Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Endings that make you go WOW

I just came back from the movies to see INCENDIES, a movie made by French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. The motion picture has been getting A LOT of press attention ever since it got its Academy Award nomination for best foreign film two weeks ago. It will also be featured at the Cannes Film Festival. Naturally, when something made at home (in this case only partially, but is IS a product from Qu├ębec) gets so many praises, you want to support it. So I treated my mother to a dinner and a movie.

The synopsis goes like this:
A mother's last wishes send twins Jeanne and Simon on a journey to Middle East in search of their tangled roots. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad's acclaimed play, Incendies tells the powerful and moving tale of two young adults' voyage to the core of deep-rooted hatred, never-ending wars and enduring love.

If this had been a book, it would have definitely fallen into genre literary fiction. In spite of the fact no one has ever been able to clearly define what the genre entails, it's painfully obvious. There is very little to no action, it's a character study, and it starts very slow. Veerrryyy slow. So slow that half an hour in, I couldn't help but think what the fuck the big deal was about this film. I figured it was another one for the critics to love, but at least, when some cultivated snob would ask me years later Have you seen this amazing classic called Incendies? Wasn't it brilliant?, I'd be able to nod and look smart as I tell the annoying jackass just how brilliant it indeed was.

Then, somehow, perhaps magically, the ending redeemed any negative thought I might have had. It does so because even though the first hour felt so boring at times, the climax could never have had this impact on you without the entire tale. In ten years of weekly movie watching, I never quite experienced this. Never.

It's a plot twist that you never see coming, but that was setup so that you had no choice but to accept it. It's not a cop out, it's not a gimmick. The ending just magically, with the flick of an imaginary Harry Potter wand, glues everything together.

I shit you not when I say that everyone in the theater (which was jam packed on a Tuesday night even though the movie came out months ago here) held their breath when we finally understood the horror of the truth. I just instinctively grabbed my mother's arm, stretched my back in disbelief on my seat and whisphered No. Fucking. Way. to myself. Most shocking of all, it was a truth I could have cared less about until that point.

It's not guessing work either. Clues are seeped in throughout the entire movie, but you never even consider the possibility of that ending while you spend the time vetoing possibilities in your head as things unfold because, well, it's just too horrifying. I figure if I were more fucked up I might have had a tiny little thought in that direction,  but even then...

On the drive back home, the ending kept resonating with me. Somehow, it had made me forget that bad first hour in which I almost fell asleep, but couldn't because of the fucking pig on my left who ate popcorn like a famished cow chewing on hay for the first time in weeks. It redeemed the moron behind me who kept hitting the back of my seat with his foot. I forgot my annoyance at the rehashing of middle eastern settings to recount violence and tragedy. It just made everything negative poof away into thin air. It made the entire movie whole. It gave it meaning on a scale I didn't even know existed.

Then I thought whether or not such a lesson could be applied in writing. If this had been a novel, I very much doubt I would have lasted until the end. The concept of micro-tension was absent until the middle, but then it kept hitting you like a jackhammer on nitro.I've been re-reading books like THE FIRST FIVE PAGES and SELF EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS while I write PRAXIA, as I find it very helpful to my process. I don't think I ever understood what micro-tension really was until I saw Incendies. And it was a freaking movie! Imagined applied to pages...

Have you ever read a book that resonated like this with you? Or a movie? I'd like to know.

Tonight's experience will no doubt serve as both lesson and guidance for the rest of my writing life. My only wish would be for all of you to see the movie too. Stick the first hour out, you'll be glad.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Something that ought to cheer you up

First off, let's get on with the Song of the Week: Heart of Courage.

And a bonus that ought to cheer at least some of you up...

Have a great week-end :D

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Song of the week

I am too busy to bore you guys with unoriginal blog posts!

"A Place in Heaven" by Thomas Bergersen, featuring the lovely voice of Jenifer Thigpen (whom I just discovered).

Also, always remember to rinse the shampoo out of your hair before opening your eyes.

Have a great week!