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-   -   Fatal Flaw? (http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/showthread.php?t=54124)

Steven Jenkins 04-01-2010 05:19 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by zenplato (Post 632469)
It's not a thick book at all. In fact, you could probably read the whole thing in an hour:

http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/poetics.html

Let me know what you think...

Ok - I dug it up. I have a small compendium, containing articles by Aristotle, Horace & Longinus. The Aristotle one is called On the Art of Poetry. Is that the one?
I picked it up from a reading list for a Screenwriting MA course, as a cheapo way to do some self-education a few years ago.

I remember reading it, but a fair bit of it I thought was very out-dated. I just don't have the time to pick those things out, or have a debate about it as it's now Scriptfrenzy time :D

But I was just skimming through the book and found a section that I'd underlined when I first read it:
"our pity is awakened by undeserved misfortune, and our fear by that of someone just like ourselves".

Which really should be the giveaway of who the protag is in Casablanca. But it doesn't work. Rcik's misfortune is having his heart broken for no (as far as he knows) good reason.
BUT - Lazlo's misfortune is having his wife have an affair while he's in a concentration camp, escaping and recovering. Then fleeing to someplace, only to run into 'the other man', who has the means for his escape and safety but refuses to help because of his wife's past (pardonable) indiscretion.

The only thing Lazlo lacks is that "he's just like me" association for the audience.

I can just see Lazlo standing in front of the gods (Clytemnestra-like) demanding justice for Rick's assassination of him to a 'best supporting role' status in the movie. And then, after he's finished, it's Ilsa's turn for a slice of the heroine-denied action.

Anyway - I think Casablanca's pretty well squeezed out here now. But it's been fun looking at it from different angles :)

EDIT - And JonPiper's post I believe clinches the whole deal :)

jonpiper 04-01-2010 05:42 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 632485)
No. See Die Hard and thousands of other movies where a character is thrust into a situation not of his making.

Then my arguement holds.:)

Rick was thrust into a situation and took action. He took action without having any clear cut final goal. However, Rick's situation, the appearance of a lost love and her husband, a hero of the resistance, and the impending takeover of Casablanca by the German's is much more complex than Willis's.

JimHull 04-01-2010 06:02 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
I guess my problem would be that if the goal of the story was Rick getting Ilsa than who would the Antagonist be? You could say Lazlo, but by definition, an Antagonist actively prevents the Protagonist from acheiving his goal. I don't see that happening.

The next candidate would be Ilsa herself, but I would contend that she is filling another dramatic role and that would be (at the risk of alienating everyone once again) that of the Impact Character. You can think of this character as the Main Character's personal Antagonist if you're uncomfortable with new terminology.

It is her "impact" on Rick, her way of seeing the world, that ultimately influences him to change and become the selfless man he once was. Their relationship in the story fosters this change in much the same way that Red and Andy's relationship result in Red's eventual change. That is where the meaning, or true message of both films lies emotionally.

So Ilsa can't be the real Antagonist of the piece either.

The Antagonist without a doubt is Major Strasser. The Antagonist wants the the efforts to reach the goal to end in failure, the Protagonist wants the efforts to reach the goal to end in success. Maj. Strasser definitely loses. By definition then, the Protagonist in Casablanca wins. Who would that be?

EDIT: jonpiper above argues, if i understand correctly, that Rick's eventual goal was to join the resistance, but that he only discovered that or was motivated towards it till the end. The drive to secure the Story Goal starts the instant the Inciting Incident occurs. That event upsets the balance of things, and there should always be some drive towards resolving that inequity otherwise the story will feel flat, i.e. no narrative drive. That drive should be there from Act 1 till the end.

In addition, it should also be noted that the letters of transit were indeed intended for Lazlo, once Ugarte decides to give them to Rick, balance is upset and the story begins.

On the other hand, if the goal was Lazlo and Ilsa's freedom then you can quite clearly see who the Protagonist and Antagonist are.

I will contend that Lazlo is not a particularly strong Protagonist. I still think he represents the drive to pursue that freedom for himself and Ilsa, but he's not particularly good at it.

Andy on the other hand, kicks ass in this department.

Ronaldinho 04-01-2010 06:26 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JimHull (Post 632494)
I guess my problem would be that if the goal of the story was Rick getting Ilsa than who would the Antagonist be?

One of my smarter screenwriting teachers - a guy with one absolutely huge film to his name, and a long solid career of work - always reminded us that a movie doesn't REQUIRE a specific Darth-Vader-like antagonist. Rather than "antagonist," he encouraged us to think in terms of "forces of antagonism."

His point was that this opens up the door to much more nuanced films.

I'll use an example of a film that most of us wouldn't think of as particularly nuanced: Top Gun. Who's the antagonist? Well, you could talk about Val Kilmer, I suppose, because Tom Cruise is competing with him. You could talk about Tom Skerrit, becuase he runs the school and is ultimately the one who grounds Tom.

But the real demon that Tom faces isn't either of those guys - it's himself. Those guys provide crucibles, but the real tests are always against himself.

