This isn’t a review site. Usually. Today I’m making an exception.
I like watching TV and I like watching films. I rejoice at the freedom the internet has granted me to watch more or less whatever I want more or less whenever I want to.
There’s also the ability to use a ten minute rule without the inconvenience of wasting money or having no alternative. If I’m not captivated within that time, I simply find something else to watch.
I suspect this technique is fairly widespread and applied not only to the visual arts but also to books. We writers need to take lessons from films and television to learn the art of grabbing attention and holding it.
The first item I want to tell you about is a film called Rurouni Kenshin.
I do like kung fu movies, I’m a big fan of Bruce Lee and Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is one of my favourite films. Rurouni Kenshin achieves the almost impossible by bringing a general atmosphere of compassion and gentleness to a story that is essentially a series of fights, some of them quite bloody. The leading character plays a big part in this by being remarkably attractive. He brings to mind Tripitaka from the Monkey TV series. If you remember him you’ll know what I mean.
There are two more films in the series, I recommend all three. At least give them the ten minute test.
The second offering I have for you is In the Night Garden. This is something I have been watching in the company of my 2 year old grandson. It’s what lets him know it’s time for bed. As soon as Derek Jacobi says someone’s not in bed he looks guiltily at the screen and heads for the stairs.
I started off being mildly irritated by the whole thing but now it seems to have invaded my subconscious to the extent that it can surface at any time and I start singing the Iggle Piggle song. The facet that the Ninky Nonk can be small (as in the background of the picture) at one instant then big enough to accomodate the entire cast the next doesn’t bother me any more. We’re all in a dream and reality is only a single facet of that illusion.
These are two very different examples of how to captivate an audience. The brutal opening sequence to Rurouni Kenshin contrasts starkly with the character who emerges into the light. His struggle with inner demons makes for compulsive viewing. At any moment, his peaceful intent may crumble and then he’d be lost forever.
In the Night Garden celebrates the comfort of repetition and familiarity. Nothing much happens. Exactly what your mind needs to slow down and be ready for rest. The entire programme is formulaic to the extent that you can always tell how far you are from the end and, of course, bed time. It’s very weird, but good weird.
There’s a lot to be learned from films and TV that works. I ask myself what makes me feel connected with the characters and how the author has managed this process. I also need to know what keeps my interest until the end, has me on the edge of my seat.
Next week, I may review Timmy Time and Deadpool. On the other hand, I probably won’t.