All screenplays on the simplyscripts.com and simplyscripts.net domain are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. This screenplaymay not be used or reproduced for any purpose including educational purposes without the expressed written permission of the author.
Sopranos. TV is obviously different than a feature film. But this still shows that not every scene moves the story forward, not every scene has turning points, not every scene is filled with conflict.
There is mild conflict here as characters misunderstand each other and do some teasing, but the conflict is very mild.
Irony is the major theme. The gangsters count piles of money while watching a show where the mafia is described as broken.
I would say the main purpose of the scene is simply to make the characters more dimensional. One is reading about cloning and has an interest in science. Another does Godfather impressions. Another makes a jibe at one of the crew, then repeats it to make sure another member heard it.
Dimensionalizing characters can be an end in itself, but it also serves a purpose in narrative formation. When building a story, we have to create stakes. But the stakes have to matter to the audience or they are empty, not really stakes. Making the audience care about the characters is essential to stake building. And dimensionalizing characters makes an audience much more likely to bond with them.
Rick approaches Ilsa with this goal: he wants to know why she left him cold in Paris, breaking his heart. He doesn't find out until the end of the scene. However, his real goal, perhaps unconscious, is to re-unite with her.
Conflict when setting up scenes comes from opposing goals. What was her goal? She has put herself in a public place, presumably hoping he will come around. Her conscious goal is to explain to him why she left. Then why the conflict?
Because that explanation requires more than words. It requires deeper understanding. And it means her having to explain something very difficult: that she was married when they had their affair and never told him. She does not want him to conclude she was a slut, or that she was using him. And she knows that his anger will prevent him from ever understanding.
When she refuses to give Rick the explanation, he forces the situation by accusing her of cowardice. This is the turn towards her eventually telling him. But she still resists, calling him in effect a fool.
He tries his next trick, inviting her to his room. She turns away. While it might be clear to us that she still has feelings for him, he reacts in anger to her turning away. He then says she will lie to her current boyfriend too.
Which completes the turn. She finally gives him what he wants, or thinks he does: the truth. That she was married before and Lazlo is her husband.
Mckee describes scenes as going from negative to positive or positive to negative. Does that apply here? Yes, in this sense: Rick comes into the scene wanting explanation...but really hopeful of getting her back. He gets the explanation...but it leaves him hopeless of ever winning her.
This highlights the difference between conscious goals and subconscious ones, or between goals and deeper needs.
One part of the analysis that McKee and film gurus tend to leave out, IMO, is that you can never subtract the audience from the equation. What I mean is this: what matters is not just what Rick wants but what the audience wants. If Ilsa had been played by Rosie O'Donnel, the effect of the scene is not the same. These are acrtors with great appeal, and the film has already set their characters up as being the type 1940s audiences will fall in love with. So WE in the audience want them to get together again. All the things that go into making us want that are critical to every scene. We have met Rick and we know he was once gallant but is now a wisecracking drunk that owns a club. He could be that hero again, but he's broken. We soon learn why: he was jilted by a lover. And when we meet her, we see a woman of incomprehensible grace and beauty. We get why his heart was broken. So we really want to see them back together.
As a screenwriter, we have to know how important the set up is in making the audience feel what we want them to feel.
The tension in the scene comes not just from the conflict between Rick and Ilsa, but from within ourselves because we want them to be together, and the more they seem to be in love, despite their harsh words, the more we want it to happen.
They contrast this scene with a quick one from Pearl Harbor, a scene which is awful by contrast, Part of this is the lousy acting of Affleck, but part of the problem is the on the nose writing.
Back to McKee to conclude: yes, this scene goes from negative to positive, but most importantly this is done with the audience's hopes. At the start of the scene, we hope Rick at least opens the door to getting Ilsa back, but by the end, they are further away. She is married, was married before when they had their affair, and she is determined to leave and never see him again.
I have one of these, today, although this is less about analysis and more about the fact that I believe you can never truly know how good or bad a movie will be, on paper.
I'm going to note that this is in my top 3 favorite movie scenes of all time list:
Why pick this scene? It's not exactly ripe for analysis, everything's spelled out for you (even more so in the scene prior).
I'll tell you why. This scene is terrible on paper. I've read the PDF of this script and always got hung up on this scene. This is the one that doesn't flow in any conceivable way. It keeps getting interrupted by unnecessary asides that distract from the read, there's no tension -- in fact, there's no reason this scene needs to exist Seriously, go back and re-watch the last of this movie and tell me this scene needs to exist...
