Monday, August 10, 2015

TODAY'S NUGGET: Blood Simple (1984) - How Not To Rely on Dialogue

[Quick Summary: A man hires a hitman to off his cheating wife and her lover, but it all goes awry.]

People like to quote movie lines as shorthand:

- "You can't handle the truth!" ---> You're avoiding things.
- "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse." ---> I've got the upper hand.
- "Go ahead, make my day." ---> Don't cross me.

People also think that this is what writers do, i.e., come up with dialogue.

However, we writers know that it's the least important part.
The bulk of our job is to structure visuals and conflict (building the cake). The dialogue is the last part (frosting).  Without the cake, the frosting falls.

This script does an excellent job of emphasizing visuals first.

Because of this, the dialogue has a greater impact.

In the example below, Marty has just hired Visser, a sleezy p.i., to off Marty's wife.  Visser has just told Marty to get out of town for an alibi.


Marty is slumped in his seat, not responding to the fact that Visser has just ended the conversation. [Visser is in charge.]

Finally he rouses himself and gets out of the car, leaving Visser staring at the door he has left open behind him. [We see Marty as a sad, weak figure.]

After a moment, we hear Marty's footsteps approaching again, and he leans back into the open door with an afterthought. [He returns?! Second thoughts?]

MARTY: I'll take care of the money, you just make sure those bodies aren't found...There's a... [His behavior says he's sure, but his words scream unsure.]

These words are difficult to say.

MARTY: ...If you want, there's a big incinerator behind my place... [His offer to help is lame since we just saw that Visser is going to take all the risk.]

The two men look at each other. Marty leaves. After a moment, Visser leans over to grab the handle of the still open door.

VISSER (under breath): Sweet Jesus, you are disgusting. [This line has added punch. Visser despises his client but is despicable himself.]

The door slams."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Rely on visuals and conflict first, then the dialogue will shine.

Rely on dialogue first, then visuals and conflict will fail.

Blood Simple (1984)
by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

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