I’ve Got Something To Tell You

You know the point in the movie where the AUDIENCE-SYMPATHETIC CHARACTER, already keeping the peace between PLOT-ADVANCING CHARACTER and MUTE-UNTIL-NECESSARY CHARACTER, realises that Mute~ has crucial information that will affect the outcome of the film and so does the obvious thing:

AUDIENCE-SYMPATHETIC CHARACTER

(to Plot-Advancing Character)

I need to tell you something –

PLOT-ADVANCING CHARACTER

I don’t have time for this –

AUDIENCE-SYMPATHETIC CHARACTER

But it’s important!

PLOT-ADVANCING CHARACTER

(claps hands over ears)

LALALALALALALALALA!

Moments like these are vital for there to be suspense, victory and/or tragedy down the line. But it’s about as tired and welcome as the telephone call from someone with vital information who won’t spill it over the damned ‘phone.

If I was watching an okay to great movie or T.V. ep and one of these exchanges turned up, the whole thing was spoiled for me. (Nowadays I’m a little more forgiving.) Then a couple of movies seemed to turn the tide. I watched them so many times that, whether I wanted to or not, I’d studied them. Two things I learned from James Cameron‘s The Terminator and Aliens:

One:  if there’s potential film-ends-right-now information to be exchanged, introduce an external interruption –

AUDIENCE-SYMPATHETIC CHARACTER

I need to tell you something –

PLOT-ADVANCING CHARACTER

I’m all ears.

A passing .50 CALIBRE SNIPER ROUND vaporizes Plot~’s head.

Two:  even better, make the external interruption the pay-off of a much earlier character set-up –

PLOT-ADVANCING CHARACTER

(sotto)

I was thirsty so I got a drink from the fridge... nope. Then I rinsed the glass and set it on the shelf... not there either.

Audience~ enters, flustered:

AUDIENCE-SYMPATHETIC CHARACTER

I need to tell you something.

PLOT-ADVANCING CHARACTER

Hm?

Plot~ continues retracing their steps.

AUDIENCE-SYMPATHETIC CHARACTER

Mute~ said something. I can’t make sense of it but it’s something important.

PLOT-ADVANCING CHARACTER

Really?

(sotto)

Then I sat down to watch the telly...

AUDIENCE-SYMPATHETIC CHARACTER

Mute~ said, “Beep. Beep. Beeeeep.”

Plot~, already half-way to the LOUNGE, freezes mid-step.

AUDIENCE SYMPATHETIC CHARACTER

Does that mean anything to you?

TIGHT ON PLOT~ as he turns – and REAL-TIME SLOOOWS DOOOWN –

ANGLE ON MICROWAVE as it counts down – 0:03, 0:02, –

SLO-MO as Plot~ shoves Audience~ aside –

SUPER-TIGHT ON MICROWAVE L.E.D. as it reads 0:01 –

WIDE ON Plot~ in mid-flight, headed straight for the microwave –

SUPER-DUPER-TIGHT ON LAST L.E.D. DIGIT as it switches from 1 to 0 –

MICROWAVE

Beep. Beep. Beeeeep.

One could argue that the external interruption is a mere variation on the knock on the door or ringing telephone that cuts in on an escalating conversation. I agree: there is that about the first device.

But the second device takes it a step further: by removing the deus ex machina, it makes the characters more responsible for their own – and others’ – destinies. It gives a story that circular/holistic/karmic/we’re-all-in-this-together touch.

Y’know, like in real life. But with more guns and car chases and stuff.

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