...But it's incredible on film. All the intangibles that you can't note in a script, all the things you can't plan for, they're in the scene. You have the tension of Thomas Jane surprising Marky Mark and John C. Reilly by bringing a gun to the deal, the tension of "We need to get out of here before the guard tests the drugs", the tension of the firecrackers sounding EXACTLY like gunshots, the tension of Marky Mark, John C. Reilly and Thomas Jane being coked out of their minds (and sleep deprived, in real life), the tension of the music being so loud that you can't even think, the tension of realizing the guard has a gun, the tension of Alfred Molina bringing ANOTHER gun into the scene. Tension, tension, tension. I've read some scripts that try to emulate that sort of tension, but I'm on the opinion that such a thing is impossible in a screenplay. Somebody else may have a different opinion, but I consider that such a thing can only happen on screen.
Now, we do the flip side and speak briefly about editing. In full, this scene is a shade over 9 minutes in length (including a 1:02 shot of Marky Mark's face as he forgets that he has to say a line). About five years ago, I did a test where I removed the music tracks from this scene and let it play out as is. I will spare you the details and say that the scene was excruciating, but not without its merits.
First of all, it feels more real. While I love the drug deal scene, that is a "movie" scene and it's hard to immerse yourself in something that feels so manufactured. I have a similar reaction to Tarantino stuff. I love it, but it's got this thing where it never feels like something real. When you have coked-out Alfred Molina dancing around, singing songs that nobody else can hear, it sells the idea that this is a bad place that you never want to be and the music takes away from that feeling. In addition to that, during Marky Mark's staredown, that shot, without music, feels like it goes on forever... at the same time, hearing Alfred Molina still singing in the background is hilarious.
If, for some reason, P.T. Anderson re-did that scene without music, it would also have to be completely re-edited, as well, because the length of the scene was absolutely determined by the length of the music, something else that couldn't possibly have been calculated in the screenplay. Only estimated.
Now, this is the part that makes this very difficult for me to say. This scene is so unnecessary. Let's briefly go over why. There were only two people in the entire scene with a purpose: Marky Mark and Thomas Jane. Thomas Jane set up a fake deal so he could rob Alfred Molina and take over his business. Marky Mark wanted enough money to fix his Corvette. Well, it was certainly messed up when they drove to the house, but I don't recall it getting damaged at some point. Oh, wait, yes, I do. It happened in that deleted scene that wasn't in the final cut.
So, now, we're down to one purposeful character, Thomas Jane. John C. Reilly had no reason to be there (he didn't have a reason in the previous, set-up scene) and Marky Mark doesn't need to get the 'Vette fixed. They're even more useless since it's stated in the scene (and earlier in the movie) that Thomas Jane was the one who previously knew Alfred Molina. Since our primary two characters don't need to be there, we're wondering why Thomas Jane is. He's there to be the one that hooks Marky Mark on cocaine, which speeds his downfall. So, the movie really did create a pointless subplot in order to explain why Marky Mark gets fired.
This, in addition to the fact that it was already juxtaposed two scene prior that Marky Mark fell back below the point where he started: jerking off for $10. Honestly, that sequence (which is a great sequence, too) should have been Marky Mark's realization that he should go back to work for Burt Reynolds. If they had gone that route, the drug deal scene never would've happened and nobody would've missed it, because there would've been no trace of it being set-up.
In case you skipped over this whole diatribe, I'll spin it for ya quick: I love this scene, great scene, terrible without music and entirely unnecessary. Also, in my mind, proof that you'll never know how good or bad a movie can be by reading a script.
Thanks. I've never actually seen this film. Just watched both scenes. Harder for me to follow without knowing the set up.
As for writing tension into a scene, sure, hard to create on paper the same that is in the film. Like you said, the firecrackers and loud music really add to the tension.
But I would say that figuring out ways to create this tension on the page is what separates the paid writers from the rest of us. And this where a pro writer is willing to break and bend rules. This is also what many amateurs and gurus don't understand, no matter how long they've been writing.
There are also kinds of tricks for doing this. That's where a writer's creativity into play. You will likely need to use some asides, maybe some fragments, create some white space.
As for the scene construction, again, not knowing the movie, it's hard. I would try to understand what triggered the character with the gun to make his demand on the guy who owns the house. Was there some turn in the scene that made him do that? Why did the home owner pull out his special gun in the box? Was that just a trick by the director to add tension?
We see the character with the gun all nervous as he walks to the house. He tries to look loose, but he's all wound up. Does he feel he has something to prove?