Monday, July 17, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: Holy Matrimony (1943) - Sight Gag

[Quick Summary: When a famous but shy painter returns to London, he takes on the identify of his recently deceased valet in order to paint in peace.]

DEEE-lightful!  This script is smart, fun, witty, and rapier sharp.

First, I had to applaud the writer* who made me laugh with a 123 word sentence with NO PUNCTUATION.  It even looks funny on the page. Gutsy move.

Second, when I chuckled at this sight gag, I knew I was in good hands:

ex. "Dissolve to:

Montage - Letter

Occupying much of the screen, the envelope is stamped and addressed to PRIAM FARRLL, ESQ. The address itself should be indecipherable. Superimposed on the letter are:

(1) English railway train.

Dissolve to:
(2) Ocean liner.

Dissolve to:
(3) Black native paddling dugout canoe up river.

Dissolve to:
(4) Black native driving primitive oxcart along dirt road.
(5) Black native runner racing through jungle."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Why does this sight gag amuse me? Is it the exaggeration? The sequencing? The economy and clarity of what he's trying to convey? All of it?

Holy Matrimony (1943)
by Nunnally Johnson
Based on the novel, "Buried Alive," by Arnold Bennett

*Nunnally Johnson is no ordinary top notch writer.  Just look at his laudable range in films: Grapes of Wrath, The Three Faces of Eve, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Dirty Dozen, etc.

Monday, July 10, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: Julia (1977) - Flashbacks That Nail the WHAT, Not the WHY

[Quick Summary: On a request from her best childhood friend Julia, Lillian Hellman is asked to deliver a package into Nazi occupied Berlin. Based on a true story.*]

My Three Thoughts:

1) My hat is OFF to you, Mr. Alvin Sargent. This is an incredible script.

When was the last time that I didn't want a script to end? I cannot remember.

2) For a tutorial in suspense, do NOT miss the train scene at the end.

3) I like flashbacks, but only if you know how to use them.**

Here, Sargent is extremely precise in how he's using flashbacks: To nail the protagonist's present emotions.  What is Lillian feeling now? (Not WHY, but WHAT.)
 
Notice the FLOW of the next three scenes (I have edited for length):
Scene #1 - Lillian is in shock at the request.  She must decide by tomorrow and doesn't have any guarantees.
Scene #2 - Flashback of Lillian in trouble. Fear --> trust in Julia.
Scene #3 - In the present, Lillian walks in a daze. The flashback shows us the war inside her, i.e., WHAT she's feeling inside now.
ex. EXT. THE GARDENS OF THE TUILERIES - LONG SHOT

[Lillian is in Paris and has not heard from Julia.  Then Johann, a friend of Julia's, shows up with a request: Would Lillian smuggle money to Berlin for Julia?

Lillian asks for time to decide.  Johann walks away.]

Another angle Lillian

walking on the path.

JULIA (O.S. - young girl): Lilly, you don't have to come this way. Go down under. Wade across.

Cut to

EXT. A TRAIL IN THE ADIRONDACK MOUNTAINS - DAY

Angle on a fallen tree which serves as access from one side of a relatively deep ravine to the other. Water rushes down the ravine. Julia and Lillian (children) have approached the tree. They study the pros and cons, Lillian with some trepidation. Finally, Julia moves with great alacrity across the fallen tree. Lillian remains on the edge of the ravine behind her. She is contemplating the depths. Quiite clearly her fear is increasing.

Angle on Julia

on the tree trunk as she reaches the other side. She looks back toward Lillian.

Her P.O.V. Lillian

Standing frozen in the distance.

Full shot

We wait a moment for Lillian to decide. Finally she makes her move. Carefully, she puts one foot on the log....

as Lillian continues on slowly. She moves closer to the other side. Finally, she is only a few yards from making it. She freezes again. We can feel the panic coming on her. She is about to lose her balance and starts to get down to her knees, but she slips off the log. As she does, she throws her arms around it and holds on for dear life. She is hanging beneath the log.

JULIA: Pull yourself up!
LILLIAN: I can't!
JULIA: Hold tight - just hold tight.

[Julia pulls Lillian up on the log. They are safe!]

....Closer shot Lillian and Julia

as they lie on their sides, exhausted.

LILLIAN: I'm sorry.
JULIA: It's all right.

She looks at Lillian like a good teacher, smiles.

JULIA: You'll do it next time.

