I was listening to U2 this morning on the way to the train. The Joshua Tree. It’s been a long time. Long enough that I was hearing the remarkable story telling freshly. Track 9, “One Tree Hill”, struck me especially – although what struck me was actually a “mis-hear” of the lyrics – the line is “It runs like a river runs to the sea” which is pretty basic poetry. What I heard instead was “It runs like a river under the sea” and that was a powerful image. Very deep.
This Wednesday movie edition of R&A's "Tales from the Script", is a celebration of Netflix finally getting around to sending me “The Sixth Sense”. I can’t say it out loud anymore, I keep tripping on “sixth” for some reason, What a great movie. Way better than cats. Minor spoilers follow.
It was very, very close to the script I read - probably because the author was also the director of the movie. In the script, this was a story about a man and a boy becoming friends and helping each other overcome very serious personal issues. The movie stayed true to that soul but also brought us into the terrifying world that the boy lived in. There was remarkable skill in being able to frighten so well without falling away from drama and into horror.
The descriptive prose of the script conveyed a somber, even sinister overshadowing mood that was constantly being broken by the personalities of the characters who struggled for normalcy and happiness. In the film, creative use of Philadelphia’s gothic architecture and art, rain, and lighting were used with equal skill to convey the same mood as backdrop for the actors.
In my reading, the relationship between Dr. Crowe and his wife was more personal than what was portrayed on the film. As good as Bruce Willis was, there was something in the writing that he just wasn’t able to convey. In thinking about it though, I’m wondering if the problem was more in the coldness of his wife – she was as distant from the audience as to him so we never really cared about her.
We were most impressed by the mother (Toni Collette) however. In the script she was important and was shown as trying very hard at life. In the film she stole every scene she was in. There was an unbelievable honesty in her performance and we truly felt that she was hanging on by her fingernails, doing everything in her power for the little boy she loved more than anything else in the world. Her emotion; joy, sorrow, frustration, and playfulness, contrasted against the single-minded purposefulness of Dr. Crowe and the depressing backdrop. There could not have been a happy ending without her final triumph.
The last observation I’ll make in comparing the written story with the filmed version has to do with the PG-13 rating. When I read the story, in my mind’s eye (it had been well over a decade since I saw it) I visualized what was happening and was drawn line by line, page by page, to the end. In the film, I was shown. There was a lot of discretion for the director/producer about what content to include and, in certain scenes, what sort of language to use or body parts to show. When reading, you imagine what you choose to imagine. When watching, you see what others have decided to show you. This could have been an ‘R’ film by using a few different angles and adding a couple of words. But it also could have been PG by not showing certain things – a feat easily accomplished with the subtlety shown in other scenes. The story wouldn’t have changed and that, I believe, is the take-away.
When writing for screen you write the story. Other’s make the picture and will tell your story how they want to.