Sunday, July 20, 2014

Storyteller’s Rulebook: More Thoughts on Object Exchanges

I’ve talked a lot about the power of investing objects with meaning and then exchanging them, such as here, here, and here. In this post on Iron Man, I followed one object throughout a movie. But is this common? I data-mined the checklists to find out, and yes, it pretty much is. Let’s ask the question, Are one or more objects representing larger ideas exchanged throughout the story, growing in meaning each time?
  • Casablanca: Yes, the letters of transit, the song (if that counts)
  • Sunset Boulevard: Yes, his car, her car, her manuscript, the pool, the gun, the spotlights.
  • In a Lonely Place: No, not really. The book, maybe. Briefly with the grapefruit knife, and the phone.
  • Alien: Not really. The “mother” computer “changes hands”, I guess, but it can’t actually be placed from hand to hand.
  • The Shining: Yes, the ball, the bat, etc.
  • Blue Velvet: Yes, the ears, the strip of blue velvet, the party hat, etc.
  • Silence of the Lambs: Yes, the survey, the moth, the pen, the drawings, the dog,
  • Groundhog Day: Sort of. The pencil. The note he gives her about what Larry is going to say.
  • Donnie Brasco: Yes, the greeting card, the surveillance photos, the boat, the tape recorder and the tapes, the oranges, the article about the boat.
  • The Bourne Identity: Sort of. The laser projector under his skin, the passports, the guns.
  • Sideways: Yes, the manuscript, the wine bottle, etc.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: Yes, the helmet, the dragon’s prosthesis, etc.
  • Iron Man: Yes, the two heart devices.
  • An Education: Yes, the cello (It represents the burden of her education, David’s able to admire it and offer his car to it when he meets Jenny, making him seem less lecherous, etc.) The C.S. Lewis book, the map, the engagement ring, the letters.
  • Bridesmaids: Bill Cosby’s card, the baked goods, the shower gifts.
So, once again, common but not universal.


j.s. said...

dThis notion that characters in a scene ought to exchange objects and the the objects themselves can be meaningful is one of the of more specific things you've taught me. I feel like I notice it everywhere now, like it's painfully obvious that this is just a good way to animate a scene, to give the actors something to do besides talking and to add thematic depth and nuance by investing the objects with significance beyond their function as props.

Matt Bird said...

I know, right? I watched Romeo and Juliet in Marcus Garvey Park here in Harlem last night, and Shakespeare builds to an object exchange in almost every scene.