Cut to

EXT. THE TUILERIES - ANGLE ON LILLIAN

walking on the path. The gardens are breathtaking, but Lillian is oblivious to everything around her, even a line of schoolchildren who nearly bump into her as they move with their teacher along the path."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I didn't notice the flashbacks. (That's how I knew they must have been unusually well crafted.)

Julia (1977)
by Alvin Sargent
Based upon the story by Lillian Hellman

*The forward notes that there is still great debate whether Ms. Hellman's memoirs and recollections are entirely true, or all or partly fictional.

**The "rule" says to not use flashbacks.  Why? Because it's too often used to dump information. That is lazy. Don't do that.

Monday, July 3, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) - Personify the Inner Conflict

[Quick Summary: A tribunal decides the innocence or guilt of four German judges who were on the bench during WWII.]

How do you make a 1948 war crimes trial that lasted 8 months appealing? Relevant?

This script could've been a boring trial, but writer Abby Mann* kept it interesting:

- The story follows Justice Haywood (played by Spenser Tracy) who is a fish-out-of-water. He is very curious, and takes us outside the courtroom into every day life.

- I expected the courtroom scenes that follow the prosecutor, defense attorneys, etc.  However, I did not expect so many character scenes outside the courtroom.

- I really liked how Mann structured the story to show Haywood's inner conflict about judging other judges' innocence or guilt:

1) We see glimpses of the inner conflict, here and there, mixed with humor.**

2) Mann personifies the German point of view through the character of Mrs. Berholt, a German widow with whom Haywood bonds with over music.

She represents the Germans (like her husband) who did not want the Nazis in power, but were swept up in the mess, and falsely accused of crimes and punished.

She makes Haywood face the fact that the issues are not black and white:

"ex. MRS. BERHOLT: What did he know about the crimes they cited him for? (pause) He was placed on trial with the other military leaders. He became part of the revenge which the victors always take on the vanquished...(simply, devastatingly)...it was political murder. (pause. Quietly look at Haywood) You can see that, can't you?

Pause. There is a moment. Haywood speaks finally. Obviously terribly moved by what she has said but not looking at her.

HAYWOOD (finally): Mrs. Bertholt. I don't know. (pause) I don't know what I see. (pause) I shouldn't be here right now talking to you. But I want to understand. I want to understand. I have to.

Mrs. Bertholt looks at him a moment. The stooped, agonized bulk of man sitting on the couch. She realizes how fully he is involved with his case and how much he really wishes to do what is right.

He is giving back to her the memory of the people in America that she had most come to admire. There is a moment.

MRS. BERTHOLT (gently): Would you like some more coffee?

HAYWOOD (quietly): Yes. I would.

Mrs. Bertholt begins to pour."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: One way to show the protagonist's inner conflict is to set him/her against another antagonist/friend/bystander who strongly takes one side in the conflict.

Now the protagonist's inner opinions will be brought out in the open.

Judgment at Nuremburg (1961)
by Abby Mann
Adapted from his 1959 teleplay (play here)(original 1959 video broadcast here)

*FYI: Mann is also the writer who brought the great Kojack (1973) to tv.

**The glimpses were just enough.  I so appreciate that it is not heavy handed conflict, ALL THE TIME.  Otherwise, it would have felt like a lecture.

Monday, June 26, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: My Man Godfrey (1936) - Simple + Complex

[Quick Summary: Godfrey, who lives at the town dump, is whisked away to become the Bullock family's butler.]

Two related thoughts:

1) Writer Taylor Sheridan repeats a 'rule' that I knew but didn't quite grasp:*
Simple story --> Allows room for complex characters, i.e., a character piece.
Complex story --> There's essentially room only for simple characters.
2) I find the above concepts helpful when reading such crazy, off the wall screwball comedies such as My Man Godfrey.  How did they do that?!

The story is indeed SIMPLE.  The writers broke it down into five parts:

1 - Godfrey is hired.
2 - Godfrey is introduced to the highly entertaining, odd family.
3 - Godfrey's secret is exposed.
4 - Godfrey is pseudo-blackmailed and his anonymity is challenged.
5 - Godfrey quits.

Now we have more room for the characters to play in COMPLEX conflicts.

In the scene below, notice:
a) How much fun it is to watch the characters bounce off each other.
b) Complex & complicated = requires a lot of space on the page. 

BULLOCK - father
ANGELICA - mother
CORNELIA- older daughter
IRENE -  younger daughter
CARLO - mother's 'protegee'

ex. "BULLOCK's face shows that he is furious.

