Friday, January 07, 2011

Black swan as a lesson in POV

I actually got out to see movies during the holiday season. I'm almost ready for the oscars, and even have an opinion on which movies and performances should be recognized.

And one movie that is getting a lot of buzz is Black Swan and rightly so. It's dark and twisted and fascinating and not for everyone, but I loved it. And want to see it again, because once is not enough to grasp everything.

Because the director was uncompromising in his approach. Everything in the movie is shown through the eyes of the heroine. I don't believe, and Maureen can back me up here, as she's seen it twice, that at any point, he shows any other POV. Everything is from her perspective, and at no point do we see her from any one else's perspective.

And it creates this sense that the audience really doesn't have a clear sense of exaxtly what is happening. We do know that the events matter intensely to this girl because it's so important to her, it matters to us as well.

It's almost claustrophobic at times, how immersed we are with in her. And it's remarkably effective, more so than a lot of books I've read lately, even though there is no narrative, no real insight into her brain except through dialogue and what we see on the screen. Essentially it's a movie told from first person, present tense.

It's got me thinking on scene choices, and how much to show the reader when we are in deep POV. It only really works when every scene moves the story forward, when every event truly matters both to the main character and to the reader. It requires a real sparseness of story telling.

I think, to be honest I'm still figuring it out, and hoping that Maureen and Molly will explain it to me during our next drunk writer talk.


Eileen said...

Wow. Very interesting. I'm struggling a little bit with this now in my WIP. I was very unhappy with what I'd written so far and I realized that while I had a reason for each of the characters to be doing what they were doing, they didn't seem to know that reason or care that much. It made the book feel very wooden. I'm hoping that I've fixed that now!

Maureen McGowan said...

Great post, Sinead.
This comment might be slighly spoilerish... Stop reading if you haven't seen the movie. :)
Black Swan is such a great demonstration of the things you can do in first person present. Especially when the protagonist may or may not be insane... Yes, we see what she sees, but how much of what she sees can we believe? How much is real and how much is in her mind. We need some DWT to discuss further. Beer and cider help to illuminate such things. :)

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