Phân tích kịch bản: “Nightmare Alley” - Part 6: Takeaways

Apr 10 2022
Bản phân tích kịch bản và bộ phim kinh dị kéo dài một tuần. Tải xuống.

Bản phân tích kịch bản và bộ phim kinh dị kéo dài một tuần. Tải xuống. Đọc. Bàn luận.

Đọc kịch bản. Hoàn toàn quan trọng để học nghề viết kịch bản. Trọng tâm của loạt bài hai tuần một lần này là phân tích sâu về cấu trúc và chủ đề của từng kịch bản mà chúng tôi đọc. Lịch trình hàng ngày của chúng tôi:

Thứ hai: Phân tích từng cảnh
Thứ ba: Cốt truyện
Thứ tư: Nhân vật
Thứ năm: Chủ đề
Thứ sáu: Đối thoại
Thứ bảy: Những điều rút ra

Tuần này, chúng ta đã cùng nhau đọc, phân tích và thảo luận về kịch bản và bộ phim Nightmare Alley . Ở một khía cạnh nào đó, bài tập hôm nay là trọng tâm của loạt bài: Bạn rút ra được gì từ kinh nghiệm đọc và phân tích kịch bản?

Kịch bản của Guillermo del Toro & Kim Morgan, tiểu thuyết của William Lindsay Gresham

Tóm tắt cốt truyện: Một người thợ săn đang làm việc theo cách của mình từ nhân viên lễ hội cấp thấp để ca ngợi các nhà ngoại cảm trung bình đã đấu trí với một bác sĩ tâm thần muốn vạch trần anh ta.


I knew nothing about this movie. I haven't seen the original 1947 film. I've never read the novel on which the movie is based. I know del Toro, at least a bit, as Pan's Labyrinth is one of my favorite fantasy films. In reading the script, then watching the movie, I found it to be a fascinating character study of the Protagonist character: Stan Carlisle.
I think that all movies, indeed, all stories explore a fundamental question about key characters, most notably the Protagonist. That question is: Who are you? Stories traffic in self-identity. Nightmare Alley has an interesting vantage point into this question in at least two respects. First, there is the circle of characters surrounding Stan, each of which is an influence in his transformation-journey. The carny, which he joins almost immediately after the opening incident (the burning of a corpse and the house which presumably has historical significance to Stan), frames this narrative dynamic in dramatic fashion as the characters are larger than life figures, veering toward the bizarre. Once Stan departs the Old World (Carny) for the New World (Sophisticates), the "family of characters" surrounding Stan may be more well-heeled, but they are in their own way archetypes (e.g., Attractors, Mentors, Tricksters). Thus, there is this roster of characters Stan intersects with who influence him and ultimately create a series of choices he makes which lead him down a slippery slope toward physical and psychological dissolution.
The second motif: Perception. Stan is a huckster who pretends to be a kind of seer who can read peoples' past and peer deep into their soul. He is also a huckster toward himself. He perceives that he is better than he is, indeed, is desperate to achieve a level of success, ultimately marked by nailing a Big Score, which will distance himself from a harsh truth, something revealed in the very last scene.
Thus, for all the horror elements, the noir atmosphere, and the gamesmanship at work in the plot, Nightmare Alley is at its core a study in psychology.
Here's what may seem to be a strange movie association: The Silence of the Lambs. Like Clarice, Stan has "daddy issues." Like Clarice, there is a void where a mother once was. Like Clarice, Stan makes a deal with a psychiatrist to exchange information: clues the Protagonist needs to further their "case" which requires the Protagonist to tell the truth about their personal life. At a base level, Lilith is Hannibal Lecter, a Mentor with the soul of a Trickster.
Comparing Nightmare Alley to The Silence of the Lambs is instructive in another way: While the latter film has a clear take on what type of story it is -- a psychological thriller wrapped up as a crime story -- Nightmare Alley is a co-mingling of multiple genres and storylines. Horror. Thriller. Crime. Monsters. Romantic triangle. Psychological study. There's a log going on which goes a long to explain why it clocks in at 150 minutes (even though the script is only 115 pages in length).

