Cinematic Storytelling (3)

Two seemingly prosperous young women are seated together in a garden. One is reading a letter. The other just observes and listens.
The painting is by Marcus Stone, dates from 1889, and is titled:

Her First Love Letter.

(Continued from last week)

To quote Bordwell:

“The girl on the left, bathed in light, leaning forward eagerly and wearing the pale frilly dress, can be seen as the more inexperienced of the pair, caught up in the anticipation of the young man’s ardor. The more worldly woman sits relaxed, perhaps a little skeptical but also tolerant of the ways of young love… Narrative paintings like this are evidently one source of early cinema’s approach to staging and composition. This ‘full shot’ somewhat recalls the sort of thing we see throughout European filmmaking of the first twenty years.”

Marcus Stone had some other interesting narrative paintings. Consider these:

Notice the lady in the background dressed in black, on the other side of the wall, hiding in the woods, and jealously watching this moment. It’s titled “My lady is a widow and childless.”  And here we have an interesting painting.

This one is titled “In Love.” Hmm… Are they really?

Well, it seems to me there must be some obstacles between them that’s getting in the way of their love, wouldn’t you agree?

I also love the works of Cali Rezo.

The above image reminds me of a quote by Ingmar Bergman’s Swedish cinematographer, Sven Nykvist: “The truth always lies in the character’s eyes. It is very important to light so the audience can see what’s behind each character’s eyes. That’s how the audience gets to know them as human beings. It opens up their souls.

Consider the different emotions conveyed in the image below when a character covers her face with her hands compared to when she hides her head in her arms.

In these next two images, the light and darkness poured onto the females implies a conflicted inner nature:

In fact, these two images bring to mind Billy Mernit’s Light and Shadowposts (Part One and Part Two).

I’m going to do a few more articles like this. It would be great if other screenwriters blogged about visuals and the meaning of images.

I recall Robert Evans saying in “The Biggest Mistake the Writers Make:”

I can pick up a screenplay and flip through the pages. If all I see is dialog, dialog, dialog, I won’t even read it. I don’t care how good the dialog is – it’s a moving picture. It has to move all the time… Screenwriters do not get the lesson… It’s not the stage. A movie audience doesn’t have the patience to sit and learn a lesson. Their eyes need to be dazzled. The writer is the most important element in the entire film because if it ain’t on the page it ain’t going to be on the screen.

– Mystery Man

In his own words, Mystery Man was “famous yet anonymous, failed yet accomplished, brilliant yet semi-brilliant. A homebody jetsetting around the world. Brash and daring yet chilled with a twist.”

MM blogged for nearly 4 years and tweeted for only 4 months, then disappeared – mysteriously.

The Story Department continues to republish his best articles on Monday.

Here, you’ll also be informed about the release of his screenwriting book.

1 thought on “Cinematic Storytelling (3)”

  1. Screen composition, lighting, and the moving camera, in the hands of a good cinematographer, can take charge of the clues the writer gives in his action lines and make them glorious. ‘Every frame a Rembrandt’ is a great aim that requires perfect coordination between the writer who plants the seed, the director who nurtures it, and the cinematographer and gaffer who bring it to fruition. When that rare synergy works I gaze at the screen in joyous appreciation.


Leave a Comment