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Conflicts as an Elements

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So, from understanding various kinds of plots, now we move on to understanding conflict as an element of a plot; conflict as a plot element. Conflict is defined as the element that really captures our interest. No conflict, no plot, no story. Every story needs to have some kind of a conflict, you can think about because especially in our culture, Indian cinema; all narratives are full of conflict, most of these conflicts are external conflict. We will think of or we will come to that. So, conflict heightens the intensity of our experience, arouses emotions and challenges our minds. If there is no conflict there is no story. We will be looking at certain plot elements. Conflict is one element and characterization is another element, which we will be discussing in the next class; but today we will continue a plot discussion with reference to conflict. Conflict leads to complexity in plot. Even in a story like, in a fairytale like Cinderella, you have an understated conflict between Cinderella and her step mother and sisters. To make a narrative interesting, forces of conflictshould be equal in strength and therefore in all super hero movies, you find that thevillain is as powerful, if not more as the villain; I mean Terminator is the very goodexample, Schwarzenegger’s terminator, second terminator, the judgment day is the very goodexample where the adversary is much stronger then the protector, the robot hero.Conflicts can be physical, for example in the western genre, gangster and action movies.Conflict can also be psychological, for example films of Ingmar Bergman, where charactersdiscuss larger issues and not just immediate conflicts, not just defeating their immediate adversaries.So, there are larger issues like what is life? What is death? What is the meaningof several existentialist issues? So that is an internal conflict that is very European in concept.Cinema of Fellini’s eight and a half, if you have watched. How many of youhave watched eight and half? Wonderful movie, yes Fellini’s ‘Eight and a half’is all about director’s blogs. You know you must have heard of writers’ blogs,a writer one day he just realizes that he cannot write any more.In eight and half, our director, Fellini's auto biographical shades; he just discovers that he cannot direct anymore, he has no ideas. What to do, that is eight and half. And that eight and half hasbeen remade as the musical called Nine, Daniel Day Lewis'.It is a Rob Marshall movie, which we will be discussing in this class soon. So, I would suggest that you watcheight and half as well as nine, and then we will talk about remaking cinema.Conflict; psychological and physical, there can also be combination of the twoas in John Wayne's The Searchers,where the conflict is as much physical as psychological.Seven too,‘Seven’ is also very good example of both kinds of conflicts happening at the same time.What conflict is this? This is a still from ‘The Godfather’, Brando and Al Pacino,and I am more interested in Al Pacino's conflict; Michael Corleone for the most part of the film.What do you think? Is it psychological or physical?Psychological, his torn betweenhis loyalties towards himself, towards what he actually is and towards his family; whatthey want him to become, therefore a great performance.Taxi Driver, again Martin Scorsese’s Robert De Niro starring Taxi Driver has both kindsof conflicts or combination of both kinds of conflicts.He is a war veteran and he is unable to come to terms with the world around him.He is already on the verge of a breakdown.It is not like the, the external factors just act as a catalyst in ‘Taxi Driver’, Travis Bickels'.Student: There is a scene where he is looking at himself in the mirror; he has a long monolog;where he is talking to himself.Are you talking to me?Yes, internal conflict,it is not of very physical conflict within.He is the man, frustrated about so many thingsand he feels almost impotent that he cannot tackle the issue head-on; so he has to dosomething, so he goes on a killing rampage. He has several issues. If you watch the movieand I would suggest that you watch the movie at the earliest and then you will find howracist and sexist Travis Bickels character is.There is a scene where he has the passenger in the back seat and the passenger rage andrants about his wife who has been unfaithful to him; and that role is played, a two minutecameo played by Martin Scorsese himself and you will find that how sexist in tone is the dialog, the exchange.Even in the opening scene where he looks atthe city and it is you know is the very expressionistic scene, green lights, green gases; that meannoxiousness, poison, everything is there around but do we find these green lights and greengases all around, not necessarily. Martin Scorsese is telling us that his mind is already vitiated.There is already something, something really rotten inside his mind and that formsexpression in the form of those green lights. We have done expressionism at some point,in one of earlier classes. Expressionism is nothing but giving a physical color or physicalsetting to whatever is happening inside. So, inner turmoil is manifested in the external surroundings.So, we watch those poison gases and green lights through Travis Bickels eyes,point