Last week my husband and I forked over the $20.50 (per ticket!) to see the IMAX version of Dunkirk, a gorgeous film that left me weary and numb and in awe of the strength and courage of my fellow human beings. It’s really astounding, such courage. Me? I’m scared of head lice, sidewalk grates and Halloween. I’d be a ridiculous soldier.
But driving home after the film, I realized my husband and I were talking about the characters, not by name but by descriptor: The old civilian man, the pilot, the shell shocked guy, the young English soldier, the young English soldier’s French friend. Kenneth Branagh.
“Hey,” I said to my husband. “What was the name of the main character? The young English soldier?”
My husband couldn’t answer. Neither could I.
“How about the pilot?” I said. “Did we know his name? Or the old civilian man? Did we know any of these characters’ names?”
He and I realized we could recall the name of only one character: George, a teenage civilian hoping to one day get his picture in the paper to please his father.
We stopped at a red light. “Actually,” I continued, “a lot of times I couldn’t even tell which character was who.” Then it hit me. “Oh my gosh! We knew nothing about those characters. No back story at all.” I paused, reviewing the details of the film to see if that was true. “No names, indistinguishable faces, identical uniforms, no back story … that equals no character development! How, without the help of fleshy, flawed characters, did that film impact me?”
My husband was quiet for a few beats. He’s always quiet for a few beats before he says smart and insightful stuff. [Read more…]