Thursday, August 9, 2012

TODAY'S NUGGET: Marathon Man (1976) - Trait & Conflict in Dialogue

[Quick Summary: A graduate student who is at the wrong place, wrong time, runs from a sadistic Nazi dentist.]

Why do I root for the protagonist Babe?

He's just so earnest.

ex. In his first conversation with Elsa, note how the dialogue expresses:

a) Babe's earnest trait, and
b) the struggle to say "I like you."

BABE: Sorry to bother you, Miss Opel, but one of your books must have fallen in your cubicle earlier and I happened to spot it - (hands it over) - just thought it might be important. [He's sincere.]

ELSA: That's very kind. (starting to go inside) Good night.

BABE: 'Night. Your name and address are on the inside - "Elsa Opel" and where you live - in case you were curious how I found you, Miss Opel. [He's desperate to keep it going.]

ELSA: I wasn't. Good night.

BABE: 'Night. [No manipulation.]

ELSA: You keep saying that but you also don't leave.

BABE: I twisted my ankle on the way over, I was giving it a rest. [Flimsy, but a brave stab.]

ELSA: You weren't limping jst now.

BABE: I'm the worst when it comes to lying. [Throws himself at her mercy.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Good dialogue tells us about the character's trait(s) AND inner conflict.


Marathon Man
Screenplay and novel by William Goldman

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