One of the best things in film is when so many things come together to concisely tell a story that you could explain for minutes, but you experienced in a few seconds. One of my favorite examples, and the first time I really considered this, was in a story I heard about Ernest Hemingway. No idea if this is true (probably isn’t) but how the story goes…
Ernest Hemingway drinking in a bar, as he did quite often, was waxing intellectual with other men there. He starting commenting on concise story telling which others did not regard in the same manner as Ernest. To prove his point, he said he could write a story, emotions and all, with less than 10 words. The others at the bar accepted his bet and ponied up their money. After a few minutes of thinking, Ernest did it in six words: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Every man admitted defeat without hesitation.
Now I loved that story because of how amazing it was to write 6 words, but tell a story that was far longer in mind. You imagine the hopes of having a child, the preparation of buying it’s clothing, the final acceptance of knowing it will never happen for you, so you reluctantly sell what is essentially those hopes. I wrote 34 words about 6 words and it feels like I only scratched the surface to what it could mean.
So why the fuck are we talking about this? Well like I said I am a fan of when this happens in film, and I feel like it is under appreciated. So here are a few examples.
One of the more recent is one with the Joker from Dark Knight. Nolan said that he never did want to do an origin story for the Joker, which is why we get so many stories of how he got the scars recycled from the different origin stories from comics. But there are the perfect amount of subtle hints that you understand him anyways. When we first meet him really when he sits down with the mobsters, he already has a commanding presence. He speaks plainly, directly, awkwardly. He even suggests KILLING Batman, something so unfathomable that everyone laughs at the solution. Then Gamble says what a lot of people are thinking:
Gamble: You’re crazy.
Joker: I’m not. No. I’m. Not.
From that one exchange we learn so much about the character. This is not the first time he has been called crazy. And you see with his conviction and mood shift it bothers him that despite how right he knows he is, other people don’t get him, and that bothers him. He has emotions, and he has been teased and hurt before. At this point in the story, we know the “magic trick” set him up as confident. This moment shows a human side filled with frustrations, doubt, and even fears. And then his genius is shown when he walks right out with a string of grenades tied to him. The whole scene is 2:30, but the 5 seconds in the exchange with Gamble tells an incredible amount about the clown price of crime. After that moment, I actually felt like I knew the Joker regardless of what happened after.
Doc Holiday portrayed by Val Kilmer stole this movie. Doc Holiday was the most interesting character in the movie, and was still the best performance despite all of his complexity. We honestly shouldn’t think that much of Doc as a person. He kills with no guilt, drinks, womanizes and verbally (or physically) bullies whoever he thinks is less than him whether they deserve it or not. But his one redeeming quality is his loyalty, and nothing shows it better than the scene before the fight at the OK corral. We know Doc doesn’t mind a little gun fight now and again, but thats not why he does it.
Wyatt: It’s not your problem Doc. You don’t have to mix up in this.
Doc: … That is a hell of a thing for you to say to me.
Doc, despite all of his fault shows one thing there, he is a loyal friend to the end. He is actually insulted that Wyatt would assume that Doc would not think of Wyatt’s problems as his own. Though this doesn’t expressly say the history between the 2, you completely understand it. There is literally nothing Doc would not do for Wyatt and you get that in 10 seconds of film time. They reinforce it later by Doc saying Wyatt is his friend, but it didn’t even need to be said. We already know from this scene alone.
I had 2 more I wanted to show, but alas my editing software does not want to work with me so you only get the clips I could find on youtube. So you will have to wait for those. Or you probably won’t be waiting at all since this was more or less to remind me how awesome these things were before I go senile.
Onward and Upwards ladies and gentlemen.