But there are many more methods of foreshadowing. Here are a few:
- When a scene cuts away right before a big reveal, or when the story pointedly refuses to identify an important person in the room.
- Interrupted dialogue: Somebody sounds like she's about to say something important, but she gets cut off, leaving the audience to perk up their ears in hopes of filling in the blanks.
- Whenever we only hear one side of the conversation, or even when we hear both but something still doesn’t add up, the audience assumes this is a big clue. (So let’s hope it is!)
- Unexplained cryptic scenes: Who are these people having some secret meeting that seems to have nothing to do with the story? Why is the hero’s ally dropping off a mysterious package somewhere?
- Dangling questions: Someone asks a leading question, such as “Why does this keep happening?” and nobody can answer.
- Unpaid debts weigh heavily on an audience’s mind. In both Chinatown and The Godfather, a debt is incurred in the first scene that gets called in at an ironic moment later in the movie.
- Threats or vows of revenge. Use them to keep the audience on their toes until they finally forget about them. At that moment, deliver the payoff.
Nevertheless, when I read the novel, even though I really knew what was going to happen, that scene didn’t spell its own doom, and the explosion is genuinely heartbreaking. What did novelist Andy Weir accomplish on the page that adapter Drew Goddard couldn’t accomplish on the screen? First let’s look at the book scene:
One problem in the movie is that we don’t really feel Mark’s potential hunger (and therefore the urgency to resupply quickly) as much as we do in the book scene, but an even bigger problem is what Teddy says instead of talking about the hunger. I had to re-read the two scenes a few times to spot the key word: In the script, Teddy begins the scene by asking:
- Let’s ask the very, very expensive question: Is this probe going to be ready on time?
I think one reason the movie did this was to try to turn Teddy into a little bit of a villain, but it was a bad decision: Adding a villain usually sharpens our emotional connection to the events, but in this case it dulled it. Weir knew what he was doing: Nature (and its close cousin chaos) is the only villain here, and the emotion comes from the pain of trying and failing to overcome it, despite everyone’s best intentions.
The 40 Year Old Virgin
NO. Not at all. One problem with the improvisatory process is that they have no good idea where it’s going, so they can’t hint at it. (No hint of her kids before they’re revealed, no hint of Jay’s girlfriend’s pregnancy, etc.) On the DVD, they point out that the crew was baffled that the movie cut together, because they shot literally 1 million feet of film without much of a plan.
YES. Very much so.
YES. Lots of hints of disaster.
YES. Very much so. The foreshadowing is the same as the framing devices, in this case.
YES. Lots of talk about how awful Mongo is, etc.
YES. Sandy has a dream of how the movie will end, keeping the focus on issues of good and evil, rather than the details of this crime.
The Bourne Identity
YES. We see three assassins being activated, so we know that the movie will end with a confrontation with the last one, but that turns out to be ironic. (The last one kills Conklin, not him)
YES. Somewhat. We know that she’s bad on planes, see her rage building at the shower, etc.
YES. see above.
YES. Tons of it.
YES. lots of unexplained half-scenes get us interested in what each gangster is scheming against the others.
Do the Right Thing
YES. Sal takes out the bat early on, then puts it away unused, Raheem fights a boombox battle with the Koreans, the Italian-American has his car soaked, etc.
YES. The doctor says that they lied to his mother about her cancer but she died shortly thereafter.
NO. Not really. Russell is a very direct sort of filmmaker. Everything feels very raw and real, and that describes the characters as well. He likes to disappear as a director, and not grant himself foreknowledge of their actions. There’s never any ominous camerawork or music.
YES. They set up at the beginning that getting hit in the heart will be the worst, so we fear that and know what it means when it happens.
YES. Each sequence begins with a brief advance look at the big set piece that’s coming (the dam, the parade, the sick kids they’re bringing in to the hospital, etc.)
YES. A tremendous amount of foreshadowing.
NO. Not really. There’s no foreshadowing that this mystical event will happen, and not much of where it’s going after that.
How to Train Your Dragon
YES. The nature of the Night Fury, the nest, the injury, are all foreshadowed excellently.
In a Lonely Place
YES. the script uses metacommentary, the script Dix is working on keeps predicting what will happen next in his life in ironic ways. Solt keeps our focus off the investigation and on the relationship.
YES. We keep cutting back to Ten Rings, getting us wondering when they’ll come back, and distracting us from Stane as the big bad.
YES. Danny’s gayness is certainly foreshadowed.
YES. The dreams about Smalls.
YES. We see odd glimpses of planning of his schemes before we see what he’s really doing.
YES. The killing of the girls creates fear of more killings. The mention that King has just abandoned an unsuccessful campaign creates fear that that will happen again.
YES. lots and lots.
YES. Lots of times the wedding almost comes up. Early shot of him doing crossword while driving establishes that he values doing the crossword over his own safety, so this sets up the fact that he accidentally confesses the wedding to her while doing the crossword. This would seem too careless if his carelessness had not bee well established.
The Silence of the Lambs
YES. The slow reveals of Bill’s house, Lecter’s escape plan coming together scene by scene (such as when he takes the pen).
YES. “He has too much of his father in him.” “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
YES. Max keeps hinting at his past. The wind in the pipe organ plays horror music on its own. The narration keeps hinting at a dark ending.