Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Personification of Concepts

Among my fondest memories of the early courtship I shared with my girlfriend Allison was when I showed her "Evil Angel," a short film I wrote and directed at Biola during 2008. In short, the film was about a cop and a serial killer locked in a room in a battle of wits. It was nominated for some award I think, but the film was pretty bad aside from some excellent acting on the part of my friends Chris and Rhodes and some stellar photography by my DPs. Despite my 'attempts' to direct them.


Apparently, I impressed Allison with "Evil Angel." I had some vague notion of what I was doing. In talking to me back around that time in my life, numerous friends will attest to the fact that I hated talking about the Bible. I was more or less a borderline agnostic, or at least a lapsed theist in the loosest sense of both words.

What stood out to her, and what was more or less going on my own head, was that I gave eyes to a concept. Or, as another example, the "deep" or "abyss" in Genesis 1 is symbolized as an agent of chaos that YHWH tames or overcomes. This symbol of rebellion is given a literary hook that snags us and gives new meaning. This happens in the Book of Revelation with symbols representing the Roman Empire. Or like in No Country for Old Men, we see death in human form.

I think this is a powerful way of introducing metaphysical concepts in writing. Apparently I did this in "Evil Angel" as a subconscious assault on the need for some sort of foundational basis for morality. Although I had little interest in doing this explicitly, I realized that once the film was finished and Allison pointed this out, I had been struggling with theodicy for a long time.

And I had written about it without truly knowing it.

In talking to various screenwriters (theist or not) this has come up. This is hardly a new literary device so I won't belabor the point. But in writing my own material, I've noticed that I directly write about topics that bother or enlighten me. Eschatology is one such example. Sex, religion and redemption is another.

Both are projects that have been gestating for years. Both of them should be completed in the next few months (fingers crossed).

I don't really have a denouement for this post. Maybe realize as I did that giving concepts faces and lungs is often the best way to not only get inside the head of your character, but also inside the concept itself. For me, writing about the embodiment of evil certainly helps explain many unresolved issues, as well as identifying with the "evil ones" in the hopes of seeing where such a journey can go.

Who knows. You might solve something. Or you might realize that you are wrong. It's often the best way to reflect upon experiences and learning occasions. 

Or you might see another face in the crowd of ideas.

There. Denouement done.


1 comment:

  1. Very cool. It's the whole allure of sci-fi for me. Sure there is the sheer coolness of the technology, but what really gives the story traction is how the technology introduces a quandary and what conclusions the storyteller comes to about it. Like Minority Report dealing with guilt through action or intention, or [insert other movie based on Philip K. Dick story] dealing with [insert profound mystery of human experience].