My favorite film is Shawshank Redemption, an adaptation by Frank Darabont of a novelette by Stephen King. The story perfectly hits my trigger spot, injustice, and my sweet spot, hope, and its resolution feels more satisfying to me than any other movie on the planet. So even though you can find it on television frequently – I’m often convinced it runs there on a 24-hour loop – we recently donated our standard DVD (which was an upgrade from an original VHS tape) and purchased the updated DVD to have access to extra features.
As always, the story of the story creates insights for writers. But what caught me up, made me hit pause and ponder, was an interview clip with actor Clancy Brown, who played Captain Hadley. For anyone has hasn’t seen the movie, Hadley is a horrible human being, ready to beat the hell out of anyone, at any time, for any infraction. In the extra features, actor Brown talked about an offer that had been made to him early on to interview former prison guards in order to get into character. He declined. His character was simply so bad that he didn’t want to pin inspiration for him on any living human. It was something he struggled with initially as an actor: Who was this Hadley, and why was he so evil? How could he connect with that to play the character authentically?
Here’s what got me. Bob Gunton, who played fellow horror-show human, Warden Norton, told him… Well, why not listen for yourself? My video clip of the video is just below, which I’m hoping is legal as this is being shared for the sake of education.
Interesting thoughts, no? Narrative as memory play, skewed purposefully to one side because the point-of-view character thinks about another character in black-and-white terms, therefore that character can be portrayed as black and white, and/or that character is simply the personification of something that lacks dimension in the rendering of a story–like a corrupt prison system. It’s a flip on the more usual (for me) translation of place coming across as character in a story.
Can books get away with these tricks–the dehumanization of a person so that person can stand for a no-shades-of-gray-here concept like corruption, exploitation and barbarism? [Read more…]