BU Film School

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

FT 540 Lecture: Thursday, May 22

Divination, Vico, and Formal Principles of the Screenplay

From Cosmic Identity to the Stirrings of National Identity (The Golden Age)

Introduction
Will be getting screenplays every week -- bring them back to next class or won't get next batch of screenplays
Will be expected to know source/screenwriter for each screenplay

The origin of drama/storytelling
The origin of drama is divinatory and salutary. It all started with divination. You might go to a diviner with a problem (can't give birth, can't find mate), and diviner will give instructions based on a story of someone with that same problem (ala Snail and giving birth). If Snail followed instructions, made proper sacrifices, etc. she achieved her goal -- if not, she didn't.

The dramatic event
propritiation, sacrifice -- outcome
involves world of gods, goddesses, ideas
humankind -- nature

The diviner contains the history of the tribe ... defines who they are.

Divination --> sacred rites, which are in essence elaborate divination rituals. Gods appear not through divination, but through performance.

The purpose of drama, according to Aristotle: catharsis, healing yourself.

Dramatic engine

Conflict (cosmic, mythic, tribal, national, natural, personal) leads to resolution (or synthesis) and to new identity, new myth, new archetype, new circle.
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The Victorian model related to screenplay and the cinema

Model based on that of Vico's theory on the cycle of civilization, moving from golden to silver to bronze to lead -- becoming more rigid and dense until ripe for revolution.

Four aspects to be looked at for each age: nature (environment -- weather, color, setting, etc. not just physical), society, man, and cinematic form.

The Golden Age
Nature: enormous, a friend to man
Society: mythic, archetypal
Man: heroic
Cinematic Form: mythic, heroic, poetic
Examples: Ivan the Terrible I & II, Lawrence of Arabia

The Silver Age
Nature: bold, to be tamed by man (man equal to nature)
Society: hierarchical, seeming "Eternal"
Man: a child of the social hive
Cinematic Form: epic, solid, formulaic
Examples: Stagecoach, The Seventh Seal

The Bronze Age
Nature: indifferent to man, sinister
Society: hostile to the individual, indifferent
Man: alienated from society, questioning all life
Cinematic Form: subjective, less formal
Examples: Wages of Fear, Malcolm X, Question of Attribution

The Lead Age
Nature: chaotic, alienated from man (global warming, hurricanes, tornadoes in unlikely places)
Society: fractional, sinister, feudal
Man: anarchic, self-involved, anti-social
Cinematic Form: experimental, anti-formulaic, anti-epic, anti-hemic
Examples: Do the Right Thing, Blow-Up, The Servant

Archetypes become stereotypes, which become cliches, which become laughable.

Lead Age, the most rigid, paradoxically results in experimental work that can result in new archetypes forming and a new golden age, and so on and so forth.

Definition of archetypes

Classic definition: 1) first moulded as model; 2) original pattern or model from which copies are made.

Jung's definition: primordial mental concept inherited by all from the collective unconscious. (New Shorter OED)

Geller's use of word: the original idea or model from which a nation, society, tribe or individual defines itself to itself and to others.

Archetype can arise from collective unconscious, or can be shoved down people's throats and become part of collective unconscious (media using terms like "collateral damage", "preemptive strike" and "body count"). Frog on radiator story.

Golden Age: from cosmic to national identity

These stories involve the whole tribe.

A. Story

Archetypal myth and levels of involvement
cosmic
tribal
historical
personal (character)
forms
narrative drama (preparation, conflict, resolution)
narrative poem (preparation, conflict, resolution)
epic film (preparation, conflict, resolution)
dramatic engine - conflict of identity
cosmic
tribal
historical
personal

B. Scale

dramatic terms within all forms
theme
character
narrative arts
dramatic language (verbal, physical)
audiovisual design of film
inquadrature (framing)
rhythm of cutting
musical language
archetypal model of dramatic art

1. anti-entropic (anti-death) 2. extremely ordered 3. dualistic - us vs. them (barbarians, outsiders) 4. conservative. must retain primacy 5. threatened by madness, revolution, bad witches, the other 6. existing order will survive 7. narrative structure - defined, attacked, survives

Everything outside ourselves is evil. A paranoid, schizophrenic model.

To read a screenplay well, read for:

The use of archetype (characterization)
the journey: narrative, theme
poetic correspondence
dramatic cinematic language

Concentrate on story & character, language of film.

Physical form of the screenplay
1. scene heading (sometimes numbered, for production sheet) / location
2. time of day
3. character (description, dialogue)
4. action
5. line readings (parentheticals)
6. camera and sound directions
7. transitions (type of cut, fade, or dissolve)

Studio system: scenario --> treatment --> structural script --> script with dialogue --> shooting script (then and only then does director get it) --> editing script

Intolerance - D.W. Griffith
Choice of shots: master shot/establishing shot, medium/long shot, close-up, extreme close-up, iris/transitions

Theatrical techniques: lighting, grouping of crowds (photo)

Parallel stories: cross-cutting in scene, between scenes.

Each story has its own language.

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