Blogs by Bill Johnson
Lady in the Water
7/30/2006 12:51:32 AM
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notes on personal storytelling
Lady in the Water
This film is a good example of the difference between personal storytelling and telling a story to an audience. The story apparently started as a bedtime story M. Night Shyamalan told his children. So the plot has the logic of a bedtime story. Every few minutes there's another revelation about a bigger menace or situation that must be resolved. What also makes this personal storytelling is that the characters all just assume their roles with no question, which requires them to accept immediately that a mysterious girl is from another realm and they are choosen characters in her purpose here.
Personal storytelling doesn't require a plot, or a point, or character development; it just requires action that validates the storyteller in some way. Here, M. Night Shyamalan is a writer who's work will save the world. The film becomes Mr. Shymalan's personal fantasy brought to life; his validation of himself.
Many people create story worlds where they (the main character is typically an extension of the storyteller) are respected, loved, bedded, acknowledged as heroes, worshipped. This makes what happens of vital interest to the storyteller; the downside is that it risks offering nothing to an audience.
Another aspect of personal storytelling is the desire to vent; here, Mr. Shymalan gets to kill a film critic (critics haven't been thrilled by his recent films). I'm sure the moment of the death of this representative critic thrilled Mr. Shymalan. And I assume some people will enjoy seeing a critic get torn apart (since many personal storytellers loathe critics or criticism).
Personal storytelling also requires no explanation of symbols. The otherworldly characters here are given no real backstory, like one would find in The Lord of the Rings or many other fantasy stories. Personal storytelling doesn't require plausibility or history or much thinking at all; it just requires symbols and characters and events that resonate with the storyteller.
The Great Yokai War
Every film I see by Japanese director Takashi Miike is a unique experience. This latest film was promoted as a children's film, and, indeed it is, which was more surprising to me than anything else Miike has done.
The story is about a young boy coming of age and learning the difference between being a child and an adult. The plot revolves around a war between mythical creatues, the Yokai, rooted in Japanese folklore. The film-making is clever and inventive, a visual treat.
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