Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Peace or Conflict - The Challenge of Peace in Storytelling

In the discussion of peace, I most recently addressed the idea (using superheroes as an example) that in order to present peaceful characters on screen you still need conflict.
In terms of story telling at it's most basic core. whether it's a true story or a fictional stories, we learn that all stories must have conflict.

Conflict in News & True Stories

When I was in college I had many journalism-major friends. One of the challenges of writing a news story is that all stories must have conflict. If you are writing about a town hall meeting, an exceptional athlete, a new medical discovery, or anything else, a good news article should have conflict. Or...as we usually hear it, the article should "show both sides of an issue."

Without this conflict, news becomes propoganda or human interest stories about three legged dogs.

Fictional Stories & Narrative Conflict

When I was in high school I remember the popular short story "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell (adapted to film over a dozen times). The story is about an experienced Hunter/killer General Zaroff and his human hunting expedition to hunt down New York hunter Sanger Raisford.

When we read this story, this story was used to introduce the concept of narrative conflict. We were told all stories have at least one type of conflict.

Those of Types of Conflict...
  • Man vs. Man
  • Man vs. Society
  • Man vs. Nature
  • Man vs. Machine
  • Man vs. Self

So if all stories - real or fictional must have conflict, how can you make a film about peace?

Even if you were to do a peace film about Mother Teresa, a person, who has never had her own big-screen biopic, you couldn't just have a two hour film about her helping people, there would have to be plot. You'd have to see issues like people stopping her from helping them, there would have to be the struggle with death, faith, and government forces. There would have to be personal struggle, frustrations, and questioning.

These elements would not eliminate the film being about peace, but when you walk away from a film about a high-level concept like "peace" you'd have to also wonder and ask questions like "was it worth it?" or "did it make a difference?" and if the film doesn't make you ask questions of that nature, you will probably feel manipulated or as if you had watched a piece of common propaganda.

So to present a concept like peace in film means you have to open the film up to also be about conflict. Practically an opposite.

This to me, makes peace a challenging concept and theme for any sort of narrative art, because even when the end result is peace, it did not come without struggle and conflict.


Anonymous said...

You weren't also taught Man vs. God?

RC said...

@ anon - actually I don't think I was in 9th grade, but now that you mention it along the road I was also taught man vs. the supernatural.

Danny King said...

It's so tough to comment on your articles sometimes because you are usually right on. I agree with everything you said. :)