BULLOCK: Well, who would know what they're talking about, living with a bunch like this. There is one thing I do know - what this family needs is discipline. I've been a pretty patient man - but when people start riding horses up the front steps and parking them int he library, that's going a little bit too far.

Bullock has crossed to the doorway and addresses himself at this point to Irene.

IRENE: Horses?
ANGELICA (rising): Are you insinuating that I rode a horse up the front steps last night?
BULLOCK: Maybe that wasn't a horse I saw in the library this morning.
ANGELICA (holding the dog, sits down): Well, I'm positive I didn't ride a horse into the library because I didn't have my riding costume on and I hope you're not insinuating that I should ride a horse into the library without my riding costume on.
CORNELIA (now seen in a close-up; seated): It was Irene who rose the horse - up the front steps.
IRENE: What horse?
CORNELIA (again, visible, in a close-up): Don't try to be innocent. I begged you not to do it.

Irene walks angrily over to Cornelia.

IRENE (accusingly): I didn't ride a horse - but if I did ride a horse - Who broke those windows on Fifth Avenue?
CORNELIA: What windows?
IRENE: You know what windows. And how about the college sap? Yah! Yah! Yah!
BULLOCK (going over to them): And I don't care who broke the horse or rode the windows up the steps or who yah-yah-yahed - (seen in a close-up now; excited) - This family has got to settle down!
CARLO: Ooooh!
ANGELICA (out of sight): Will you stop bellowing! (Seen standing; indignantly) Look what you're doing to Carlo.
BULLOCK (furious): Hang Carlo!"

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I'm learning that Simple + Complex is one limitation of writing for film.**

My Man Godfrey (1936)
by Morrie Ryskind & Eric Hatch
Based on the novel by Eric Hatch

*And you know my opinion on "the rules" (here).

**Writing for film is different than other writing.

When writing for things to be SEEN... 
- A complex story with complex characters may/may not be possible to be shot.
- Zooming in and out of a character's internal thoughts may/may not be possible to be seen.

Both the above would be easier to do in a book form vs. film.

Monday, June 19, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: Dreams (1990) - The "Rules"; Helpful Example of Suspense

[Quick Summary: A series of 11 short film episodes based on dreams by the director.]

TWO THOUGHTS: (Ok, 1 rant and 1 thought)

1) First, I heard that there were "rules" of screenwriting.

Then I heard that there were no "rules."

Then I noticed screenwriting nitpickers abhor using the word "rules," even though it's a useful term.* 

My opinion?  I think "rules" equals "guidelines." **

Do you need to know the "rules"?  Yes, you need to know them so that you know what you're doing when you break them.

For example, the "rules" say that writing episodic scenes are a no-no...

...Except this script is ELEVEN episodes that are meant to be seen together.

It works here. If it works, it wins.

2) In this script, I liked some of the episodes better than others.

However, the one undeniable thread through all of them is a feeling of SUSPENSE.

It comes from uncertainty and wondering, "What is going to happen next?"

Note how it builds because we cannot predict either characters below:

ex. From the episode "Crying Devils":

"Seeing me, he braces himself as if under attack by a wild animal. "Are you human?" he growls.

Startled, I stop short and nod.

He looks me up and down, as if evaluating, seemingly reluctant to accept my reply as fact.

"Who are you?" I venture.

He glares at me. Then his face gnarls with pain and he crouches.

"What's wrong?" I ask. "Something the matter with you? Are you sick?"

I move closer, but he jumps back like a beast and glares at me again. After a few moments he relaxes and runs a filthy hand through his matted hair, revealing a horn on his head.

Shocked, I jump back. "Are you a devil?"

The man's face contorts again. "Maybe. But I used to be a human being."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: When writing suspense, allow room for uncertainty in both the protagonist and antagonist.

Dreams (1990)
by Akira Kurosawa

*TIP: Don't be a nitpicker.

** Thus, the "rules/guidelines" means "possibly helpful, tried and true patterns"  It does NOT mean 'set in stone' or 'applies in every situation.' 

Monday, June 12, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: Ran (1985) - Setting Up/ Paying Off the Comeuppance

[Quick Summary: Based on King Lear. The Great Lord Hidetora turns over his empire to his eldest son, and it triggers in-fighting and great destruction.]

I feel bad for Hidetora, but I also don't. 

He obtained his land by violence, and now it's coming back to bite him. Ironic, yes?

My favorite "gotcha" moment is the scene below.

