Saturday, February 26, 2011

Loving and Leaving Mr. Darcy

Mr. Darcy. Need I say very much more? The name instantly conjures up an image of the reluctantly delectable Colin Firth, brooding, handsome, desirable … a man torn between social mores and his heart. A simple enough story and one that’s been told over and over again. Fast forward to The King’s Speech. Another simple story. This time it’s about a man with a terrible stammer who has to deliver a very important speech. Again, not much to it … so it seems. What do these two seemingly simple stories linked only by the excellent Colin Firth in the leading roles have in common? I give you the simple answer: these are two great stories. Again one wonders why this is so.
Translated to film, none of the stories have any special effects; there are no terrorists,hi-tech gadgetry, 3-D (already beginning to pall with audiences), Avatar-like computer graphics, elaborate sets or gimmicks. In effect, Pride and Prejudice (a novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1813) and The King’s Speech, a film released 198 years later, emphasize the timeless goal that every writer should aim for: is your story a good story. Nay, is your story a great story? Pride and Prejudice has become one of the most popular novels in English literature, and receives considerable attention from literary scholars. The King’s Speech, a low-budget movie, has swept the boards when it comes to accolades and is sure to stimulate interest in King George the Sixth, his brother’s abdication that thrust him so suddenly into the limelight, and of course the war-torn background to this history. Aha! See? Already this seemingly simple story has grown into a fully fledged drama, gripping viewers.

A good story can be found in the most unlikely places. I have just spent the afternoon watching (out of sheer laziness) a low-budget movie on television called A Perfect Getaway. With a ‘ho hum’ attitude I settled down and prepared to laugh my way through bad acting and a preposterous script. With a byline reading: ‘Two pairs of lovers on a Hawaiian vacation discover that psychopaths are stalking and murdering tourists on the islands’ I expected Saturday afternoon drivel. It wasn’t like that at all. It was a good plot, with twists and turns designed to take the viewer by surprise; the setting was simple (how much simpler can a paradisiac island be?); the acting was excellent. A good story. No, it did not garner awards, and was judged by some to be slightly above the average slasher film. The New York Times referred to the film as a “genuinely satisfying cheap thrill.” The point is … did it hold my attention? Was I surprised by the end result? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Yes.

Worlds apart, the three titles I have discussed have achieved what we all aim for: a product so compelling that our audiences/readers keep coming back for more. Isn’t that what this is all about…?

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