I don't have time to do a sequence breakdown, but I think that would be the best way to analyze the screenplays structure. There are multiple sequences (e.g., Stan-Kimballs), some of which lead one to the other, some of which interweave one into another (e.g., Stan-Lilith which plays out over and through numerous subplots). I'll have to leave that to someone else.
What I do have time to do is an analysis of the story using Three Act Structure. From my perspective, that breakdown looks like this:
Act One (1-50): Stan's introduction to the carny world, getting involved with Molly (love interest) and Pete-Zeena, learning the tricks of the "seer" trade, eventually taking off with Molly.
Act Two (50-99): Cut to two years later where Stan and Molly have a successful act. But Stand intersects with Lilith which leads to private, high-priced sessions with the Kimballs, then Ezra Grindle. A complicated romantic triangle. And Stan's descent as his "shadow" takes over his conscious behavior.
Act Three (100-115): The Big Sting gone awry. The reveal of Stan's father's death. The Denouement with Stan as the new "geek."
Reading this, you are probably saying something like, "A fifty page first act?!?" If pressed, I could probably spotlight a plotline point toward the middle of these fifty pages and pronounce, "There it is. The end of Act One." But the fact remains that the entire carny set of pages has its own Beginning-Middle-End and, thus, feels like its own Act. Moreover, there is that two year jump in time after Stan leaves the carny with Molly which feels like a major chapter heading. Finally, the entirety of the first 50 pages traces Stan's introduction to the whole "seer" bit, leading to him poisoning Pete, a sign of how far Stan is willing to go to set himself up for success on his own. So yes, as far as script analysis goes, I'll stick with my guns here: The script has a 50-page first act.
Interestingly, Act Two is almost identical in page count. Indeed, it aligns page count-wise with how long most scripts are for second acts (45-60 pages). And Act Three, clocking in at 15 pages, also aligns with a conventional take on first acts (15-25 pages). So it's only those first 50 pages, about twice the length of what one might expect for a first act that breaks that so-called "rule" in terms of page count.
This also drives home my initial point: A sequence breakdown is probably a better way to the script's structure.

At Ryan's encouragement, I went ahead and watched the movie, after reading the script. I'm glad I did. It's an entertaining movie with a lot going on in it. It also aligns nicely with my obsession with character-driven storytelling because Stan's inner nature propels everything about the story including the cast of characters.
For over two decades, I have been drawn to analyzing movies and TV series through the lens of five primary character archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster. In fact, Part II of my book The Protagonist's Journey is dedicated to an immersion in what I call the Family of Characters, the interrelationship of each of these archetypes in multiple movies and television series.
Reminder: Character archetypes are tools, not rules. Use them and if they help you as a writer, great. If not, don't.
As far as Nightmare Alley is concerned, here is a take on the story's character archetypes.
Protagonist: Stan. No question about that as he is the story's central character, the narrative follows his physical and psychological journey, his character is the one who goes through the most substantive psychological change, the story is told through his perspective, and so forth.
Nemesis: I'm going to use the Jungian concept of the Shadow. For Stan, that is a set of dark instincts related to his father and the impact of his father upon Stan's own psyche.
--Stan hates his father. His father was an alcoholic until Stan turned ten. Although unspoken, it is likely his father was abusive toward Stan (this is suggested obliquely when Lilith interrogates Stan about the relationship he had with his father).
--Stan killed his father by freezing him to death, so there's that reality roiling around inside Stan's psyche.
--Stan blames his father for his mother leaving the family to chase after her lover, a vaudeville act. Stan tells Lilith (paraphrasing), "My father was too weak to keep my mother from leaving."
--But here is probably the biggest thing: Because Stan never felt loved by his father, he (Stan) probably has a really primal, infantile sense of shame that he did not, maybe even does not deserve to be loved. This fuels almost every bad choice Stan makes as he pursues financial and career success. Why? In order to prove to his father, "I am worthy. I am worth it. I deserve love."
Sure, Stan does everything he can to distance himself from his father ("I'll never be like him"). but by being motivated to create that distance, this proves he is not clear of his father, in fact, the very fact he actively attempts to create a sense of space and separation from his father proves he is still connected to and influenced by his father.
That sense of feeling unloved and unlovable is rounded out beautifully in the movie as in the Denouement, Stan will take on the role of the "geek." Laughing, his final words are, "I was born for it." It suggests the father treated Stan like a "geek." Yet another aspect of Stan's shadow which, as I suggest, functions as a Nemesis dynamic.
Attractor: This is typically a character who is most connected to the Protagonist's emotional development. In this regard, Molly is a True Attractor and - at time - Lilith dons the mask of False Attractor. If there is a chance for Stan to opt for a more authentic path in life, one not dominated and influence by the Parent Path (in Stan's case, attempting to separate himself from his Father's influence), it is with Molly. In the end, Stan turns away from that, caught up in Lilith's influence and Stan's ongoing attempts to distance himself from his Father.
Mentor: Clem and Pete provide wisdom, such as it is, in Act One when Stan lives at the carny, Clem with carny life in general; Pete with the mind-reading act. Once Stan goes off on his own, Lilith dons a Mentor mask when she plays the role of psychiatrist.
Trickster: This is probably the most accurate take on Lilith's character who at times is an ally in Stan's plan, but also enemy as capped off by their final scene together. In fact, her whole femme fatale persona fits into the Trickster mode.
Each of these key characters serves and supports Stan's psychological journey, one of dissolution as he is engulfed by his shadow.

