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Rated: 18+ · Book · Writing · #1634630
Brief writing exercises and thoughts on writing. Maybe the occasional personal musing.
#753606 added May 27, 2012 at 11:01am
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Okay, movies are inherently better at showing than telling
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the movie The Sitter  . If you don't want to read spoilers, please skip this post. Of course, I'll note that this movie is almost six months old. If you haven't seen it yet, what the hell are you waiting for?

I don't know if most writers feel this way, but I generally think that books and the written word are superior to movies. There's so much more that you can write into a book -- and that you don't have to worry about getting edited out because the film's running too long as it is -- that is hard to visually display. But after watching The Sitter   for the tenth (or so) time, I realized that movies have an advantage when it comes to "showing rather than telling." The visual nature of the medium allows things to be communicated in ways that reminds me that a picture -- or a carefully crafted series of cut-scenes -- really is worth a thousand words.

Consider the following sequence from the movie:

1. The camera shows a group of people, including the protagonists, sitting in a moving subway car together. Everyone's position relative to each other is established.

2. The camera cuts to a close-up of just Noah and Blithe. Blithe is staring off into space, and Noah is looking to his right, presumably at the trio of young people (I'm guessing college students) sitting on the other side of the doorway that is next to him.

3. The camera cuts again, this time to the man and women who are standing in the back right corner of the train and making out.

4. The camera pans this time, across the back of the car to the man sitting in the other corner. He's staring forward, looking at something (likely the trio again). His face registers displeasure and possibly even disgust.

5. The camera cuts to the young trio that seems to have drawn such attention, giving us our first good look at them. the group consists of one woman and two men, all dressed fashionably and casually. The woman sits to one side of the two men, and the man farthest from her places his hand on the other man's knees.

6. The camera now cuts to Slater, who is sitting across the car, his arms crossed and looking slightly to his left, again presumably at the young trio. His face suggests that he's about ready to cry, and I get a sense of wistfulness in that look.

7. The camera cuts back to the trio, and now the the guy in the middle reaches over to brush the other guy's bangs. The woman sits watching her companions' acts of affection -- at this point, I don't see how else they can be interpreted -- with a fairly typical look of someone who is happy to see two people so clearly in love (okay, maybe it's only infatuation at this point).

8. The camera cuts back to Slater who looks down briefly before returning his gaze to the trio. His expression seems to imply a deep-seated need to cry on his part even more now.

9. The camera jumps to Noah, who is now looking in Slater's direction, before returning his gaze to the trio as the camera pans back to them.

10. The camera cuts back to Slater, and I'm expecting to see tears any second. He pulls his gaze away from the trio and looks slightly down again. When he looks up this time, he's looking in Noah's direction.

11. The camera cuts to Noah, who is now looking at Slater. His expression suggests dawning comprehension.

12. The camera cuts back to Slater, confirming that he and Noah are still making eye contact.

13. The camera cuts back to a wide-angle shot of the whole subway car for a few seconds before the movie moves on to the next scene.

That whole sequence took roughly forty-three seconds to run, much less time than it took me to write up the description of the scene. And yet, in that scene, the movie communicates several things:

1. Slater is truly broken up and torn.
2. Slater is torn because he's gay.
3. Noah has just started to figure out that Slater is gay and that's his "real problem" rather than the neuroses and other issues he's been bringing up so far.
4. Slater's own sister is completely oblivious to what's going on with him. We can probably assume that she's fairly representative of the whole family when it comes to this particular subject.

Writers who expect their audience to interact with their written words directly (as opposed to those writers who create scripts for movies like this) also try to show as much as possible without telling as well. But in the end, we can only show through words, which is a bit of telling in its own way. Maybe a better writer than I would be able to do it, but I honestly don't think that I could write a scene in a book or story that when read, would have the same subtly powerful effect as this series of cut-scenes. That alone has regained some of my respect for the artistic power of movies.


Our tears remind us that we are alive. Our laughter reminds us why.

© Copyright 2012 JarredH (UN: seithman at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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