When European Cinema Doesn’t Shine

I love going to the pictures. 

The only time I haven’t enjoyed the cinematic experience is the time a few years ago I convinced a couple of friends to see this Italian family draaaaaama where the characters did nothing but bitch, and fuck, and argue for the film’s duration. 

It was exhausting to listen to, exhausting to watch, and no amount of cute Italian hand gestures could make up for the fact that this film was exhausting to listen to and exhausting to watch.

For the first time in my personal cinema-going history, there was no choc top from heaven that could have stopped me from walking out.  And I never walk out of a film.  So I sat there, and hoped my friends wouldn’t say anything awful to me afterward.  Of course, when we walked out into the sunshine of Oxford St, I apologised for inviting them to see it.  This is something which I would never dream of doing.  Other people whinge and whine about films, but I love going to the pictures.

As for building the drama, the story up on screen couldn’t flatline any further in terms of dramatic dynamics.  In fact, if it had flatlined, I would not have noticed it.  It was a constant parade of four seasons in one emotional day.  And so much anger (the characters’, not mine).

One of the things screenwriter Billy Marshall Stoneking has to say about drama (and he has plenty to say) is that drama has to build and go somewhere.  It has to do something. I hope he doesn’t mind my quoting his writing on Dramatic Grammar:

A story’s power is proportional to its effectiveness in building and releasing energy in ways that are fresh, unexpected and thoroughly credible

When a story stops building energy, or is unable to effectively release it, the energy dissipates, which is another way of saying the story becomes undramatic.

You can join Billy on his hunt for truly dramatic storytelling at http://www.wheresthedrama.com.

Highly recommended if I do speak from experience.

Should I tell you the name of this film that altered my perception of cinema-going for all eternity?  No.  I have forgotten the name, and to be honest, I feel a bit mean slagging off the work of other artists.

But it was a growing experience.  I did learn something of storytelling value that afternoon.  It was naive of me to expect that a European film might, by sheer virtue of its being a European film, automatically provide a glowing cinematic experience.   It doesn’t mean diddly squat.

That’s the same as assuming that Australian films are broadly quirky, undramatic, or filled with horror.

Anyway, enjoy your choc tops, possums.


c. A Room of Heroine 2011.