, is but conjecture,
Food for vague theories, or vain dispute,
While to his daily task the peasant goes,
Unheeding such inquiry; with no care
But that the kindly change of sun and shower,
Fit for his toil the earth he cultivates.
As little recks the herdsman of the hill,
Who on some turfy knoll, idly reclined,
Watches his wether flock; that deep beneath
Rest the remains of men, of whom is left
No traces in the records of mankind,
Save what these half obliterated mounds
And half fill’d trenches doubtfully impart
To some lone antiquary; who on times remote,
Since which two thousand years have roll’d away,
Loves to contemplate. He perhaps may trace,
Or fancy he can trace, the oblong square
Where the mail’d legions, under Claudius, rear’d,
The rampire, or excavated fossé delved;
What time the huge unwieldy Elephant
Auxiliary reluctant, hither led,
From Afric’s forest glooms and tawny sands,
First felt the Northern blast, and his vast frame
Sunk useless; whence in after ages found,
The wondering hinds, on those enormous bones
Gaz’d; and in giants dwelling on the hills
Believed and marvell’d
Hither, Ambition, come !
Come and behold the nothingness of all
For which you carry thro’ the oppressed Earth,
War, and its train of horrorssee where tread
The innumerous hoofs of flocks above the works
By which the warrior sought to register
His glory, and immortalize his name
The pirate Dane, who from his circular camp
Bore in destructive robbery, fire and sword
Down thro’ the vale, sleeps unremember’d here;
And here, beneath the green sward, rests alike
The savage native, who his acorn meal
Shar’d with the herds, that ranged the pathless woods;
And the centurion, who on these wide hills
Encamping, planted the Imperial Eagle.
All, with the lapse of Time, have passed away,
Even as the clouds, with dark and dragon shapes,
Or like vast promontories crown’d with towers,
Cast their broad shadows on the downs: then sail
Far to the northward, and their transient gloom
Is soon forgotten.
But from thoughts like these,
By human crimes suggested, let us turn
To where a more attractive study courts
The wanderer of the hills; while shepherd girls
Will from among the fescue bring him flowers,
Of wonderous mockery; some resembling bees
In velvet vest, intent on their sweet toil,
While others mimic flies, that lightly sport
In the green shade, or float along the pool,
But here seem perch’d upon the slender stalk,
And gathering honey dew. While in the breeze
That wafts the thistle’s plumed seed along,
Blue bells wave tremulous. The mountain thyme
Purples the hassock of the heaving mole,
And the short turf is gay with tormentil,
And bird’s foot trefoil, and the lesser tribes
Of hawkweed; spangling it with fringed stars.
Near where a richer tract of cultur’d land
Slopes to the south; and burnished by the sun,
Bend in the gale of August, floods of corn;
The guardian of the flock, with watchful care,
Repels by voice and dog the encroaching sheep
While his boy visits every wired trap
That scars the turf; and from the pit-falls takes
The timid migrants, who from distant wilds,
Warrens, and stone quarries, are destined thus
To lose their short existence. But unsought
By Luxury yet, the Shepherd still protects
The social bird, who from his native haunts
Of willowy current, or the rushy pool,
Follows the fleecy croud, and flirts and skims,
In fellowship among them.
Where the knoll
More elevated takes the changeful winds,
The windmill rears its vanes; and thitherward
With his white load, the master travelling,
Scares the rooks rising slow on whispering wings,
While o’er his head, before the summer sun
Lights up the blue expanse, heard more than seen,
The lark sings matins; and above the clouds
Floating, embathes his spotted breast in dew.
Beneath the shadow of a gnarled thorn,
Bent by the sea blast, from a seat of turf
With fairy nosegays strewn, how wide the view !
Till in the distant north it melts away,
And mingles indiscriminate with clouds:
But if the eye could reach so far, the mart
Of England’s capital, its domes and spires
Might be perceivedYet hence the distant range
Of Kentish hills, appear in purple haze;
And nearer, undulate the wooded heights,
And airy summits, that above the mole
Rise in green beauty; and the beacon’d ridge
Of Black-down shagg’d with heath, and swelling rude
Like a dark island from the vale; its brow
Catching the last rays of the evening sun
That gleam between the nearer park’s old oaks,
Then lighten up the river, and make prominent
The portal, and the ruin’d battlements
Of that dismantled fortress; rais’d what time
The Conqueror’s successors fiercely fought,
Tearing with civil feuds the desolate land.
