Imposing a Narrative: Political Agendas in Film Essay
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Writers all face the same sensitive situation when beginning to compose a story, to create a narrative which accurately reflects the appropriate political commentary. Journalists often claim to be apolitical and purely objective, however, the fact of the matter is that the best a journalist can do is to aim to be as nonbiased and formal as possible in their political assertions. Other writers have it easier in that they are able to perhaps lean a bit further into one political direction over another, to make a story more personal and informal.
For example, Michael Moore’s recent film Sicko places focus on the health care system as being in need of reform, utilizing obviously pro-Democratic rhetoric (2007). Moore calls attention to the socialist ideals in Europe which have strengthened the health care system in ways such as reducing costs to patients and increasing quality of life, in comparison to the United States. Some screenplay writers are confident in their aim to politicize certain issues, to use their artistic talent to call attention to social problems.
Nora Ephron claims that “for something to matter it must be political”, asserting the point of view that it is vital for writers to impose a narrative on the audience in an effort to open minds to political perspectives (1992, 453). In incorporating the objective truth of events into films, it is essential to add enough personal and political opinion to be able to create a story which is full of touching meaning and excitement rather than purely disjointed factual analysis.
Purpose of Screenwriter Ephron claims that imposing a narrative about an actual event or true life story is the writer’s “version of what… happened” (1992, 454). This version of reality necessitates some elements of fiction, in that there is rarely a time when any writer knows the exact sequence of events in detail. The best that a writer can do, the responsibility of a writer, is to fill in the gaps with educated, plausible, exciting, and political guesses as to what may have occurred.
When researching events, even events which may have just happened the day before, the writer is often faced with “historical fact and ongoing myth” (Ephron, 1992, 454). It is the responsibility of the talented and politically minded writer to supplement what is known with what is unknown, in order to weave a fuller fabric through storytelling. In screenwriting, the writer is concerned with taking what is known to be objective fact and interspersing these facts with creative images and ideas, so that the writer is able to tell a story which has a political agenda and imposes a certain narrative on the audience.
Although many journalists disagree with the artistic elements of screenwriting, in which known facts are supplemented with interesting guesses and thought provoking speculations, there is simply no other way to produce an effective film without the influencing element of subjective narration. It would be impossible to create a movie about the life of Marilyn Monroe without adding some devised elements of pure fiction to what is actually known to be factual information about her life. Without the fiction, the facts would stand alone, hanging there as spots of time.
No one person knows exactly the thoughts and activities of any other person, so if one person wants to create a film about the life of another person, is it essential to be able to inject the story of what actually occurred with what may have occurred. In this way, the story becomes full, interesting, and rich. The writer is able to contribute something of oneself into the final product. In this way, the completed film becomes a personal and meaningful sequence of events, some events being factual, and some events being fictional.
In any case, one can rest assured that writers take time and energy necessary to infuse their documentary screenplays with colorful characters and powerful emotion, so that audience members are able to be moved and swayed in accordance with the intention of the creative process. Narrative in Film When considering the purpose of storytelling in film, particularly when the film is based upon the true story of a person’s life, it is important to be able to appreciate the ways in which facts are coupled with fiction in the effort to produce scenes and characters which come to life for the audience.
This liveliness is often romantic, dramatic, political, yet is vital for the richness of the tale and the ability of the writer to devote oneself to the story on a personal and passionate level. One particularly moving film is A Beautiful Mind, based on the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr. , Nobel Laureate in Economics (Howard, 2001). Nash developed a highly respected theory of economics which is referred to as the Nash Equilibrium, which basically states that the motives of the individual and the motives of the group are correlated, in support of cooperative decision making.
Nash was also known to have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, a fact acknowledged in the film. However, the bar scene where Nash unsuccessfully tries to strike up conversations with women and admits to his pals that he is “better with numbers than with people” is a fictional story devised by the screenwriter. It is personal situations such as this, the drawing together of Nash’s tremendous genius and social insecurity into a college bar excursion with his buddies, which aim to personalize and politicize the story of a person’s life.
It is up to the audience to determine whether or not they believe Nash tried to pick up on women and failed, if his insecurity was the result of a mental illness or of experiencing the assault of human society, if he was simply shyer and less aggressive than other men, if he was learning something about economics when faced with this social situation. The possibilities are endless. In creating this personal interlude into what could have been a plausible occurrence in Nash’s life, the writer brings the audience into a fabricated yet intimate scene of what could have contributed to the experience of what it meant to be Nash.
Conclusion In addressing the truth of the world through the medium of film, it is essential for writers to be aware that their documentaries necessarily must be empowered by bridging cultural divides and inspiring hope in overcoming political turmoil. It is essential that writing expose the harsh realities of a volatile world, educate and motivate people, and utilize entertainment through modes of humor and drama (Barnard, 2007).
In films such as A Beautiful Mind, the lives of the characters become intimate appraisals of the human soul, and audience members reflect upon their own personal experiences and judgments as a result of this delving into the story of another person’s life. Political events in films, such as suggesting that psychiatric medication was not helpful to Nash, have a reverberating effect on the entire society and force people to make personal conclusions about what is right and wrong in the world.
Although it is not the job of a screenwriter to misconstrue the facts, it is certainly the job of a writer to decorate the story with intimate yet fictional events, to make certain that the audience is absorbed in the entertainment of the imposed narrative, and to take the meaning of the story in just enough of a political direction to inspire people to think about their world a little bit differently than they may have done before.