6 August 2012 | swimtwobirds
If at first you don't succeed ...
Some 15 years ago I wrote a piece 'eBooks: the future of storytelling' in which I speculated on how technological advance changes the way stories are told, indeed, changes the stories themselves. Amongst other then rather fanciful prophecies I foretold a device which would project odour to accompany a movie story. Now I see that this has at last become a reality; at least, this Hell's Gate really does smell - like an overused outhouse on a hot summer's day.
Any movie is a story; and a story must be coherent; this is not. Satyricon is not; it is a pastiche – but it took a genius like Fellini to get away with it. That Hollywood will spend millions on CG and explosions while at the same time keeping the writers' bill down in the thousands, and that begrudged, is well known. But for the rising indie, the rebel who seeks to displace the big guys, hopefully by artistic skill and quality, to produce a story based on a script jotted on the back of an old envelope is not the way to go. Your job is to tell a coherent story; do it with all of the ornamentation you can add, but never so much that its coherence is lost, or even threatened.
Scripts comprise actions and dialogue; there was plenty of action in this movie, some of it even meaningful, but of dialogue – well? Were we witnessing a new trend in movie-making, the all-ad-libbed attention addler? Could the 'talent' not remember their lines? Did they know what 'articulation' and 'enunciation' mean? Or could the handi- cams not pick up their voices? Not enough interest to do a few voice loops in post-prod? If Shakespeare had written a grunt for Hamlet to recite instead of 'To be or not to be' and the next 20 lines, the world of theatre would be a poorer place; yet this malodourous malevolence of a movie apparently seeks to promote the grunt as mankind's last word in oral articulation and verbal communication. The grunt, while having the merit of brevity, does lack specificity.
Another element required of a story is that its audience relates to it – they relate to the characters. Often audiences relate to the guy they see on the screen – the actor – instead of to the character; but that's Hollywood for you, either way those bozos make money. Indies don't have Cruises or Schwarzneggers in their budgets; but they can cast an actor into a suitable part and support that actor into dressing out and projecting the character, and its development, if they have the skill. Mr Beard, why didn't you do that?
With camera tripods so affordable, and good liquor so dear, how come the decision to use camerapersons apparently afflicted with the shakes and the staggers?
And what was the dreadfully delivered Oirish accent all about? Thousands of very talented Irish in the world (meself, for example), all with accents, many with acting skills, eager for a chance, and you have to offend an entire nation by putting this gratuitous foulness into your 'script'? Of course, since there is so little else in the script, perhaps the multi-talent-free 'writer', 'director' and (of course) his own 'leading man' felt obliged to put something in – anything! I suppose he called it 'color', or 'character' when he was begging dad-in-law for the backing.
I think the whole movie was best epitomised by the shoot-out scene in the bar and outside it – 'full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.' While we may be amused at the great waste of gunpowder as against the minimal resulting carnage – how very opposed to Hollywood is this! – we are ultimately not engaged because we have no idea who these people are, or why they are doing this – and so we frankly don't care. Which is the single most telling aspect of this movie that you project, Mr Beard: we don't care, most likely because you didn't.
Yet it's not a total loss; what merit came through incites me to say that I hope you try again.