Conflict - How important it really is?

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  • Conflict - How important it really is?

    Conflict is an integral part of any compelling story. Without conflict, there is no story. At least that's always been told. Protagonist, in his or her search for a resolution, leads us through an engaging & entertaining story. We follow his journey, root for him or her, etc. There are internal and external conflicts. A few are evident (Die Hard, Kramer versus Kramer, Unforgiven, Bridges of Madison County) while others are buried in subtext. I continue to struggle to identify the latter. Below are just a few Academy sample:

    1. Leaving Las Vegas
    2. Affliction
    3. One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
    4. Deer Hunter
    5. Platoon
    6. Forrest Gump

    All of these are powerful story of characters, their journey, events that shape them etc. Not sure if most of the characters have any arc. Yet, these stories make our heart bleed.

    Question: Where is the conflict?

    My apologies if this has been addressed.

    cheers -- fallen
    Last edited by fallenangel; 06-01-2018, 06:14 AM. Reason: Flipped 'it' and 'is' in subject line.

  • #2
    Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

    If you are asking about characters who do not ark, that happens a lot in super-hero movies. The character keeps his super qualities and fights bad people. Much of the conflict is not as much in character arc as it is in the battle for good over evil.


    It also happens in movies where the main character might be what's called a traveling angel. That kind of character changes other people around him or her but does not change. It also happens a lot in sitcoms. The characters often stay the same, only the situation they are in varies. Hope this addresses your question.

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    • #3
      Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

      Thanks, Joan. My apologies for not effectively articulating my question. In each of the mentioned pictures (and there a a ton of others), what is the conflict that our protagonist is trying to resolve? Character Arc was a secondary question.

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      • #4
        Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

        of the ones i've seen . . .

        One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest -- McMurphy v. Nurse Ratchit, for who's going to actually be in control of the asylum (and by extension, McMurphy himself)

        Deer Hunter and Platoon -- arguably two sides of the same Vietnam War coin. Platoon's is probably more clearly drawn, although it's more a God (Elias) v. Devil (Barnes) struggle for Charlie Sheen's soul in the theater of war. But in both, the conflict is mainly within the soldiers themselves over how to continue living after the war has ended. In The Deer Hunter, that internal struggle is externalized in the russian roulette games that Walken's character descends to.

        Forrest Gump -- okay, i guess there is conflict between Forrest and Jenny over how to live one's best life or something but one reason it is pretty awful is that there really isn't any conflict driving the story. just a bunch of dumb episodic chapters about an imbecile

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        • #5
          Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

          Originally posted by JoeBanks View Post
          Forrest Gump -- okay, i guess there is conflict between Forrest and Jenny over how to live one's best life or something but one reason it is pretty awful is that there really isn't any conflict driving the story. just a bunch of dumb episodic chapters about an imbecile
          And yet, Forrest Gump *worked* and was a great commercial success.

          “Nobody knows anything...... Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess and, if you're lucky, an educated one.”

          ― William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade

          From my point of view, the conflict in Forrest Gump was the main character's adversity encountered with society's perception of him as an imbecile. As it turned out, his values were better than those of most people, and he overcame that adversity and succeeded in life.
          Last edited by Clint Hill; 06-02-2018, 06:01 PM.
          “There's nothing to rewrite if there's nothing on the page."

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          • #6
            Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

            Originally posted by TigerFang View Post
            From my point of view, the conflict in Forrest Gump was the main character's adversity encountered with society's perception of him as an imbecile. As it turned out, his values were better than those of most people, and he overcame that adversity and succeeded in life.
            but from a character perspective, he doesn't actively overcome adversity. he's just a dummy who stumbles ass backwards through the situations because he's not smart enough to know any better. that's not drama or conflict, it's mere happenstance. popular, yes. but still bad writing

            http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/forrest-gump

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            • #7
              Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

              There's a long tradition of naifs that don't change, but the world around them does. I wouldn't say "Being There" was bad writing, for example.

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              • #8
                Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

                Originally posted by JoeBanks View Post
                ...Forrest Gump -- okay, i guess there is conflict between Forrest and Jenny over how to live one's best life or something but one reason it is pretty awful is that there really isn't any conflict driving the story. just a bunch of dumb episodic chapters about an imbecile
                Ah, so I wasn't the only one! Gump was well-produced and entertaining, but it was a real Baby Boomer-fest, and not particularly relevant to other audiences. You watch, somehow there'll be stuff for Millennials in the sequel, in order to drive that audience.

