Narrative gaps and guns

Friday March 10th 2006, 1:54 pm

Silliman’s Blog: 01/01/2004 - 01/31/2004

An old post from Ron Silliman on narrative in movies vs. novels; here he discusses the House of Sand and Fog:

Disregard for a moment that there are enough gaps in administrative due procedure & simple bureaucratic process to drive a semi through, the narrative problem for the film is not that the evicted woman becomes romantically involved with the cop who serves the eviction papers – he’s clearly using the affair as a means of instigating the blow-up of an emotionally dead marriage – it’s that, as a police officer, he has to carry a gun. All of this drama proceeds as if waiting for a gun to go off – and once one does (I won’t say who fires at whom) – everything comes to its inescapable conclusion. It’s as if gunpowder was the verb in this film’s syntax. And while, narratively, it “resolves” everything, it does so by short-circuiting the actual human processes already in motion, replacing them instantly with another layer that isn’t half so interesting. This is, of course, the cheapest Hollywood formula: people are in conflict a gun goes off = game over. My own sense, from all the various interviews & reviews I’ve seen, is that first-time director Vadim Perelman & first-time screenwriter Shawn Lawrence Otto (“he initially wanted to write novels,” says the film’s official website of Otto, a one-time editor of a Shakespeare journal) have been faithful to the novel of Andre Dubus III, but it makes me what to take somebody by the shoulders – Dubus? – and shake them up & down. Why didn’t you think harder?

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