Thursday, March 08, 2012



The King died and then the Queen died - History
The King died and then the Queen died of grief - Story
No one knew why the Queen was so ill: but it turned out that it was with grief over the death of the King -- Plot


A movie on the theme "The Death of the First Mrs Kane", or "Was little Charlie Really A Victim of Child Abuse?" or "The Woman On the Ferry With the Parasol: Her Backstory" could, in fact be imagined. It is even possible to imagine a good movie on those themes. A good director could make a good movie on any theme. Of course the death of a failed politician's ex-wife in a car crash is a possible set-up for a story. (Was it just an accident? Or suicide? Or did Prince Philip dunnit?) But if the story is worth telling in it's own right, there is no need to give the main character the same name as one in Citizen Kane. And if the story is NOT worth telling, why does it become any more worth telling if the name of the main character is the same as one in Citizen Kane? "Because every time I hear the narrator of the News on the March sequence mention that Kane's first wife died in an accident, I want to know what really happened." But nothing "really happened": she's only a character in a story. One of the things she does in that story is die mysteriously. That is the point of her. Your film will not tell us what really happened. It will just be some shit you made up. Out of your head.

Will anyone claim that such films (even if well made) could ever be regarded as expansions or additions or extensions to CItizen Kane, as true, in their own way, as Orson Welles' version? And will anyone say that the original movie would be improved (or left the same) if  it became a truth universally accepted that "the story of Citizen Kane" comprised "Orson Welles epic + Andrew's home movie"? Does anyone think that it would be a good idea for some third party to bring on stage what Welles left off it, to say outright things that he chose to hint at, to provide answers where he only gave questions? Could anyone possibly be stupid enough to think that the question 'Doctor Who?' might one day be answered?

Does anyone remember the daft attempt to recut The Godfather and The Godfather II into chronological sequence, on the assumption that TV audiences are confused by non-linear story telling and freaked out by the expression "son of a bitch"? The Sicilian material from Godfather II came first, then the bulk of Godfather I, then the 70s material from part II. Will anyone say that this made no difference: that a film in which the murders of  Don Ciccio and Fredo Corleone are juxtaposed is the same as one in which they are separated by four hours of screen time? That Coppola carelessly filmed his epic out of order and the TV version corrected the mistake? That the Magicians Nephew is the first book in the Narnia Series?

Granted, I have picked examples of movies where the plot is a lot different from the story: where the order in which events unfold is a lot different from the order in which they actually happened. (But nothing actually happened. They are stories.) But the same is true to a greater or lessor extent of all fiction: what happened is never as important as the way in which we are told that it happened. A film which includes a steamy bed scene is not the same as one in which the lovers tantalizingly close the bedroom door, even if, as a matter of fact, in both versions, copulation can be assumed to have taken place. A film which depicts some hideous childhood abuse in shocking detail, and then adds a caption that the victim suffered from mental problems for the rest of their life is not the same film  as one in which it is slowly revealed that a mental patient suffered from some horrible trauma when they were a child. A detective story starts with a dead body and works backwards to the murder and the motive; a thriller may start with the motive and move forward to the murder. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is so the first Narnia Book. The Phantom Menace was such a bad idea. Is any of this complicated?