Recently I had a conversation with Candy Korman (through replies) on her blog Candy's Monsters about the movie Shadow of the Vampire. Granted the conversation was based on her post about how certain monsters are fairly attractive. I brought up the movie Nosferatu, the original movie adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula.
(digressionary moment) If you don't know the history, when they were working on Nosferatu the heirs of the Stoker estate would not release the rights to the story of Dracula so they had to not only change the names but also the appearance of the vampire. It wasn't until the Bela Lugosi Dracula that it was possible to make a legal adaptation.
We complain all the time that there are no new ideas for movies coming out of Hollywood. As thumbing their nose at us maneuver the storyline for Shadow of the Vampire is actually the story of the filming of Nosferatu. Of course there is a slight twist, the character of Max Schreck (who originally played the character of the vampire in the original movie) is played by an actual vampire. It was an interesting take on a remake of a classic film.
Now that the background info is layed out, lets get on with it then...
I watched the two movies back to back today. I think it might have been better to watch Nosferatu first but this was only after I had watched them both. Both movies are great stories. Shadow had even been nominated for two Academy Awards.
It was while watching Nosferatu that some thoughts occured to me. The film came out in 1922, still in the era of silent films. We have become so accostumed to dialogue in tv and films to carry the story that it is easy to lose sight of the other elements of story telling. It may have helped that I knew the story of Dracula coming into the film, so I understood what was happening while watching. But there was more to it than just that.
The soundtrack for the film played a key role in how you can interperet the story. Almost like ballet the music and the performer's actions took up the slack to show the story as it was laid out before the viewer.
What does this mean in our writing? Sure we may not have a soundtrack for our work that the reader will be able to play as they read it (though that would be cool). Instead we have to rely on the actions of our characters. This is more than just their dialogue. It falls into the little things that we see in our own interactions. For the most part these visual clues go unnoticed because they are such a strong part of our lives. When it comes to our writing it is these same visual clues that bring life to the mind of our readers.
Spend some time outside our normal world. Watch a silent film or even an opera (in a language you don't understand). Explore how communication and story is conveyed outside the realm we have grown accustomed to. There is a good chance you may see something you did not expect.