But now a tiller of the soil dwells there,
And of the turret’s loop’d and rafter’d halls
Has made an humbler homesteadWhere he sees,
Instead of armed foemen, herds that graze
Along his yellow meadows; or his flocks
At evening from the upland driv’n to fold
In such a castellated mansion once
A stranger chose his home; and where hard by
In rude disorder fallen, and hid with brushwood
Lay fragments gray of towers and buttresses,
Among the ruins, often he would muse
His rustic meal soon ended, he was wont
To wander forth, listening the evening sounds
Of rushing milldam, or the distant team,
Or night-jar, chasing fern-flies: the tir’d hind
Pass’d him at nightfall, wondering he should sit
On the hill top so late: they from the coast
Who sought bye paths with their clandestine load,
Saw with suspicious doubt, the lonely man
Cross on their way: but village maidens thought
His senses injur’d; and with pity say
That he, poor youth ! must have been cross’d in love
For often, stretch’d upon the mountain turf
With folded arms, and eyes intently fix’d
Where ancient elms and firs obscured a grange,
Some little space within the vale below,
They heard him, as complaining of his fate,
And to the murmuring wind, of cold neglect
And baffled hope he told.The peasant girls
These plaintive sounds remember, and even now
Among them may be heard the stranger’s songs.
Were I a Shepherd on the hill
And ever as the mists withdrew
Could see the willows of the rill
Shading the footway to the mill
Where once I walk’d with you
And as away Night’s shadows sail,
And sounds of birds and brooks arise,
Believe, that from the woody vale
I hear your voice upon the gale
In soothing melodies;
And viewing from the Alpine height,
The prospect dress’d in hues of air,
Could say, while transient colours bright
Touch’d the fair scene with dewy light,
‘Tis, that her eyes are there !
I think, I could endure my lot
And linger on a few short years,
And then, by all but you forgot,
Sleep, where the turf that clothes the spot
May claim some pitying tears.
For ’tis not easy to forget
One, who thro’ life has lov’d you still,
And you, however late, might yet
With sighs to Memory giv’n, regret
The Shepherd of the Hill.
Yet otherwhile it seem’d as if young Hope
Her flattering pencil gave to Fancy’s hand,
And in his wanderings, rear’d to sooth his soul
Ideal bowers of pleasureThen, of Solitude
And of his hermit life, still more enamour’d,
His home was in the forest; and wild fruits
And bread sustain’d him. There in early spring
The Barkmen found him, e’er the sun arose;
There at their daily toil, the Wedgecutters
Beheld him thro’ the distant thicket move.
The shaggy dog following the truffle hunter,
Bark’d at the loiterer; and perchance at night
Belated villagers from fair or wake,
While the fresh night-wind let the moonbeams in
Between the swaying boughs, just saw him pass,
And then in silence, gliding like a ghost
He vanish’d ! Lost among the deepening gloom.
But near one ancient tree, whose wreathed roots
Form’d a rude couch, love-songs and scatter’d rhymes,
Unfinish’d sentences, or half erased,
And rhapsodies like this, were sometimes found
Let us to woodland wilds repair
While yet the glittering night-dews seem
To wait the freshly-breathing air,
Precursive of the morning beam,
That rising with advancing day,
Scatters the silver drops away.
An elm, uprooted by the storm,
The trunk with mosses gray and green,
Shall make for us a rustic form,
Where lighter grows the forest scene;
And far among the bowery shades,
Are ferny lawns and grassy glades.
Retiring May to lovely June
Her latest garland now resigns;
The banks with cuckoo-flowers are strewn,
The woodwalks blue with columbines,
And with its reeds, the wandering stream
Reflects the flag-flower’s golden gleam.
There, feathering down the turf to meet,
Their shadowy arms the beeches spread,
While high above our sylvan seat,
Lifts the light ash its airy head;
And later leaved, the oaks between
Extend their bows of vernal green.