Notice:
1) How the writers innocently set up Hidetora for a big payoff.  I didn't see it coming.
2) How they get us to empathize with the occupant.  This is key to making the comeuppance more emotionally satisfying.

ex. "INT. - STRAW HUT - DUSK

...TANGO: Excuse us for coming in with our shoes on, but our lord was suddenly taken ill... [Setup: Hidetora and company barge into someone's house. So unclassy.]

He steps up on the wooden floor and, together with Kyoami, carries Hidetora over to the hearth and, laying him there, addresses the occupant of the house, seemingly a woman.

TANGO (looks at the occupant): He is wet. Do you have something to cover him with? [More setup: Then they demand help. No 'please'? No manners?]

The occupant stays seated and does not move.

TANGO: Answer me, woman!

OCCUPANT: Are you talking to me?

TANGO: Yes.

The occupant of the house silent rises and goes to a corner of the room. Tango and Kyoami watch the person suspiciously. The occupant, seen from behind in the dim light, appears to be looking for something. [We get why the occupant is reluctant to help these intruders.]

The occupant rises and comes over, silently handing something over. Tango receives it - it is folded clothing. He opens it, puts it on Hidetora, and stares in surprise. It is a beautiful robe with a colorful design, out of keeping with the humble hut. Tango and Kyoami are amazed and curious as they look at it.  [1st surprise/payoff: They are wrong about the robe.]

TANGO: Speak up...woman!

OCCUPANT: I am not a woman. [2nd surprise/payoff: They are wrong about the occupant.]

TANGO: What? It is so dark, I... Bring me a lamp.

Tango reaches for a stick of lighted firewood in order to take a good look at him, and notices a cane leaning by the side of the hearth.

TANGO: I am sorry. Is your eyesight poor?

He holds up the stick of firewood. The occupant of the house is illuminated in the light from the burning stick. It is the face of a blind but handsome youth. Kyoami pulls back with a start and looks at Tango. [3rd surprise/payoff: They're wrong about his disability.]

TANGO (shocked, gazes at the youth): Are you Lade Sue's younger brother...Master Tsurumaru?

TSURUMARU: Yes.

Hidetora sits up, turns his eyes, and stares at the youth. Then, his voice trembling, he mutters with a frightened voice.

HIDETORA: Tsu...Tsurumaru?

TSURUMARU: It has been a long time...Lord Hidetora.

HIDETORA: Do you remember me?

TSURUMARU: How could I forget you? I was just a child, but how could I forget the one who gouged out my eyes in exchange for sparing my life...the day you burned down my father's castle?" [4th surprise/payoff: They've dug themselves a deep well. We see why Hidetora should be ashamed and feel justified at his current comeuppance.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: When there's a good setup and payoff, we see why the comeuppance is justified...and it feels so cathartic!

Ran (1985)
by Akira Kurosawa & Hideo Oguni & Masato Ide
Based on "King Lear" by William Shakespeare
Translated by Tadashi Shishido

Monday, June 5, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: Kagemusha (1980) - What is the Premise/ Central Story Question/ Promise?

[Quick Summary: A thief who resembles a samurai warlord is drafted into becoming his body double during a time of war.]

BAD NEWS: I find Kurosawa scripts to be very dense.

Also, I have difficulty seeing on the page what he saw in his head.

GOOD NEWS: I never have trouble locating the premise/central story question/promise that he makes with the audience. 

Why? Because there is defined unity, i.e., everything points to the central question.

In the example below, the warlord Shingen gives an urgent speech from his sick bed. No one knows that it will also be his death bed.

Notice how the writers use the speech to instruct the men and to lay out the stakes:

ex. "*A ROOM IN THE TEMPLE

Arm rest on bedding. Shingen, with white bandage on chest, sits and leans on the arm rest. From his posture and expression, it can be seen that his condition is far from good.  [The big man is ill while at war with other warlords. What will happen?]

Darkened expressions on faces of Katsuyori, Baba, Yamagata, Kosaka, Oyamada and others surrounding Shingen. [Reaction of gloomy followers.]

SHINGEN: It is regrettable. I guess I will not see the Takeda flag fly in the capital.

KATSUYORI (impatiently): Father, what are you saying...

