Monday, March 02, 2009

Dress You Up in My Love

I have to say that I really have been blessed to be surrounded by so many interesting friends! One I meet with to discuss film, literature and life in general. He’s a writer and a good one and it’s my hope that someday his genius will be recognized if only by himself!

The other day we started a debate that still continues. He made the statement that any story could be interesting so long as it was well-written. I demurely disagreed, saying I’m eternally in love with a compelling story, whether or not it’s well-told. To me, it’s really the content that matters. He can’t abide by bad writing and I’m bored with people who have nothing substantive to say. And therein lies our dilemma: Which is more important, style or substance?

This question could be applied to so many other areas as well. For example I like art that says something or is recognizable. However, if it’s just colours and shapes (too modern), I really don’t get the point, no matter how well artfully it’s created.

In the movies I’ve seen, the most memorable were low-budget films that had compelling plots. Well done CGI or special effects don’t really leave much of an impression on me. I appreciate beautiful cinematography, the “art” of filmmaking, but I am impacted more by the story, the content.

I was going over this issue with other friends of mine and one brilliantly used the example of Chinese calligraphy. It can be beautifully executed but without knowledge of the content, it is meaningless.

This brings me to the importance of content in our lives. “Although I speak…and have not love I’m like a gong or a cymbal.” Love is what gives our lives substance, meaning. Our lives ARE the story. In the end, it really is what’s on the inside that counts. And the rest…well that’s just style and that’s fabulous too!


Colleen Ireland said...

This is fantastic. Fantastic!
Thanks for posting.

Lance Noe said...

I am for content.

Example: Anything Dan Brown has written.

style - really? well, i guess is primary school dialogue and descriptions that a 2 yr old can understand, then yes he has style.


content - that man can weave a story. sadly, he just cant write the damn thing.

Anonymous said...

I actually don't think we're in disagreement on this. I think we're just approaching it or looking at differently. So I'll say it again, reiterate it, throw in a few examples, etc.: It's not so much the story that counts, but HOW it's told; it's not so much the destination, but the journey. If the narrative voice is pretentious and sentimental, if the humour is forced, if the voice is "dishonest," if the reader fails to empathize with or trust the narrator/protagonist, then there's no hope for the story, no matter how compelling it supposedly is. In fact, if these were the conditions, it would be hard to say that there is a good story there at all. It's not so much a matter of either style or substance, really, as it is the "how", the telling of the story itself. To take a film example: look at Wendy and Lucy--a story completely lacking a compelling plot, yet here is a well-told, extremely simple story about a woman trying to find her dog. Why would I care? Why do we sit there for two hours and not walk out of the theatre? Because the story is well-told, lacks sentimentality and pretension, we empathize with the young woman, and we are curious about what is going to happen. Hope this clarifies things.