How to represent grief effectively?

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  • #31
    Re: How to represent grief effectively?

    I'm always a fan of scenes where we see the characters but can't hear them for this, like where we watch through a window as one character breaks the news to another, watching their faces without the distraction of dialogue that, let's face it, is probably not going to be as effective as what the viewer projects onto the visuals.
    Patrick Sweeney

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    • #32
      Re: How to represent grief effectively?

      Originally posted by Jon Jay View Post
      21 Grams has some great scenes with Naomi Watts; I think the one that lingers is breaking down whilst washing her children's clothes (after their death, in case you haven't seen it...)

      It's her trying to return to old routines, be a mum to children who no longer exist. It's almost unwatchable.
      Thanks I hope I will be able to write it is so heart wenching

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      • #33
        Re: How to represent grief effectively?

        You find behavior that is true to the characters' reality.

        Just like any other emotional state. You observe the world. The details you notice find their way into your writing.

        If you're good.

        Looking at other films shows you what other people noticed, and what was consistent with their characters. Sometimes other people notice good stuff that can be applied to a variety of characters, and other people borrow it, and it becomes a cliche.

        The first person to figure out that you could communicate grief by pulling out the sound was a genius. They translated a real part of the emotion into cinematic language. Somebody who decides to do that tomorrow is probably a hack - you're just borrowing the cliche.

        Grief is only hard insomuch as that compared to a lot of other things (fear, love, joy, etc) a lot of us haven't had a lot of experience with it. It's harder for us to take that observational step because we don't see it.

        But good writing comes from emotional truth. So figure out what it feels like, and film that.

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        • #34
          Re: How to represent grief effectively?

          I don't quite know how to put this (and it's a generalisation), but there's a sort-of "grief-lite" that often pops up in student/short films that is the way NOT to handle it effectively. It seems melodramatic and borrowed for effect. Unconvincing, I suppose.

          And when done well, there's the different stages of grief to contend with. The shock (even for something that had a lead-up time), the anger, the desolation, the numbness, the varyingly bitter acceptance. They all have different manifestations. The trick is-like almost everything-to make them convincing. Easy, huh?

          However, even well-portrayed grief is a different thing to actual grief, in my opinion. Again, I don't know how to express exactly what I want to say, but I'm not the first one to point out that there's a kind of aestheticisation of suffering in cinema and all narrative arts. Why we actually like to watch or read something reflecting sadness probably has its roots in why we like to be scared: we have an emotional framework built into us and it responds to exercise. Doing it by immersion in narrative is a safe-ish way to go about it.

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          • #35
            Re: How to represent grief effectively?

            Originally posted by Richmond Weems View Post
            This always works:

            "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!"

            And then:

            "WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY??!!"
            x2, but I also find this is a great place for a parenthetical. Specifically: "(cries to the heavens)" Seriously. Whenever I read that in a script, it breaks me up. Tears everywhere. 100% Guaranteed Emotional Impact(TM)

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            • #36
              Re: How to represent grief effectively?

              Know your stages of grief, and know where your characters are on that spectrum. It will tell you a lot about what they're capable of - and limited to.

              Some unforgettable grieving scenes and/or movies:

              * Lethal Weapon - Intro to Riggs.
              * Love My Way - Try to watch all of Season 1, but definitely Episode 8. Grief like you've never seen it. (The first eps are a bit rusty, so stick at it, but if you can watch those first 8, I promise you #8 will undo you. I've seen it four times, and it still undoes me.)
              * The Piano
              * The Road (Book rather than film)
              * Beloved (Book rather than film)
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              • #37
                Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                Originally posted by LauriD View Post
                Yeah, that part I figured out. It was more "how to show the emotional impact" that I was struggling with.
                Sometimes the best way to show the unfathomable is to compress it into the mundane. The simple.

                Humans are messy. It's the little things that often break us down. We are strong in the face of funerals and immediate chaos.

                We collapse when we are alone, and some sound or object breaks the dam.

                I absolutely agree that an effective portrayal of grief needs to be grounded in an emotional connection we had from the very beginning.

                There's a moment in Nemo that just kills me every time.

                Marlin believes his son is dead. He picks his lifeless body up, and brushes his fins over him. In that instant, he no longer sees the boy, but the little egg he saved, with the crippled little boy inside.

                Instant tears.

                Over a FISH.

                And why?

                Because the filmmakers connected with the most universal aspect of Marlin's emotional state.

                To hold a baby. To desire to protect the baby. To always see the child as that baby. To lose that baby.

                Heartbreaking.

                He doesn't need to cry. He doesn't need to yell.

                He just needs to hold his son and remember the promise he made and the source of the deepest love he's ever felt... and we're right there with him.

                Find what is real and true about the bond between the griever and the victim, and then bring that to bear upon the audience when that bond is broken.

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                • #38
                  Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                  It's the brushing his fins over him that puts it over the top for me. The holding a baby thing is far more expected. But that he can't quite process what he's seeing, so acts like there's life in the body? Devastating.

