The Battle Within
Film needs to impact us emotionally. We are drawn to stories because of the battle within. If the film does not impact us emotionally it will fade and be replaced. Three movies which can’t be replaced in my eyes are Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and Walt Disney’s Bambi. These are all films responsible for making me want to be a filmmaker and all of them are more than half a century old. Their outer stories are much different from anything I have experienced however their inner substance connects to the core of who I am. The themes in these movies transcend age groups and cultures.
When creating a story the last thing you should do is create something about normal everyday life. To be honest most everyday life is quite boring. Even those working in the military spend more of their time eating, sleeping, and walking around then participating in life threatening combat. No, if there is one thing the films of the past have shown us its that we don’t need to base our stories on the physical realities of this world. Films are supposed to be impressionistic. They are supposed to send us to new worlds where animals talk, ships travel through time, and dark wizards rule the earth. One of the reasons I admire animation so much is because none of it is real. Animation effects your emotions through a bunch of pixels created in a computer or through a bunch of drawings created with a pencil. How crazy is it that a pencil can bring life to a puppet, make an elephant fly, and give a beast a soul? The shapes and lines you see in animation are never meant to represent outer reality, they are meant to connect to the audience’s emotions. They add or subtract things based on whether or not they are relevant to the battle being portrayed within.
The outer part of your story must draw your audience inward. Sometimes you draw the audience in through creating an abstract world, sometimes it is through diving into the details of the world we live in. Some storytellers are afraid if they go into too much detail they will lose their audience. I believe the more detail you go into with your story the more you will hit on universal truths. We all have the need for happiness, joy, and love. We all go through times of sadness, bitterness, and anger. We all fight battle within ourselves about our lust for power and our need of humility. Dive deep enough into your stories to find these basic truths. Don’t hesitate going into a story because you think part of your audience won’t find it interesting or won’t like it. If you find the story interesting it is worthy enough to be seen. Find ways to make the story entertaining and push your audience’s comfort zones. Create worlds we haven’t seen before or dare us to look at the world in a different light.
All the things happening on the outside of your story deal with the present. The inner battle involves the past and the future. We never fight for the moment. The fights are caused because of something that happened in the past and/or something that you want for the future. This is what I mean by “inner battle”, it’s the context in which the fight is taking place. The context must transcend culture and time. Your character.s battle must connect to what we fight in daily life. Even though Chaplin’s City Lights was made and takes place during the beginning of the depression, we are able to connect to the story because the characters express emotions independent of a specific time or place. Key themes such as the outsider in the lead character The Tramp, the power of kindness expressed through The Tramps concern for the blind girl, and prejudice seen in the movie through the separation of classes, are all things we can relate to a half century later. Chaplin uses his key universal themes to bring understanding on what it was like to live in the depression and as an outsider. Not only does he allow us to understand the battles we are facing today a little better, he also gives us insight to what it was like back then.
Great movies are able to bring us understanding. They remind us even though the battle on the outside at times couldn’t be more different, the inner battle is something we all face and understand. At the end of every story the conflict on the outside and the conflict on the inside collide. At the end of Bambi, Bambi needs to face hunters and a forest fire in order to emotionally prepare himself to become the king of the forest. In It’s A Wonderful Life the main character George Bailey spends his whole life selflessly helping his town while all the while questioning his worth. At the end through the physical example of seeing life without George Bailey we are able to understand his emotional and spiritual worth.
There are many who would say The Movies are supposed to be an escape so the audience could forget about the everyday realities of life. I disagree. The Movies are supposed to be a reminder about what is important in life. They communicate even though we will go through rejection, physical danger, and feelings of self doubt, we can come out on the other side stronger. The Movies don’t take us away from the realities of this world they give us perspective and insight that brings understanding. We begin to understand the battle within is universal. The Movies give us the weapons and inspiration to fight it.