of view shot, an extreme close up of Robert De Niro’s eyes at the beginning of the film.So, watch the film again and ask yourself why does the movie begin with an extremeclose up of De Niro's eyes? Why? Scorsese is telling us that, he is taking you inside themind of the man. Therefore, very important to understand, otherwiseyou will not find such shots in franchise like Die Hard, extreme close up of Bruce Willis’ beautiful eyes.You will never find that happening, why?The conflict is largely physical and external.So, you do not have to understand his mind at all but here you have to understandthat, this is already a troubled man. So, external conflict where we have two equallystrong opposing forces coming together like Batman and Bane, Doc Ock and Spider man.Let us assume that the hero is all powerful pitted against the weak villain.Do you think that the intensity of the conflict would remain the same?Give me some example from our own cinemawhere you have two equal, two equally strong forces coming together.We need a strong villain, so that the hero can be projected appropriately.Student: Agneepath.Very good example, whatever you may think of the movie; the quality of the film but Agneepath hasa very strong villain, especially in the recent remake played by Sanjay Dutt in Kancha China Role.So, as physically a powerful or as in fact, he is like Bane. He reminds you of Bane,an utterly evil character. So, the hero has to muster all his energies, including hisspiritual energy to fight, it is not just a physical conflict anymore.External conflict can also happen again forces of authority. So, hero may not be physicallyvery powerful but he has that moral strength, like All the Presidents Men, Woodward and Bernstein,so they were not bashing of anyone.They can be against corrupt and oppressive regimes or conditions.Student: Like in situation to have unequal conflicts,but then that shifts the hero to become the okay, the conflict.But the hero has to match up; the hero hasto match up to the adversary who may be physically more stronger. For example in Rocky movie; he hasto train himself to such as extent and he goes to great lengths, I mean we remember Eyes of the Tiger.So you know that, he has to come and that is his story.The 400 Blows by Truffaut, Les quatre cents coups, where he tells you a story ofjuvenile adolescent and mostly his internal conflict. So, therefore you find the childhero at the end when he is send to a rehab, he looks at the world through this barbed wire,almost like a little animal captured behind these things.So, that is an internal conflict again, there is no external conflict in the movie.On the waterfront is a combination of both, external as well as internal, Elia Kazan’s, Marlon Brando.So, watch this movie if possible and then we will be discussing the film.Beyond the professional, is it not external? A combination, yes.One flew over the cuckoo’s nest,the conflict is against the corrupt, the stifling system. Actually when the book was written,it was written as the response to the oppressive regime. So, the hospital becomes a representativeof particular system where people, where everyone is forced to conform and one hero comes alongand rebels against the system.‘All the President’s Men’;external conflict, largely against the corrupt regime.Robert Redford’s Three days of the condor,is another example of one man pitted against forces of corruption, directed by Sydney Pollock.We have a film like Brave Heart; conflict is internal of course, psychological of course,but largely external, largely physical.In ‘Gladiator’, the hero has been pushedto the limit and then he rises and again I think it response to your question, physicallyhe is no match for against his adversaries; I mean, we know what he goes through the entirecourse of the movie but then still at the end he manages to salvage his honor.So, it is the quest to salvage one’s honor. He has no desire to go on living happily ever after.All he wants is, those are the famous lines, father to dead son, husband to a murderedwife that is how he sees himself.External and physical conflict can apart fromcorrupt forces and corrupt regimes, can also be against forces of nature.One man against the nature; so ‘Cast Away’, Tom Hanks, playing a modern day’s Robinson Cruise,having conversation with Wilson, the football. So, he does not have a man Friday, he has the football.Conflict against forces of nature, The Curious Case of Benjamin Burton; he cannot fight,this is the malady he suffers from and he has to live with it.Again, Amithab Bachan’s ‘Paa’ is an example of conflict with the forces of nature.There are no villains there.Any comment, any observation at this point, can you think of more examples of conflict against nature?Student: Movie ‘127 hours’.Why do think that is?What happens there?Student: He is trapped in a situation where boulder falls in his arms.You get the answer? In ‘127 hours’.Student: Ma’am, this is like more about internal conflict.No, he trapped in a situation which is you know a man is pitted against forces of nature,conflict is internal because he has to make up very tuff decision, chopping of his handin order to live on that is the conflict, but then largely the conflict is against.He does not come to this situation having internal conflict; the internal conflict isthe product of his conflict with the need, the forces of nature and