Monday, January 30, 2006

Time for the video store

Dawn Eden reminds me that I haven't watched A Man For All Seasons in a while.

One of the finest and most quotable films of the past fifty years, and a standing lesson that a majority of Hollywood seems to be ignoring - that lesson being that man does not entertain on explosions and martial arts alone. MFAS was rated G, and featured a series of long philosophical discussions on how man ought to live in difficult times. It won Best Picture in 1966, and Paul Scofield (as Thomas More) copped Best Actor. Robert Shaw played Henry VIII, and a young John Hurt was Richard Rich. (Top-notch casting helps! Also had Orson Welles in a small role.)

I own a copy of the play, with an intro by the author, Robert Bolt, in which he explains some of his motivation for the project. Ironically, from his comments he seems not to understand the characters that much, despite getting them down so magnificently. It's a credit to his honesty and craft. It's also something close to how I feel when I'm writing at my best - the feeling that I'm not dictating to the story, but uncovering it along with the characters. The best way to describe it is that I'm collaborating with them. It's rather strange when, halfway through some paragraph, a figment of your own imagination looks up and tells you, "No, I think I'll do it this way. Thanks for making me look good and all, but no."

And that makes me wonder about God, free will, and morality. Somehow, He puts up with us doing that to Him, and still gets His story written. It's even called the Greatest Ever Told. If I'm doing my job right, should it feel that way? Or, better, will there be a time when my characters anticipate where I'm going and cooperate?

One thing is certain, though. The characters who stand out most in my mind, and those for whom I have great affection, are the ones who are least like figments - who seem to have the most will.

Some sit and wait patiently (very patiently, by now - sorry), while I busy myself elsewhere. Others seem not to notice, almost like they have their own business to attend to outside the story. And the third, smallest class, are those that nag at me, seeming to say, "Hello? Remember that giant battle with the Ninja Space Walrus? I'd like to finish. Thousands of lives at stake, and all... Much obliged." I love those guys, whether or not they're mine.

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