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                  • #39
                    Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                    Originally posted by Craig Mazin View Post
                    Sometimes the best way to show the unfathomable is to compress it into the mundane. The simple.

                    Humans are messy. It's the little things that often break us down. We are strong in the face of funerals and immediate chaos.

                    We collapse when we are alone, and some sound or object breaks the dam.
                    ...
                    Find what is real and true about the bond between the griever and the victim, and then bring that to bear upon the audience when that bond is broken.
                    Sometimes people articulate these things really well, like that.
                    "Friends make the worst enemies." Frank Underwood

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                    • #40
                      Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                      "character deaths are telegraphed andlose emotional impact."

                      Yes, your concern isn't just writing thegrief scene, the one where Heath Ledger's character is in the trailer lookingat Jake Gyllenhaal's shirt, or whatever. It's about how you wrote the rest ofBrokeback Mountain, which helps us understand what the loss really is.
                      Originally posted by 60WordsPerHour View Post
                      there's a kind of aestheticisation of suffering in cinema and all narrative arts. Why we actually like to watch or read something reflecting sadness probably has its roots in why we like to be scared: we have an emotional framework built into us and it responds to exercise. Doing it by immersion in narrative is a safe-ish way to go about it.
                      Conversely, I think one of the reasons Idon't like a lot of violent action films is that I always think about the "minor-characters/ collateral damage extras who die cheap deaths (often while the hero ridiculously survivesmultiple situations that should've killed him/ her too). I can't help thinking, but they're "real people" too.

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                      • #41
                        Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                        Originally posted by Craig Mazin View Post
                        Sometimes the best way to show the unfathomable is to compress it into the mundane. The simple.

                        Humans are messy. It's the little things that often break us down. We are strong in the face of funerals and immediate chaos.

                        We collapse when we are alone, and some sound or object breaks the dam.

                        I absolutely agree that an effective portrayal of grief needs to be grounded in an emotional connection we had from the very beginning.

                        There's a moment in Nemo that just kills me every time.

                        Marlin believes his son is dead. He picks his lifeless body up, and brushes his fins over him. In that instant, he no longer sees the boy, but the little egg he saved, with the crippled little boy inside.

                        Instant tears.

                        Over a FISH.

                        And why?

                        Because the filmmakers connected with the most universal aspect of Marlin's emotional state.

                        To hold a baby. To desire to protect the baby. To always see the child as that baby. To lose that baby.

                        Heartbreaking.

                        He doesn't need to cry. He doesn't need to yell.

                        He just needs to hold his son and remember the promise he made and the source of the deepest love he's ever felt... and we're right there with him.

                        Find what is real and true about the bond between the griever and the victim, and then bring that to bear upon the audience when that bond is broken.
                        I love Finding Nemo, still one of my all time favorites.

                        We sympathize with Marlin-- right from the start-- because we identify with his experience as parents who have hearts filled with hope for their own children.

                        We are Marlin.

                        And once we identify with the character our natural instincts for compassion and empathy kick in, because we can understand that pain of loss-- if done well, as it is in Nemo, we actually feel the pain ourselves.

                        But it is the complete journey from the moment we are introduced to the character, to the moment of loss, that creates an emotional response with the reader/audience.

                        I would look to everything before the death to isolate how you can better create that identification with the reader, because if you do that well, you'll be rewarded with the emotional response you're looking for.

                        Well, in my opinion, anyway.
                        FA4
                        "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
                        Hollywood producer

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                        • #42
                          Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                          An early post about laughing at the funeral reminded me of a story. Long time ago, at my Aunt's funeral, my brother and I were sitting with my cousin (it was his mother.) In this church, they had an old hearing-assist system. There were little speakers that looked like CB microphones with ear cups that people could wear in order to hear what was coming through the PA.

                          The three of us were sitting in the service, very somber, of course, but an old woman in front of us got up to leave and forgot to remove the hearing device. Just like a CB mic, it had a long curly cord that just "sproing"ed the microphone right off her head and bounced it all around.

                          We all three saw it, but for f**k's sake couldn't laugh, so we all sat there shuddering in the pews, tears rolling down our faces.

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                          • #43
                            Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                            Hi Lauri! : ) Which one of your scripts are you rewriting? (Which character is grieving and why?)
                            @oceanbluesky

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                            • #44
                              Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                              Possibly because I'm a tight-arse Brit, the ones that always get me are where the grief-stricken person is trying to hold it together, and failing just a little bit. For instance, Emma Thompson in Love, Actually, when her Christmas present isn't the jewellery she found in her husband's coat pocket a few days earlier. It confirms for her that he's having an affair (he must've given it to his mistress), but it's mid-family Christmas and she can't fall apart, for her children's sake, so she holds it together - just - until she gets a moment alone. She falls apart, then has to pull herself together again.

                              Of course, that works because of the set up, and having Emma Thompson in the role. She pulls something similar in Remains Of The Day.

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                              • #45
                                Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKUwcCp7LPE

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