SHINGEN: Don't get excited. It has been my lifelong dream to place the Takeda flag in the capital. But, if I should die now, do not dwell on this dream of mine. If it is known that I've departed, Oda, Tokugawa and other enemies will rush into our domain. Do not reveal my demise for three years and guard the domain well. Do not make a false move. If my orders are not observed an you move our soldiers in vain, it will mean the end of the Takeda clan. Listen well, all. This is my last will. [This is the promise of the film: Why do our heroes go to extremes to create and protect a false double of Shingen? To protect the clan. To carry out his dying wishes. The rest of the film will answer: Do they succeed?]

Nobody speaks. Shingen, with extreme exhaustion and changed face, laughs deliriously and with bright eyes.

SHINGEN: This Shingen is not dead yet. I've spoken as I did because of the one in the a million chance that I should go. No, I won't die.

But these words give an impression of impending death to all present. Heavy air sets in."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Keep the premise/ central story question/promise clear in the story.

If you wander from it, you will have confusion and lack unity.

Kagemusha (1980)
by Akira Kurosawa & Masato Ide

Monday, May 29, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: Throne of Blood (1957) - How to Show Significance (Literature vs. Film)

[Quick Summary: An adaption of "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare.]
 
In a 1990 conversation, film critic Gabriel Garcia Marquez asked Kurosawa:*
Q: Has your method also been that intuitive when you have adapted Shakespeare or Gorky or Dostoevsky?
A: Directors who make films halfway may not realize that it is very difficult to convey literary images to the audience through cinematic images. For instance, in adapting a detective novel in which a body was found next to the railroad tracks, a young director insisted that a certain spot corresponded perfectly with the one in the book. “You are wrong,” I said. “The problem is that you have already read the novel and you know that a body was found next to the tracks. But for the people who have not read it there is nothing special about the place.” That young director was captivated by the magical power of literature without realizing that cinematic images must be expressed in a different way. [Underline mine]
What an astute observation! YOU may know, but don't assume your reader knows.

So how do you convey to the reader "this is a special place/person/thing of significance"?

Take the time to SHOW it in how people act or react. 

In the scene below, two riders approach the witch's house in the woods.

Watch how we get the first clue from the horses, then the unease in the men:

ex. "Two men galloping, shrouded in lightning, in thunder and in strange laughter. Two men galloping. [The writers set the atmosphere: threatening and spooky.]

Their horses suddenly stand erect, and cannot be pressed forward. The frightened eyes, gasping sounds, and trembling ears of the horses, YOSHIAKI suddenly stops spurring his horse. Looking ahead he shouts involuntarily. [The horses sense danger first.]

YOSHIAKI: My god! What's that? [Dialogue conveys shock.]

TAKETOKI looks hard to the front. Ahead of them is a place rather sparsely wooded, leaving a small open space of grass. There stands a small straw-thatched cottage, deserted. The thunder and lightning, which were so violent a moment ago, have mysteriously abated. A beam of light falling through the trees calmly shines upon the cottage. [More unease because it's odd to have a cottage here.]

YOSHIAKI: Have you ever seen that cottage?

TAKETOKI: No, I have never seen such a cottage. This also must be the work of an evil spirit.

YOSHIAKI: But...

TAKETOKI: Behold, our horses! Their fright is real.

TAKETOKI fixes an arrow to the string and draws it to the full, aiming at the cottage. At that moment, a delicate, sad song reaches them from inside the cottage." [Odd sounds further the unease.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: In literature, there's more leeway for expression (external, internal).

ex. A character's reaction to a shocking incident may only be in his internal thoughts.

In film, we must express the same emotions but in a different way. It's mostly external,  i.e., to be seen externally.

ex. A character's reaction to a shocking incident may be an uncharacteristic move (fainting), an inconsistent behavior, etc.

Throne of Blood (1957)
by Shinobu Hashimoto & Ryuzo Kikushima & Akira Kurosawa & Hideo Oguni
Translated by Hisae Niki

*Yes, THAT Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Monday, May 22, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: Seven Samurai (1954) - Giving Weight & Meaning to Action/Violent Scenes

[Quick Summary: Under the threat of bandits, a village hires a band of seven samurai for protection.]

Three Things Worth Noticing:

1) I've seen this film and it's everything everyone says that it is, including:

- One of the first modern action films
- One of the first films to show the unglamorized consequences of violence
- Excellence in editing

2) For me, the genius of Seven Samurai is in the editing and shots.

I would've bought it based on a short film or discussion with the director.

I probably would not have bought it based on the script because I just couldn't see the whole film visually.

3) So should you still read the script? (Yes, it's a long one.)

Yes, if only to learn how to give your action/violent scenes weight and meaning.