The slender birch its paper rind
Seems offering to divided love,
And shuddering even without a wind
Aspins, their paler foliage move,
As if some spirit of the air
Breath’d a low sigh in passing there.
The Squirrel in his frolic mood,
Will fearless bound among the boughs;
Yaffils laugh loudly thro’ the wood,
And murmuring ring-doves tell their vows;
While we, as sweetest woodscents rise,
Listen to woodland melodies.
And I’ll contrive a sylvan room
Against the time of summer heat,
Where leaves, inwoven in Nature’s loom,
Shall canopy our green retreat;
And gales that ‘close the eye of day’
Shall linger, e’er they die away.
And when a sear and sallow hue
From early frost the bower receives,
I’ll dress the sand rock cave for you,
And strew the floor with heath and leaves,
That you, against the autumnal air
May find securer shelter there.
The Nightingale will then have ceas’d
To sing her moonlight serenade;
But the gay bird with blushing breast,
And Woodlarks still will haunt the shade,
And by the borders of the spring
Reed-wrens will yet be carolling.
The forest hermit’s lonely cave
None but such soothing sounds shall reach,
Or hardly heard, the distant wave
Slow breaking on the stony beach;
Or winds, that now sigh soft and low,
Now make wild music as they blow.
And then, before the chilling North
The tawny foliage falling light,
Seems, as it flits along the earth,
The footfall of the busy Sprite,
Who wrapt in pale autumnal gloom,
Calls up the mist-born Mushroom.
Oh ! could I hear your soft voice there,
And see you in the forest green
All beauteous as you are, more fair
You’ld look, amid the sylvan scene,
And in a wood-girl’s simple guise,
Be still more lovely in mine eyes.
Ye phantoms of unreal delight,
Visions of fond delirium born !
Rise not on my deluded sight,
Then leave me drooping and forlorn
To know, such bliss can never be,
Unless loved like me.
The visionary, nursing dreams like these,
Is not indeed unhappy. Summer woods
Wave over him, and whisper as they wave,
Some future blessings he may yet enjoy.
And as above him sail the silver clouds,
He follows them in thought to distant climes,
Where, far from the cold policy of this,
Dividing him from her he fondly loves,
He, in some island of the southern sea,
May haply build his cane-constructed bower
Beneath the bread-fruit, or aspiring palm,
With long green foliage rippling in the gale.
Oh ! let him cherish his ideal bliss
For what is life, when Hope has ceas’d to strew
Her fragile flowers along its thorny way ?
And sad and gloomy are his days, who lives
Of Hope abandon’d !
Just beneath the rock
Where Beachy overpeers the channel wave,
Within a cavern mined by wintry tides
Dwelt one, who long disgusted with the world
And all its ways, appear’d to suffer life
Rather than live; the soul-reviving gale,
Fanning the bean-field, or the thymy heath,
Had not for many summers breathed on him;
And nothing mark’d to him the season’s change,
Save that more gently rose the placid sea,
And that the birds which winter on the coast
Gave place to other migrants; save that the fog,
Hovering no more above the beetling cliffs
Betray’d not then the little careless sheep
On the brink grazing, while their headlong fall
Near the lone Hermit’s flint-surrounded home,
Claim’d unavailing pity; for his heart
Was feelingly alive to all that breath’d;
And outraged as he was, in sanguine youth,
By human crimes, he still acutely felt
For human misery.
Wandering on the beach,
He learn’d to augur from the clouds of heaven,
And from the changing colours of the sea,
And sullen murmurs of the hollow cliffs,
Or the dark porpoises, that near the shore
Gambol’d and sported on the level brine
When tempests were approaching: then at night
He listen’d to the wind; and as it drove
The billows with o’erwhelming vehemence
He, starting from his rugged couch, went forth
And hazarding a life, too valueless,
He waded thro’ the waves, with plank or pole
Towards where the mariner in conflict dread
Was buffeting for life the roaring surge;
And now just seen, now lost in foaming gulphs,
The dismal gleaming of the clouded moon
Shew’d the dire peril. Often he had snatch’d
From the wild billows, some unhappy man
Who liv’d to bless the hermit of the rocks.
