CINEMA’S INVISIBLE ART
Over at the website for Cambridge’s famed literary journal Granta, Jeremy Sheldon has a remarkable post about screenwriting titled Cinema’s Invisible Art. In it he discusses the often overlooked literary qualities of screenwriting. While writing scripts is more commonly referred to as a craft than it is an art, for Mr. Sheldon deftly written descriptive scene action has literary qualities very few people give proper acknowledgement to. Despite the prevalence of accepted screenwriting truisms like “show, don’t tell” and “Film is a visual medium”, Mr. Sheldon celebrates stylish, rule breaking screenwriters from the Coen Brothers to Shane Black and indentifies the larger literary movements which have informed their voices. About Mr. Black’s Lethal Weapon, Sheldon writes:
Even the Postmodernists get a look in. Perhaps my favourite screenplay is Shane Black’s notorious script for Lethal Weapon; notorious because it earned him $250,000, an extremely large sum at the time for an unknown writer; notorious because no one writes quite like Mr. Black.
EXT. POSH BEVERLY HILLS HOME – TWILIGHT
The kind of house that I’ll buy if this movie is a huge hit. Chrome. Glass. Carved wood. Plus an outdoor solarium: a glass structure, like a greenhouse only there’s a big swimming pool inside. This is a really great place to have sex.
Lethal Weapon. A metafictional masterpiece. Who knew? The postmodern flourishes proliferate throughout the script:
The General laughs. Rianne shrieks. Harrowing. Terrible. A scene out of Hell. And then the Devil comes in and kicks the door off its hinges. Okay. Okay. Let’s stop for a moment. First off, to describe fully the mayhem which Riggs now creates would not do it justice. Here, however, are a few pointers: He is not flashy. He is not Chuck Norris. Rather, he is like a sledge-hammer hitting an egg. He does not knock people down. He does not injure them.
He simply kills them. The whole room. Everyone standing.