Wednesday, 14 July 2010


I have a discussion topic for you.
I had a peculiar bi-polar evening in which I watched The Darling Buds of May, followed by the Korean classic, Old Boy.
The former was relentlessly optimistic and upbeat and joyous; the latter was relentlessly pessimistic and downbeat and miserable.
Both were enjoyable in their own ways, and both struck me as having narrow frequency emotional topographies.
For a long time now I've been thinking that a varied emotional topography is the way forwards! If nothing else, it creates variety and allows for the formulation of more complex stimulae through juxtapositions, contrasts, and parallels.
Darling Buds is a curious phenomenon to me. I haven't watched the show for a long time and my memories of the later episodes are dim, so please correct me if I'm wrong, but the first two episodes bear very little by way of conflict or tension and release. Characters meander through life with those common burdens weighing heavy on their shoulders, and then they enter the Larkin family sphere of compassion, and their burdens are lifted. Total 100% feelgood. Lots of sensory stimulae; lots of love and happiness; lots of how life should be.
If they were my creations, I'd instinctively be thinking of ways to harm them, always knowing that I'd make amends eventually and that the tension would lead to an enormous release and everyone would cry and everything would be alright again - better than alright.
But the very idea seems sacriligious: anything more than an upset apple cart would taint the world - not the Larkins' world, but the world which we inhabit where Mariette adores us and we watch the setting sun with Ma and Pa, sipping cider and finding inner peace through a nightingale's lament. A scurrilous rogue, a greedy businessman, prejudice and bigotry and fear... all are quickly converted, or are even more quickly dispatched with barely a dent on sixty minutes of unconditional love.
I could watch it over and over. It exists, I guess, as a place to relinquish one's troubles and, as such, feels no obligation to line its toes against those battlelines which we've studied for so long.

Conversely, I wouldn't really want to watch Old Boy again. Well, I might, but only to watch the protag eating a live octopus again (I guess Psychic Paul is no longer en vogue now the World Cup has dissipated); and perhaps the brilliantly authentic fight scene. It seems that you can dump lots and lots of happiness upon a soul and it never tires; but you can't do the same with any emotion on the wrong side of alright. Or, perhaps I could argue that release can happily exist independantly of tension, but tension can't happily exist independantly of release. Perhaps we're all tense in the first place.

So I put it to you: Is emotional variety an ideal, an idea, or an impediment?

Update: Watched episode three last night. Struck me that Darling Buds is a super example of emotions before plot. (A purist's approach if you like.)
Because the first two episodes proposed little complication beyond the need to find a new field for the gymkhana, any time that would typically be spent on set-ups, foreshadowing, and the like was, instead, devoted to deeper immersion and more happiness.
Conversely, episode three presented a number of problems - Charlie hounded by his former boss; Pop's attempt to buy a crumbling country pile thwarted by Lord Thingy - and while the base note theme pervaded, it was diluted by plot devices and I wasn't so completely smitten.


esruel said...

Hey Solvey
I think emotional variety can stifle our story or narrative simply because we need to stick to the subject matter or risk losing the reader. Emotional variety generally happens in real life depending on one's personal circumstances, and also because the world loves to deal you hands totally out of your control. In any kind of artistic narrative, the writer/artist needs to exert control and must only allow variety as and when it is felt necessary i.e. it helps the story, or it aids future emotions in some way.
Any story can be as realistic as possible with regard to subject matter and the attached emotions, but it cannot allow the reality in that generally sidetracks the whole event.
Hope that helps a bit, and if it doesn't, it's because I'm off for a short while and writing!

solv said...

Those first two episodes were rather unique. Thereafter, pure emotion was largely replaced by plot, with a string of little complications and little resolutions. A very dainty show, and didn't quite float my boat in the same way those openers did.
All very very interesting!
Wonder what the reaction would have been if Mariette had been killed?
Also wonder how long one's interest can be sustained without substantial plot devices. Are we not, then, looking at a painting, or listening to a piece of music?

esruel said...

I think you have to 'give 'em what they want'. In the selected genre.
In the shows, people expect a certain something and will feel disappointed if it isn't as it should be. The audience is often pre-determined, so there may be no room for manoeuvre, and so the audience will get what it wants. I guess it could be classed as a painting, but if you know your painter then you know what you're going to get. If you don't, you can't complain.
You can go round in circles trying to determine a formula, but it's the audience who decides in the end. You have to write for it, cater for it. It depends on your audience. It all depends on your knowledge of them.