But if his generous cares were all in vain,
And with slow swell the tide of morning bore
Some blue swol’n cor’se to land; the pale recluse
Dug in the chalk a sepulchreabove
Where the dank sea-wrack mark’d the utmost tide,
And with his prayers perform’d the obsequies
For the poor helpless stranger.
One dark night
The equinoctial wind blew south by west,
Fierce on the shore; the bellowing cliffs were shook
Even to their stony base, and fragments fell
Flashing and thundering on the angry flood.
At day-break, anxious for the lonely man,
His cave the mountain shepherds visited,
Tho’ sand and banks of weeds had choak’d their way
He was not in it; but his drowned cor’se
By the waves wafted, near his former home
Receiv’d the rites of burial. Those who read
Chisel’d within the rock, these mournful lines,
Memorials of his sufferings, did not grieve,
That dying in the cause of charity
His spirit, from its earthly bondage freed,
Had to some better region fled for ever.
Much of this process has been very practical, and I found that it was really helpful to take a step back from the practical side of things, to find inspiration in poems and texts rather than films and videos. I have always been very interested in the analytical side of English, it was really helpful analysing this poem and using some of the descriptive language to help inspire shots for my film. The fact that many of the words in Smiths poem seemed relatable to the storyline of my film made me consider the possibility of people having similar thought processes when at Beachy Head.
Directors Tell the Story: Master the Craft of Television and Film Directing – By Bethany Rooney, Mary Lou Belli:
Director Sydney Pollack said, “The director is the teller of the film, the director tells the movie, like you would tell a story, except in this case you’re telling a movie”.
In the first chapter of Directors Tell the Story, it states that one of the most important skills as director is to be able to read well. The directors first task is to interpret the script. I feel that it was an easy job for me to interpret the script, as I was the scriptwriter as well as director. So I was fully aware of all the meaning behind the script. While this was a positive thing, as it meant that there was no confusion in what I wanted to achieve in the film, it was difficult in the sense it was hard to detach myself from the script. When the actors would recall lines in a way that I hadn’t envisaged, I found it difficult to see beyond the way I had imagine the lines being read in my head when writing the script.
‘Once you have identified the story and its structure, you have more analysis to do, this time involving the characters of your story.’ – This is something else that I found came easily to me as I had written the script, and a backstory for the two characters.
‘You can’t cast unless you know what you need. Once you do you need the additional skill of being able to recognise talent and suitability.’ -When it came to casting the characters I was very sure of what I wanted from the actors, and what I wanted them to look like etc. Our casting ran very smoothly, we were lucky enough to find two actors who instantly hit it off.
As director, it was my responsibility to visualise what the actors costume would look like.
‘It’s the directors overall vision that leads the way.’
When writing the script I decided that Imelda would be quite an elaborate character, and I wanted this to show through her choice of costume. I also wanted the two characters costumes to contrast one another, Eli isn’t an elaborate character, he’s very grounded and down to earth and I wanted him to be dressed in very regular clothing.
I think the contrast between Imelda’s bright clothing and Eli’s dark clothing works really well in depicting the different characters personalities. Imelda is very flamboyant and confident in the way she approaches a complete stranger at the edge of a cliff, this is expressed through her costume design. Eli on the other hand, is less willing to talk to a stranger, he is more interested in being alone with his thoughts, which is conveyed through his very plain and dark coloured costume choice. I wanted Imelda to wear floating clothing something quite cooky and abnormal such as a brightly coloured cloak, to insinuate she wasn’t real.
In terms of gender representation in my film, I wanted to do some research into the suicide rates of men and women, to get a clearer insight. On the Samaritans website there is many statistics showing the current rates of suicide. ‘The male suicide rate is the highest since 2001.’ I felt this worked well with the character of Eli contemplating suicide, as he is a man.