One key is to include a visual of what results from of the fighting and/or violence, i.e., people DIE. People get HURT. There are CONSEQUENCES.  If this is absent, the action is forgettable.

ex. "Low-angle medium shot of the WOMAN holding the baby with KIKUCHIYO in three-quarter back view in the foreground. The mill wheel still turns in the background, now almost enveloped in flames. Without saying a word, the WOMAN hands the baby to him; then, thowing back her head, she staggers forward. KAMBEI rushes up to catch her. As she falls into his arms he feels blood on his hand and looks at it. KIKUCHIYO, holding the child, looks at the WOMAN's back.

KAMBEI: She was speared. RIght in the back. Yet she got as far as here. What will-power!

KAMBEI hoists the WOMAN's dead body onto his shoulder and KIKUCHIYO puts out a hand to stead him, still holding the baby in his other arm.

KAMBEI: Kikuchiyo, let's go back.

He starts to wade back down the stream towards camera.

Medium shot of KAMBEI coming towards camera carrying the WOMAN over his shoulder. Behind him, KIKUCHIYO is staring at the child in his arms, the mill blazing in the background. KAMBEI notices that KIKUCHIYO is not following him and turns back, uring him on.

KAMBEI: Come on, what's the matter?

Medium close-up o KIKUCHIYO holding the child, silhouetted against the flames. Tilt down with him as he sinks down onto his knees, waist-deep in the stream.

KIKUCHIYO: This baby. It's me! The same thing happened to me!

He sobs, hugging the child tightly."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Remember to include the consequences of action/violence through reaction shots, etc.

Otherwise, the audience is less inclined to get invested.  

Seven Samurai (1954)
by Akira Kurosawa & Shinobu Hashimoto & Hideo Oguni

Monday, May 15, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: Ikiru (1952) - How to Show a Man's Internal Turmoil

[Quick Summary: When a boring office drone is diagnosed with cancer, he struggles to make sense of his remaining time on earth.]

Ah, the conundrum: How do you show a man thinking/feeling, without dialogue?

In this script (from the master, Kurosawa), it is in the man's reaction (or non-reaction) and interactions with his surroundings.

Note below how our hero, Watanabe, reacts:

[Prior to this scene below, a stranger spews out a list of symptoms to Watanabe.]

ex. "WATANABE is feeling more and more uncomfortable. Quiet sinister music. He changes seats, but the MAN follows him. [His movement away = discomfort.]

Shot of WATANABE becoming more and more uncomfortable. [Watanabe is increasing in discomfort as he absorbs the Man's comments.]

MAN (cont'd): And you won't be able to eat meat, or anything you really like, then you'll vomit up something you ate a week ago; and when that happens, you have about three months left to live.

Cut to a long shot of WATANABE alone in the waiting room. The slow and melancholy music of the opening is heard. He is small in the distance, almost lost in the large waiting room. [Wantanbe alone, far away = Even the positioning of the camera shows how he must be feeling inside.]

A NURSE suddenly calls his name; she calls it several times because he does not hear. He finally hears and rises. The music fades.  [He does not hear the nurse = He is lost in deep thought.]

Cut to the X-ray room; two DOCTORS and a NURSE are waiting.

Cut to WATANABE entering, then a shot of their faces as they wait for him to sit down.

Quick close-up of the DOCTOR's face, then WATANABE's.

DOCTOR: Yes, please sit down. Well, it looks as though you have a light case of ulcers.

Cut to WATANABE's hands. He drops the coat he is carrying. The music begins again. [His reaction shows shock.]

Cut to their faces.

WATANABE: Be honest with me. Tell me the truth. Tell me it's cancer.

The DOCTORS' faces; the NURSE's face; the back of the young DOCTOR's head - he is looking at the X-ray picture. She picks up WATANABE's coat.

DOCTOR: Not at all. It's just a light case of ulcers, as I said.

WATANABE: Is an operation impossible?

DOCTOR: It's unnecessary. Medicine will fix you up.

WATANABE: But what shall I eat?

DOCTOR: Anything you like, so long as it's digestible.

Cut to WATANABE. Hearing this he lowers his head so that it almost touches the desk." [No need to tell us he is discouraged because his movement shows us.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: To show a man thinking, show us his reactions and interactions with his surroundings.

Also, sometimes a character in the distance (or in a close-up) may help mimic feeling far or near.

Ikiru (1952)
by Shinobu Hahimoto & Akira Kurosawa & Hideo Oguni