D is for Drama (A-Z Meme)

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I have just finished watching the Scandinavian Crime Drama “The Bridge”

I wish I could write stuff like that, and that’s the truth. I don’t know what it is about English and American dramas – although English dramas do tend (as a generalisation) to be a little more gritty than American ones—but we certainly play it a lot safer than the Swedes and the Danes and such. We can relax a little over here, knowing that its very very unlikely that the writers are going to kill off a trainload of children, or worry that the main protagonist is going to make it, or that good will triumph in the end.

Not only are Scandinavian dramas much more bleak—and that’s emphasised beautifully well with the landscape, the clothing, the weather, the house decor, the design of their buildings—all strangely alien for somewhere so close—but they are a lot more unpredictable. In “Those That Kill” the ending was so tense I could hardly bear it and I was still sitting there with my mouth open five minutes after it finished. The writers take risks with the plotlines and the characters that I think British writers have lost the guts to do. There seemed to be a lot more gritty feel to Prime Suspect when it first started out, but now we just tend to sit back and treat Tennison or Vera as Poirot. We know nothing too awful is going to happen to our detective, and we know that children aren’t going to die because there seem to be a line which writers won’t cross these days. I personally believe that there are no lines that can’t be crossed—it just depends how you do it. No one wants to see children slaughtered or blown up or abused or tortured, but with clever writing you can still have the most horrific plot lines without having your reader or watcher stop reading or watching.

George R R Martin stunned a lot of people too with his propensity for killing off anyone you might be getting fond of. We guard our hearts when reading his books now, in case he does it to others that we harbour secret crushes for. It’s like telling a birthday wish—if you admit to the world that you love “X” character in his Ice and Fire Saga, he’ll probably kill them off. But that kind of courage to write that, yes, characters do die, and in medieval based technology type worlds they die a LOT, is a rare thing. Because we really want our heroes to survive what they’ve gone through in a book.

It’s a very fine line because you take a risk at alienating your readers/audience. And talking of aliens…

There’s a wrong way to do it—and for this I point squarely to Alien 3 where Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop the android had gone through hell and back in Aliens and had been the only survivors of their ordeal and we’d been lulled into a false sense of security that they’d made it – and then at the beginning of Alien 3 we are flatly informed that neither Newt, Hicks nor Bishop had made it and Newt’s autopsy was one of the worst screen moments in the world for me. I stopped watching the franchise because of that, because I felt cheated. Yes, pointless deaths are part of life, but that’s not how the films had been built up so far. Deaths had meant something, been something and if Newt were to die, I’d have rather have been there, to be honest, and had it been part of the plot.

Spoilers ahoy for The Bridge.

Not only was nothing safe in the series – people didn’t automatically get saved, no matter how heroic they, and the cops were—but the best part for me was at the end, after all the drama.

One of the main themes was the woman cop’s (Saga’s) Asperger’s. She can’t relate to people normally and doesn’t understand white lies and telling people what they need to hear just to get them through the moment. The male cop (Martin’s) son (August) has been abducted by the baddie and at the 11th hour and 59th minute – we hope – Saga finds him, while Martin is in a “Se7en” situation with the bad guy and an innocent bystander under a bridge. Saga tells her colleagues that she’s found the son then legs it to where Martin is. She tells Martin that his son is alive and he questions her again and again and again, where she continues to say “Yes” and finally he says “Can you tell me, hand on heart that August is alive?” and she shakes her head.

Now, the GENIUS of this is all the foreshadowing work they’d put in regarding Saga’s inability to lie or to understand white lies. The first white lie she tells is to a girl who has been shot who she tells isn’t going to die—and then she promptly does. Saga tells Martin that they CAN’T tell people that other people are alive at any point, because even if they were hale and hearty last time they were seen, how would they know what they were like at that very moment? (paraphrased)

So right up until the very very last minute, when there was finally no hope at all, I thought, really thought that Saga had only said she couldn’t swear to August being alive because she couldn’t possibly tell from a distance. I thought it was supremely clever of Saga (because she was a hugely intelligent woman even if “a little odd” but in the end it was only supremely clever of the writers. And I want to write and tell them how wonderful the writing was and how they’ve inspired me.

So, yeah. Just wow. That’s really what drama is all about.

© Copyright 2012 Erastes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Erastes
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