Before conducting research into suicide, and in particular suicide at Beachy Head, which is where we had initially intended to film Eli, I hadn’t been familiar with The Samaritans. The Samaritans is a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, often through their telephone helpline. We thought that considering our film is based around the topic of suicide, it would be sensible to include the Samaritans helpline at the end of the film. This is commonly done in soaps such as Eastenders, and Coronation Street, where the storyline has been a topic of controversy. For example:
‘Samaritans has reported an increase in calls to its helpline following the broadcast of Hayley Cropper’s final Coronation Street episodes. Monday night’s double bill of the ITV soap (January 20) saw terminally-ill Hayley end her own life by drinking a lethal cocktail of drugs. She had spent the past few months intending to take control of her death when she felt the time was right.’ – http://www.digitalspy.com/soaps/coronation-street/news/a545665/coronation-street-samaritans-calls-increase-after-hayleys-exit/
While I don’t like the aesthetics of having a helpline at the end of my film, as it reminds me of unrealistic storyline’s alike those presented in soaps such as Hollyoaks etc, I think it’s a necessity to include a helpline in a film presenting the theme of suicide, especially as the Samaritans work very closely with Beachy Head, as it’s the largest suicide spot in England, with an estimated 20 deaths a year.
Lovatt discusses the films of Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and how he recreates what Richard Dyer has called ‘the texture of memory’ (Dyer 2010), through sound design. ‘the sound of the environment is often so dominant that it dismantles our reliance on the verbal or the linguistic to ground our understanding of what is happening in the narrative, and instead encourages (or rather insists upon) an embodied, phenomenological, engagement with the sensuality of the scene.’ While we initially intended on having emotive music throughout our film Eli, we decided that merely using the ambient sound of the environment around us would give the dialogue a stronger impact. It’s very cliche having emotive music throughout an emotive scene, it says more about the quality of the acting, and the powerful use of symbolism portrayed through shots of the ocean, if there is only ambient sound. We used ambient sound of sea waves and seagulls, which created a stillness and awkwardness that worked really well. Instead of filling awkward silences between the characters with music, we left them open, which conveyed a sense of realism; there would be awkward silences between strangers. ‘This use of sound and textual synaesthesia foregrounds sound’s materialism and its relationship to touch, sight, and taste, creating a feeling of sensory immersion on the part of the spectator where the senses seem to become indistinct.’ We wanted to use the sound of the sea waves, wind and sound of seagulls to create a sensory feeling for the audience, as if they are too standing on the edge of a cliff, in the open space, at one with nature, alike the characters presented in Eli
Video haptics and erotics – Laura Marks:
While I won’t touch on the concept of erotic haptic imagery that Marks discusses in her artile, as I don’t think it’s relevant to my film Eli, I’d like to briefly mention the idea of tactile closeness achieved through the medium of video.
Marks describes that “the electronic medium of video can have this tactile closeness”, which is certainly something we aim to achieve through the extreme close-up shots used in Eli, we want the audience to almost feel as if they are standing up-close next to Eli as he scratches his beard in distress, feeling the anxiety he feels as he stands at the edge of a cliff looking down onto the crashing waves beneath him, feeling nervous for him. The medium of video enables the camera to get up and personal with the characters, and capture emotion on a very close level, while we could of filmed our characters from far away and used a large zoom lens to capture close-up footage, I found that filming the characters from a close range worked really well with capturing emotion and creating a sense of intimacy between the camera and the characters. I wanted the audience to feel as if they knew Eli, and therefore to sympathise with what he’s going through. It’s rare to be so close to a stranger; so the effect of achieving extreme close-ups creates an intimacy and familiarity as well as a sense of mystery.
“Haptic visuality sees the world as though it were touching it: close, unknowable, appearing to exist on the surface of the image”
“Haptic visuality implies making oneself vulnerable to the the image, reversing the relation of mastery that characterises optical viewing.”
Vivian Sobchack – Carnal Thoughts:
Sobchack discusses the tactile force of the images in Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993), “The salt air can be tasted, the winds furious bite felt.” – “The film is an unremittingly sensuous experience of music and fabric, of mud and flesh”
After thinking about the tactile force achieved in The Piano, I decided to do some research about the symbolism in The Piano, as I am aware that the sea has significant representation in the film, I thought I could find inspiration for my film. I came across a really interesting and informative article written by Yufend Bai called The Symbolism in The Piano.