And if something like that works, in a movie as straightforward as Top Gun, why struggle to define an antagonist in Casablanca? WHy not reject the entire theory that there MUST be an antagonist, and instead use the more flexible concept of "forces of antagonism."

Because yes, Strasser is an antagonist, for parts of the story. So is Laszlo. So is Ilsa. But, of course, the entity that Rick defeats which has the biggest impact on the outcome of the story isn't Strasser, or Laszlo, or Ilsa ... it's his own apathy.

When he defeats that, he wins.

Only because you have arbitrarily decided that someone must be the antagonist is this any trouble at all.

This, ultimately, swings back to my whole problem with rigid theories about dramatic structure. You've got this little box that says "antagonist" and you feel compelled to fill it.

But you don't have to. There are lots of films where the true test isn't against some ultimate villain, but against the world, or against oneself.

instant_karma 04-01-2010 06:30 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JimHull (Post 632494)
I guess my problem would be that if the goal of the story was Rick getting Ilsa than who would the Antagonist be? You could say Lazlo, but by definition, an Antagonist actively prevents the Protagonist from acheiving his goal. I don't see that happening.

An antagonist does not have to be a person. It can be a force of nature or a set of circumstances, although personally speaking it is usually more emotionally satisfying when the obstacle that the protagonist has to prevail over is a person.

For example, consider the threat posed to the characters in the Final Destination series of movies.

Disaster movies also provide good examples of non human antagonists. The antagonist in Deep Impact was a giant space rock. In The Happening, it was the wind. Or trees. Or something.

Okay, forget about The Happening. The point is, there are a bucketful of movies with a non human antagonist.

With regards to what prevents Rick from getting Ilsa in the end, I would say the answer is Rick's love for her.

If he'd said the word, she was there for the taking, but his love for her stopped him from asking her to throw away a relationship with a man that Rick has built a grudging respect for in exchange for an uncertain and dangerous future with him. More than anything, Rick's goal is the protection of Ilsa.

instant_karma 04-01-2010 06:32 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Balls! If I'd waited a few minutes and seen Ronaldinho's post, I could've saved myself some typing.

SuperScribe 04-01-2010 06:35 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by instant_karma (Post 632507)
Balls!

My own protagonist and antagonist, all bundled up in one sack. Alas.

instant_karma 04-01-2010 06:41 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by SuperScribe (Post 632508)
My own protagonist and antagonist, all bundled up in one sack. Alas.

Much as I generally dislike smileys, words just will not suffice -

:rolling: :rolling: :rolling:

zenplato 04-01-2010 06:43 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JimHull (Post 632494)
I guess my problem would be that if the goal of the story was Rick getting Ilsa than who would the Antagonist be? You could say Lazlo, but by definition, an Antagonist actively prevents the Protagonist from acheiving his goal. I don't see that happening.

...

Let's not be so rigid. The movie's gestalt may not fit the mold that pedants want to squeeze it into, but that doesn't mean the principals of dramatic processes aren't in place.

And Steve, I don't see that quote being an essential attribute of a protag, imo...

The LoT are nothing more than a macguffin.

Sheeit!

jonpiper 04-01-2010 07:54 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JimHull (Post 632494)


EDIT: jonpiper above argues, if i understand correctly, that Rick's eventual goal was to join the resistance, but that he only discovered that or was motivated towards it till the end. The drive to secure the Story Goal starts the instant the Inciting Incident occurs. That event upsets the balance of things, and there should always be some drive towards resolving that inequity otherwise the story will feel flat, i.e. no narrative drive. That drive should be there from Act 1 till the end.

In addition, it should also be noted that the letters of transit were indeed intended for Lazlo, once Ugarte decides to give them to Rick, balance is upset and the story begins.

On the other hand, if the goal was Lazlo and Ilsa's freedom then you can quite clearly see who the Protagonist and Antagonist are.

I will contend that Lazlo is not a particularly strong Protagonist. I still think he represents the drive to pursue that freedom for himself and Ilsa, but he's not particularly good at it.

My mistake. Ugarte did steal the letters specifically to sell them to Laszlo.


As for the story goal, I'm not convinced Laszlo's goal, which is to secure his and Ilsa's freedom, is the story goal.

I believe Rick's goals, confused and changing as they are-- to remain neutral, to regain Ilsa's love, to win a bet with Renault, to disgrace the Germans, to secure Ilsa and Laszlo's freedom, to regain his own soul--are the story goals. Rick's actions move the plot forward. And in the end it is Rick who is responsible for acheiving Laszlo and Ilsa's freedom.

P.S. Jim you said "The drive to secure the Story Goal starts the instant the Inciting Incident occurs. That event upsets the balance of things, and there should always be some drive towards resolving that inequity otherwise the story will feel flat, i.e. no narrative drive. That drive should be there from Act 1 till the end."

The II does upset the balance of things and does drive Casablanca forward by setting Rick in motion to secure his goals. He was forced ou of his depressed, don't-give-a-damn attitude.


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