As for the story's central theme, I'd circle back to a point I noted in Part 1: self-identity. The Protagonist (Stan) is confronted every step along the way with this question: Who are you? Ironically, while he poses as someone who can perceive inner truths of other people, he is blind to his own truths.
Or maybe more accurately, he knows stuff about his inner psychological nature (after all, he tells Lilith that he's not a good person), but he refuses or resists embracing that self-understanding. He keeps saying, "I'll never be like my father, " then ends up becoming an alcoholic - just like his father.
In the end, who is he? He's the geek. He has become what his father saw him as and treated him as: someone unworthy of love. I'm guessing Stan internalized that sense of worthlessness with a deep, deep sense of insecurity, even self-loathing, that he is at his core a despicable creature.
This theme of perception runs throughout the script as touched on by multiple characters in many different circumstances. For example, there is a tiny bit of business between Stan and Molly when they have their first serious interaction, the merry-go-round scene:
In talking about her father, Molly says: "'Mary Margaret Cahill, don't forget to smile,' he said. I don't like to smile, but I sure as hell liked to smile for him."
The father's perception that if Molly smiled, she was happy. Molly's perception that if she smiled, her father would be happy.
Of course, Stan's whole reading minds act is based on perception, that is the audience or clients believing that what they seen and hear, Stan's readings, are accurate.
But Stan realizes, unfortunately too late, that the perception he has of himself as someone who is better than he actually is (read: geek) is a lie.

I've already mentioned the very last line of dialogue which really gets at the core of Stan's psychological nature: "Mister, I was born for it." That is, to be the "geek." That is symbolic of how at the base of his emotional being, Stan feels like an unlovable creature, due to his father's behavior toward Stan as a child.
So let me go with this side of dialogue from Pete shared with Stan:
When a man believes his own lies, starts believing that he has the power, he's got shuteye. Because now he believes it's all true. And people get hurt. Good, God-fearing people. And then you lie. You lie. And when the lies end, there it is. The face of God, staring at you straight. No matter where you turn. No man can outrun God, Stan.
These are the words of a prophet as they detail where Stan's journey is going to take him. Even when telling the truth - and let's assume Stan actually "hears" that truth - it won't change the trajectory of Stan's choices or psychological arc. The journey he takes, one of dissolution, is the one he needs to take. It is - in my language system - his Narrative Imperative.
Stan's lies get bigger ... and bigger ... and bigger ... until he is confronted with pulling off the Big Sting in the end. Which collapses under the weight of the emptiness within Stan's inner being. There is no there there ... other than the haunting specter of Stan's shadow, the gravitiational lure of his inner geek.

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Đối với Phần 3, để đọc thảo luận về Nhân vật, hãy truy cập vào đây .

Đối với Phần 4, để đọc thảo luận Chủ đề, hãy truy cập vào đây .

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Tôi hy vọng sẽ gặp lại các bạn trong phần GIẢI ĐÁP về kịch bản tuần này: Hẻm ác mộng.

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