Bai describes a scene towards the end of the film where the main character almost drowns in the sea: “While Ada and Baines are leaving New Zealand, on the sea, the huge piano is balanced precariously across the boat’s transom. When the wind picks up, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the seamen to control the balance of the boat. Suddenly Ada begins to panic that the instrument’s weight would unbalance them, and the reassurances of Baines couldn’t south her. Ada commands the bewildered seamen to throw the piano overboard; Baines swiftly intuits the urgency of her need and jettisons it. But as the piano is sinking, Ada’s foot suddenly get entangled in one of the binding ropes, and is dragged after it into the deeps. While it sucks her down, Ada gazes around calmly for a period, apparently reconciled to the death that she seems to have willed. Then, without premonition, she slips her shoe out of the knot that holds it and frees herself: only when facing death, as she later reports with astonishment, does her will unexpectedly choose life.”
I found this really inspiring when thinking about the concept of suicide, in relation to my character Eli, who intends on jumping off the cliff. In The Piano, Ada only wants life when she is faced with the possibility of death; similarly in Eli, it takes Eli slipping and almost falling off the cliff for him to realise that he doesn’t actually want to end his life. When I wrote the script I included the slip, not only as a way of shocking the audience but as a means of realisation for Eli. When he is faced with the fear of slipping, rather than jumping which would be in his own control, he is forced to question whether he is making the right decision. Furthermore, In The Piano, letting go of the piano and letting it sink into the ocean is almost a metaphor for Ada letting go of something significant from her past, and moving forward and starting a new life. I really liked this theme and found it very dramatic and engaging, I wanted to achieve a similar effect with having Eli throw his phone off the cliff. While it’s more of an obvious metaphor in Eli, as his phone rings and the Caller ID shows ‘Home’, so the audience knows he is trying to detach himself from his family, it stills symbolises getting rid of part of your past. The sea has often been regarded as a place to reflect on the past, as a form of therapy.
“In symbolic sense, an encounter with the desire for suicide can be a symbolic expression of bringing an end to an old way of life before embarking on a new one. In other words, the death of the old life of the psyche is the prerequisite to resurgence into the new. Therefore, the sea here symbolizes Ada completely bids farewell to her past self and past life and get rejuvenation.”
Clark – Boyhood masculinities and sexual talk:
‘Women and girls do not occupy positions of platonic friendship rather they exist either as sexual objects, to be both conquered and feared, or as the subjects of affection, love and emotional entanglement.’ ( 2015 : 1)
I found this quote very interesting, because I feel that in the majority of film and television, the representation of women is very limited. They either exist as sexual objects or as something to be conquered by a male character. However, in my film Eli I wanted the inclusion of a female character to be a significant one. My character Imelda is used as neither a sexual object nor something to be conquered, she is almost a means for lead male character Eli to unload his worries onto. She acts as a voice of reason. The fact that it is revealed at the end of the film that Imelda is a figment of Eli’s imagination, suggests that the fact that Imelda was a female is very significant. He felt more comfortable opening up to a female character than a male, this could be a result of the dysfunctional relationship he has with his father, or it could be that women are generally seen as being more sympathetic and in touch with their emotions than men are. When writing the script for Eli I was instantly decided on having a variation of age represented, I considered having an older man and a younger woman, but I thought it would be harder to disguise the fact that there was absolutely no romantic involvement between the characters. Using an older woman was a conscious decision, I felt that an older woman would convey a motherly representation, and seeing as Eli’s main topic of focus when speaking is his family, it made sense to have a motherly character play Imelda.
The Suicide – Poem by Kamala Das
Again, with this poem by Das, the first thing I did was read through it and highlight keywords or phrases that stood out to me in relevance to my film.
My body shall be bare.
Bereft of body
My soul shall be bare.
Which would you rather have
O kind sea?
Which is the more dead
Of the two?
I throw the bodies out,
I cannot stand their smell.
Only the souls may enter
The vortex of sea.
Only the souls know how to sing
At the vortex of the sea.
Your body shall be dead,
Dead as driftwood, drifting
And drifting to the shore.
Your body shall ride the tide,
Rider, slumped dead
On white war-house.
Your body shall bruise white
Against the coral reefs,
Your lonely body.
