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Introduction of Characters in Cinema

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Good morning. We begin today’s class. And yesterday we were talking about conflict as a plot element. Today, we will be looking at, looking at character as a plot element. So, I have before you four characters from four different classics: Annie Hall, Diane Keaton of course as Annie Hall, Holly Golightly- Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys, Juno from Juno and Audrey Tautou from Amilie. So, if I ask you what is character and when you look at these four female characters, what do you understand? Why are we interested in characters at all? Do you need to have interest in characters? What would you say Siddarth? What could be those other elements? So character is all about interaction with other characters, anything else? Student: Need not to be interaction.Y eah, yeah, you contradict to him but then you give me some plots, contradict him later. Give me your own point or your own view on what is the character? Student: Character can actually be something that actually propels the entire plot. Character, this is important, he is the theoretician in the making; character propels plot. Character perceives or views a situation. Anything? So, why are these characters so important to us? Anything that is common among all these characters? Student: They do not conform to the society’s norms in some way or another. Good. There are non-conformists, unique individuals, very often eccentric; so all that contributes towards lending a touch of interest to these characters. So, characterization say, there has been lot of writings on characterization, but what makes a character interesting is; so can you think of more characters apart from these that come to your mind when we think of great characters on screen. Student: As another character who does not confirm to the society’s standards, you have Jack Nicholson’s character in ‘One flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest’. One flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest, Jack Nicholson in the movie, is a memorable character, Michael Corleone is a memorable character from some other movie, Tony Montana is memorable character from Scarface.And anything else? I mean, you all watch movies, any number of it?Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal; yes, that is the memorable character.Closer home, our own Munnabhai series; What makes Munnabhai series that popular?Not the plot, the characterization. And if you look at all great characters, theyall is standout, because of one is the way they perceive society, perceive situationsand also the way they interact with others. So, you know that also matter, so if they are unique characters,they standout that is just a very simplistic introduction to what makes characters interesting.Now, many times what happen is appearance of character, they are extremely important.Characters become important, because of their appearance.Appearances make them standout.Fargo and Erin Brokovich.Now, what is so important about Frances McDormand's appearance in ‘Fargo’?She is pregnant; she is a small town police officer.She is pregnant; does she look like a police officer from any angle?Well perhaps in her clothes, she has the uniform but apart from that does she subscribe to the normsof a standard police woman? No, she does not, she stands out.Who would expect a pregnant female police officer investigating a very brutal murder?Thus an appearance does matter.What kind of look you give to a particular character; that also contributes towards making of a character.Julia Roberts in Erin Brokovich, it got her the academic award.Why does she stand out by way of her appearance; she is after all a social activist, environmentalactivist, but what is the way she dresses up?Student: Fashionable Fashion, but also not high fashion, yes.Student: Beauty queen to industry or something.That again goes against the type.See you do not expect a social activist to be dressed the way Julia Robert dresses; otherwise itwould give a very common place appearance, she does not standout but in order to makeher stand out, you have to give a certain unique attributes and the looks that count.Any other example that you can think of?Characters are also determined by their accents,dialects, their vocabulary, the kind of grammar they speak. And what do all these things suggest?When Munnabhai speaks in a particular accent, what does it tell you about him?Where does he come from?So, his socio-economic-educational background. And where does the comedy arise in Munnabhai series?Placing that kind of a character completely incongruous situation;you would not expect that the doctor or medical student to dress or to behave as to speakin the way he does, so that’s, that’s contributes towards lending the uniquenessto the character, in congruity.Educational background of course. And then your accentsand dialects also give a way; the mental process the character goes through.So, for example, when we are talking about accents and dialogues and how they contributetowards making a character; there is another movie named Possession. Is anyone familiar with this film?Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart.Student: Gwyneth’s mother-in-law?No, in this she is a Ph.D. Scholarand he is a research associate and they are doing research on certain 18th century poets;so their romance runs parallel with those two characters they are working on.So, their dialects and their accents differ from the way the couple in the earlier generation behavedand spoke, so that also because see; when the younger generation is shown to be morevernacular in its speech, whereas the previous generation is more formal and that is whatgives out the difference between the two.The characters are often determined by action;external action as well as internal action. We have been talking about external, internal even whenwe were discussing conflict. Conflict could be external. Do you remember what were those external forces?Against nature, against powered structures, we looked at the example of Oneflew over the cuckoo’s nest, that is again rebelling against a conformist society, sothat is external rebellion. Internal rebellion or conflict, we also saw in films like Taxi Driver, so is character.External action, Schwarzenegger, will youfind internal action; that would be extremely in congruous.Azhar, do you have something to say to that?But when hen you go and watch a movie starring Schwarzenegger, in which there islot of internal action then that must be an exception, but when you go for Schwarzeneggermovie including the recent Expendables and also the most recent one, The Last stand.So, he does not disappoint. He will disappoint when he start having internal dialogue orbecome existentialist hero, so he is no Godardian hero. You expect something from Schwarzeneggerand guess, we are also talking in other words about a stars image; so a star image alsocontributes towards the action he performs. I am not saying action hero, what, how heacts on screen, so doing what comes naturally to the character.Internal action? Think of Antony Perkins from Psycho, you can also think of Anthony Hopkins,the other Anthony in the Silence of the lambs, plenty of internal action.Now, for example, when you look at this still of Antony Perkins'standing below this huge stuffed bird, what does it tell you?May be at that point in the movie it does not tell you anything, butwhen you finish watching the film, when you completely watch, when you are done with themovie, does this scene mean anything to you, the image of the stuff bird?No one seems to have watched psycho.Student: PredatorSo, he is the predator, and this Hitchcock gives you that clue from the beginning of the movie;predatory as well as the idea as stuff bird. At the end, we will realize thathis mother is also as stuffed mother as stuff figure.Student: It’s not meaning to watch into, but his face shows half dark half-light; seems split personality.((Refer prof)) (13:13), yes very good,a face covered in shades of light and darkness. So we are not able to really understand whatthis character is all about. These are the clues film makers give.Internal action, we have been talking about, ‘are you talking to me’, Robert Deniro talking to himself,having lot of action but much of it is also mental process; otherwise you see, if youwatch Taxi Driver and again I urge you to watch Taxi Driver , you will find that therevery little violence on screen except in the climax where he goes on rampage killing everyone in that brothel.Otherwise, you do not find any physical violence in the movie, much ofthe violence comes through the characters' body language, the music, again the way lightsyou know; the interplay of light and darkness.Harvey Keitel again from another Martin Scorsese’smovie ‘Mean Streets’, lot of internal conflict and therefore representing internal action;so he is a gangster at the same time, he is torn between his loyalty towards hismasters (the gangster masters), the gang lords and his friends as well as his religion.Therefore, we find him very often doing penance by running his fingers through burning candle, throughburning match strike, like self punishment. This is something tells you lot of about internal action.Watch Mean Street, if you have not already.Names of characters, the way film makers name characters; also tells you a lot about the characters.So, Holly Golightly says a lot, she goes like this; she does not want to carry baggage of the past.If you read the novel Breakfast at Tiffany’s, she has the pastbut she wants do away with that. So, names are often evocative, names are often symbolic.They can also be ironic. You can name a person, a particular quality and the person’s characterscould be exactly opposite for that but then that lends an ironic touch, a funny touch.Names also connotes. You have done denotative and connotative codes.The Saint, Val Kilmer, of course it is based on comic book series but. Have you watch the Saint, Val Kilmer’s?You must watch it. It is not such an old movie, may be of 1990s.What is The Saint all about? Is he a saint? He is a master thief and a master in disguise.Hrithik Roshan’s character in ‘Dhoom’ was based on the saint; he is an expert thief,he works alone and he changes disguises in a flash of a second.Name of the character, Daniel Day-Lewis for example, is hawk eye,playing an Indian, a Native American, in theLast of the Mohicans, as hawk eye. And what does hawk eye mean?One who has a penetrating insight as well as he never misses a shot.He is an expert in both these things, readingpeople as well as, never missing a shot. Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents and the seriesand you know, what is his name connotes in the movie.Characters can also been seen through multiple perspectives, another feature of character.Well you see, you are something or you mean something to your parents, you mean somethingto your friends and you mean something else to your teachers; so the multiple perspectives,character seen through different points of view. And we have some very good example in Citizen Kane.How many of you have watched Citizen Kane? Quite a few, please watch itall over again for this course. So, what does Citizen Kane, what is the quest all about?Rosebud, to understand what the exact meaning of the word ‘Rosebud’, as uttered bythe dying publishing tycoon, Charles Forster Kane; what did it mean. And there is a journalistthroughout the movie we have quest for discovering the meaning of this word ‘Rosebud’.While he is trying to decipher the meaning of Rosebud; he comes across a series of peoplewho give multiple points of view on whom, on Charles Forster Kane.What he meant to them?What he was all about? So, was he a saint or a sinner? We never know.Velvet Goldmine is a very niche kind of movie. Is anyone familiar with that?I thought, because it is a Christian Bale movie, Ewan McGregor and Christian Bale and Velvet Goldmine isabout the pop culture scenario in 1960s Britain.And there is journalist played by Christian Balewho investigates the life and times of popular rockstar. It follows the same trajectory as Citizen Kane.Characters can be static, for example Brad Pitt character in A River Run through it.Has anyone watched the movie?A River runs through it, it is one of his earlier movies directed by Robert Redford.So, he plays a Paul, he is impulsive, drinks too much, get in card games, and wants nothing more thanto stay in a small town of Montana and working for news paper. There is not much happening in his life.He does not want anything; static character.The dynamic characters are affected by plot development, so if it is static charactersdo not undergo any personality changes, then on the other hand dynamic characters do.They become wiser, mature, and more responsible. So, we often use the term call as self-realization.So, that you find in the characters of dynamic people; the self-realization and this is thekind of character which is important in serious films, serious drama.You cannot have serious drama if you do not have very good characterization,but comedies thrive on static characters.If people start changing in comedies then there would not much of comedy there.Think of any static character, which you know which never fails to amuse you.Mr Bean, Rush Hour. Mr Bean is the very good example, when you go and watch Mr Bean, part 1, part 2, part 3;he goes on a holidays to Paris or Whistlers mother, wherever he goes we expect the same.Even the appearance; his clothes never change, his body language never changes and you expectthat, and that is because all those things lead to comedy, but that is not the case in serious drama.We have given the theory of round and flat characters by who?Vijji, any idea? Who gave us the theory of round and flat charactersin a book called ‘aspects of the novel’?Yes, E M Forster in aspects of the novel gives us two kinds of characters, round and flat.Forster tells us that flat characters are two-dimensional,that mean they do not have or they are not multi-faceted.They are predictable.I am going to ask you people keep taking down notes, but do not participate in all that.I will ask you. Give me some example of, who you think of flat characters?Yes, Palleri, think of something, I am going to come to all of you within a second.Flat character lacks psychological depth and complexity.They are often clichés representative characters; clichés, stereotypes.Now, think of certain examples. I am going to give an example, but I want answers to come from you.Flat Characters.Student: Vietnam War, I guess.Vietnam War movies.Students: The Big Lebowski, the dude's friend, no John Goodman.Dude's friend is a flat character.Student: Mr Wolfe in Pulp Fiction?Mr Wolfe, does not have that much screen time,but yeah and he is there for a reason.Student: there is no complexity.Right. I would even say Uma Thurman character in Pulp Fiction, it is very two dimensional.Anything else from our own cinema or Regional cinema or Bollywood?Student: Everyone movies.Everyone? Everyone is a flat character;okay, give me all these every ones. If you think all the characters in our cinema are flat,so give me some examples.Student: Most of the woman casting in the side roles.Even in the central roles.Student: Even though, not to woman to woman movies, all the woman cast based on their norms.So, a standard heroine in a standard filmis always the flat character. We know the routine things, so we do not get it in todetails about that, what heroine is expected to do.