Friday, April 15, 2011

Herr Wozzeck Muses: Shooooow Me Now

Warning: This musing will contain minor spoilers for Hanna. You have been warned.

You want to know one of my biggest storytelling pet peeves? When people defer to using exposition instead of trying to show us stuff. It slows the pacing down, it's needless, and it doesn't make us sympathize with the characters. So I really hate when someone goes on a tangent that's expository since ultimately it doesn't work for us.

And this doesn't just go for movies, either: this is a general problem with any form of media. But we'll leave that at that particular juncture since hey, this is film we're talking about here.

The virtues of show, don't tell go a long way for all of us.

I guess one of the things I liked most about Hanna was how little actually needed to be said throughout the entire movie. Yes, there's dialogue about mundane things and stuff, but it rarely ever feels incredibly boring.

And I think a large part of this is because of the fact that if they want to show us stuff about Hanna, they'll defer to showing it instead of providing it in a clunky bout of exposition.

For example... Hanna speaks five languages fluently. English of course is a no-brainer, given that it's the language the movie is in, but the others? German, Spanish, Italian, and Arabic. And we're not told this: we're shown this in two seperate incidents.

I won't go into the Arabic incident since it's not all that plot critical. But I will go into the German, Italian, and Spanish incident. It starts off with Eric telling Hanna to recite a certain sentence in German, Italian, and Spanish about how she always needs to be prepared. She recites it in German first, and then in Italian. When she's asked to recite it in Spanish, though... there's another thing shown. Instead of reciting that sentence about needing to always be prepared, she asks him if he really wanted Hanna to snap his neck--in Spanish! This one sentence in Spanish serves a dual function: it shows that her fluency in foreign languages isn't just restricted to certain phrases as might be implied by the fact that she said the sentence her father wanted her to say in German and Italian. The second thing it shows is her concern for her father, without outright saying 'I'm worried about you'. She carries on most of the rest of that conversation in Spanish, but the conversation takes off from there about things.

There is honestly a heck of a lot shown in this movie. Hanna and Eric don't actually say "I love you" at all during the course of the movie, but it's all to apparent in what they do and how they act that such a thing can go unspoken. Wisely, the dialogue backs off. At a hotel in Morocco, Hanna flips a light switch for the first time, spouting data about electricity while she's at it. The fact that it's the first time she's ever actively been in control of electricity goes without saying. And the sequence of her trying to turn everything off after trying to turn too many things on perfectly depicts the chaos that she runs into when becoming a master of electricity for the first time-- and it's all told through the editing and the acting without the need for a single word to be said.

In other words, Hanna provides some of the most incredible examples of that classic yet incredibly effective little screenplay principle called 'show, don't tell' that I've seen as of late. And that ultimately leads me to one reason I liked the movie so much. So much could've been said, but the fact that they chose to show as much as possible attests to why the stuff that is told in the movie is only told because it absolutely must be told. And in the end, it's a much stronger movie for not bogging us down with expository piece after expository piece.

This is Herr Wozzeck Muses. I'll see you guys next time.

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