I tell you, sea,
I have enough courage to die,
But not enough.
Not enough to disobey him
Who said: Do not die
And hurt me that certain way.
How easy your duties are.
Only roar a hungry roar,
You swing and you swing,
O sea, you play a child’s game.
I must pose.
I must pretend,
I must act the role
Of happy woman,
I must keep the right distance
Between me and the low.
And I must keep the right distance
Between me and the high.
O sea, i am fed up
I want to be simple
I want to be loved
If love is not to be had,
I want to be dead, just dead
While I enter deeper,
With joy I discover
The sea’s hostile cold
Is after all skin-deep.
The sea’s inner chambers
Are all very warm.
There must be a sun slumbering
At the vortex of the sea.
O sea, i am happy swimming
Happy, happy, happy …
The only movement i know well
Is certainly the swim.
It comes naturally to me.
I had a house a Malabar
And a pale-green pond.
I did all my growing there
In the bright summer months.
I swam about and floated,
And divided into the cold and green
I lay speckled green and gold
In all the hours of the sun,
My grandmother cried,
Darling, you must stop this bathing now.
You are much too big to play
Naked in the pond.
Yes, the only movement i really know
It comes naturally to me.
The white man who offers
To help me forget,
The white man who offers
Himself as a stiff drink,
Is for me,
To tell the truth,
Only a pale-green pond
Glimmering in the sun.
In him I swim
All broken with longing.
In his robust blood i float
Drying off my tears.
Yet i never can forget
The only man who hurts.
The only one who seems to know
The only way to hurt.
Holding you is easy
Clutching at moving water,
I tell you, sea,
This is easy,
But to hold him for half a day
Was a difficult task.
It required drinks
To hold him down.
To make him love.
But, when he did not love,
All I could do was to sob like a fool.
You generous cow,
You and I are big flops.
We are too sentimental
For our own
Lights are moving on the shore.
But I shall not return.
Sea, toss my body back
That he knew how to love.
Bereft of body
My soul shall be free.
Take in my naked soul
That he knew how to hurt.
Only the soul knows how to sing
At the vortex of the sea.
I found this poem by Kamala Das particularly inspiring when considering what shots of the sea to use in my film, and what each shot would symbolise. I wanted every shot to be representative of something, I didn’t want to use cutaways just to fill empty space, but rather to convey a deeper meaning. Because of the ambiguity of Eli, and the fact that the audience is left unsure as to whether Imelda actually exists or is a figment of Eli’s imagination/a ghost/an angel etc, I thought it was important to include shots of Eli talking to the sea, to symbolise his loneliness. Having Eli face the sea more than he faces Imelda suggests that he is confiding in the sea, rather than her. Which not only implies that Imelda may not even exist, but it suggests that Eli has an infinity with the sea, which is further emphasised when he admits to loving the sea during a conversation with Imelda. When Imelda describes the tranquility of immersing your head in the ocean and “blocking out all of the chaos going on in the world” we chose to use shots of the sea juxtaposed with close-up shots of Gabriel, to imply that Imelda isn’t there, and her voice is just a voice in Eli’s head, describing his own passion for the sea.
The lines in the poem that stood out to me the most was:
O sea, i am fed up
I want to be simple
I want to be loved
If love is not to be had,
I want to be dead, just dead
The fact that Das is speaking directly to the sea is incredibly powerful, as if the sea is a person whom can be confided in. I wanted to present this theme in my film; that rather than being merely a force of nature, the sea is almost representative of another character within the film.I believe the sea is symbolic of the soul, the subconscious, dreams, fantasy, nature, and emotion etc. Many people feel an affinity with the sea, my mum has always described her connection with the sea as an affinity. She finds the sea very therapeutic; which is where I was inspired to write about the sea, and why I chose to have my characters discuss the sea as having tranquil qualities. The vastness of the sea makes it glorified by lots of people, people don’t quite understand the sea fully, there are parts of the ocean that are so deep we haven’t been able to explore it, which makes it a very complex force of nature. The juxtaposition between the seas ability to take away life as well as look so beautiful and tranquil, is a theme I wanted to explore within my film. The concept of something beautiful and mesmerising being able to cause pain and death.