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                • #9
                  Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

                  I'm looking forward to the next Star Wars spin-off: Star Peace Summit.
                  Know this: I'm a lazy amateur, so trust not a word what I write.
                  "The ugly can be beautiful. The pretty, never." ~ Oscar Wilde

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                  • #10
                    Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

                    I think the only movie I've watched in this list was Forrest Gump and I think for each movie like Forrest Gump, you've probably got 10,000 not like Forrest Gump. I guess what I'm saying is that I wouldn't use this as a typical example of screenwriting.
                    STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

                      Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                      There's a long tradition of naifs that don't change, but the world around them does. I wouldn't say "Being There" was bad writing, for example.
                      though there was a satirical edge to Being There that used Chauncey's naif-ness to comment on how our vapid media culture could elevate even, ahem, a fool to the presidency.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

                        Originally posted by JoeBanks View Post
                        though there was a satirical edge to Being There that used Chauncey's naif-ness to comment on how our vapid media culture could elevate even, ahem, a fool to the presidency.
                        Absolutely - Gump tackles a different theme, but I don't think it's quite as empty as some others. I think it's a meditation on destiny - the last line (which I've quoted before) is:

                        I don't know if Momma was
                        right or if, if it's Lieutenant Dan.
                        I don't know if we each have a
                        destiny, or if we're all just floating
                        around accidental-like on a breeze,
                        but I, I think maybe it's both. Maybe
                        both is happening at the same time.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

                          The Deer Hunter is all about conflict, is it not? It's about how we are all either the hunter or the hunted, in a world in which everything that matters has some degree of conflict: nations, politics, society, religion, class, work, welfare, nature, birth, family, friendship, sex, love, death.
                          Know this: I'm a lazy amateur, so trust not a word what I write.
                          "The ugly can be beautiful. The pretty, never." ~ Oscar Wilde

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

                            Originally posted by Crayon View Post
                            The Deer Hunter is all about conflict, is it not? It's about how we are all either the hunter or the hunted, in a world in which everything that matters has some degree of conflict: nations, politics, society, religion, class, work, welfare, nature, birth, family, friendship, sex, love, death.

                            Crayon, I do not ordinarily quote entire posts, but I did in this case. I think that this is the most profound thing that you have ever said.

                            "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Conflict - How important it really is?

                              Originally posted by JoeBanks View Post
                              ... one reason it is pretty awful is that there really isn't any conflict driving the story. just a bunch of dumb episodic chapters about an imbecile
                              Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                              ... Gump tackles a different theme, but I don't think it's quite as empty as some others. I think it's a meditation on destiny....
                              With respect to whether or notForrest Gump is “as empty as some others”: The main character remained the same, but instead we watched what went on behind him, the moving panorama of the nation as it went through its fads and growing pains — the rabid, fanatic fervor surrounding win-at-all-costs Alabama football, the “episodic chapter” of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and its absurdities, such as receiving a Purple Heart from the President of the United States for being shot in the buttocks, the advent of the dawn of a new technology represented by Gump's Apple computer investment, to the running craze that swept the nation for a time.

                              The main character stood still for us without changing his values, but the subtextual commentary was made about the nation's values and its destiny, the courses it had taken that led up to the time of the movie's ending, asking, “Just where is our country headed with these decisions we (sometimes foolishly) make?” with the bad decisions underscored and personified by Jenny's character, as compared to the staid and unwavering values of the supposedly foolish main character, who then by comparison becomes wise.

                              The conflict in Forrest Gump seems to be between the unchanging conscientious main character and the ever-changing national consciousness.

                              To answer the original post's academic question: without conflict, you have a dull story. Just as dull stories didn't sell newspapers, dull stories don't sell movie tickets, either. Conflict is absolutely necessary to create interest for an audience, and the interest occurs when and where there is a struggle between opposing forces, discovering who or what they are, what is at stake, why it must be resolved, and how the resolution is carried out.
                              Last edited by Clint Hill; 06-04-2018, 04:46 AM.
                              “There's nothing to rewrite if there's nothing on the page."

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