extremely mighty forces of nature.Student: Most disaster movies.Absolutely, disaster movies.The other day, I was telling my son about a movie called, it is very unsuccessfulmovie and not really well known, movie of the 1980s, a Hindi film call The Burning Train.The Burning Train is a disaster movie where there is train, a super-fast train built byour hero and the villain because he is so jealous, he plants a bomb in the train; it sohappens that the breaks of the train fail and the train is just going on and on, ithas all kinds of passengers, a priest, a prostitute, bunch of children,a variety you know to complete microcosm of universe.It is extremely melodramatic movie. Now, it is a very good example of disaster filmbut that disaster is brought on by a man.Student: What about natural disasters like Independence Day or something like that?‘Independence Day’ is sci-fi. Contagion is a good example.The movie with Tommy Lee Jones, what was it called;Volcano, I think there was the movie called Volcano, forces of nature.Yes, The Day After Tomorrow also.Student: ‘Jurassic park’ also.Forces of nature, but then it is also Sci-fi. So, disaster brought on by civilization upon itself.In Hindi movie,Hindi cinema, we do not have so many great examples of disaster films.We have great examples of internal-external conflict but if you look at cinemas, movies like ‘Cast Away’and all, I cannot think of any example just like that. You can think of somethingin regional languages perhaps, other examples of disaster movies in from regional cinema.It is not a popular genre in our country. Now we are talking about interior and psychological conflictwhere characters are caught between two sides of their personality.Again think of Robert De Niro in ‘Taxi Driver’.Conflict can also be about how the protagonist exorcisesthe demons within, and not just outside. Sometimes inner conflicts are resolved and sometimesit is stays unresolved. So, that is the problem with depicting psychological conflict.Yes please.Student: He sees all the issues, the state of the face is pretty bad, but what balance,against which forces he has to make a decision? I mean he just sees one problem and he hasto take up or he has to perhaps go in.The movie begins the hero talking to himself andyou hear it in a homo-diegetic voice-over narration, where he says that I am sick of this world.Now, ‘Taxi Driver’ is written by, the screen play was written by Paul Schrader.Paul Schrader, who has been a constant collaborator with Martin Scorsese; he tells us that hederived the plot of Taxi Driver from Dostoevsky’s notes from underground which also begins withthe famous line, I am a very sick man. The malady is not from cancer or something more fatal,but the sickness of the mind. I hate human kind, I hate mankind that isthe idea; and that is what you find in ‘Taxi Driver’ even at the opening of the film,he is already, because he has seen so much of destruction, so many disasters during the war,he is the war veteran, remember. It is also response to the Vietnam War.See all this new age Hollywood film makers, who are the foremost filmmakers of the new wave Hollywood?Coppola who has made ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘The Godfather’ of course,you have Martin Scorsese who started his career not with Taxi Driver or even with Means Street,but goes back to ‘Who is that knocking at my door’.That was the new kind of films, cinema, we will talk about when we talk about some great selected directors.Then also Woody Allen; Woody Allen movies are also largely dealingwith internal and psychological conflict. I mean, where is the conflict in Annie Hallif you have watched the movie?Nice people, both of them, meant to live together forever.In a romantic comedy, things would have ended up very differently for them.But here it ends very differently where they have to a part ways, because here the man cannot cometo terms with his own inner eccentricities. So, in Taxi Driver also, there are plenty of inner eccentricities.Godard's existentialist hero;Jean-Paul Belmondo, playing his hero in ‘Breathless’, A bout de soufflé,morally ambiguous character,extremely existentialist in his the world view.‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’,conflict is largely internal or psychological.I think of the Deer Hunter, which is the verygood combination of both kinds of conflicts internal as well as external.How many of you have watch ‘Deer Hunter’?Please watch it, make it a point.One of these days, sit down and watch couple of movies like‘Annie Hall’, ‘Apocalypse Now’, ‘The Godfather’, if you have not done so.‘Taxi Driver’, watch it again and the ‘Deer Hunter’,these are the films we will be talking about very frequently in this course.Conflict, internal as well as external, do we agree?That is the situation in The Dark Knight, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and also ‘Batman Begins’.So, trilogy is more about internal as well as external conflict. I would say most of the time, especially inthe ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, the conflict is within himself, with himself.However, you must remember ‘Romeo and Juliet’ depicts tragedy in pure and honest love,whereas is the Irish legend delineates tragedy in guilty love.So, please do remember that these are two contrasting episodes.So, thank you very much, we will be meeting tomorrow. Thank you.