Brave WritingComplications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog


April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015

November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

February 2016

March 2016

April 2016

May 2016

June 2016

July 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

March 2018

April 2018

June 2018

July 2018

October 2018

November 2018

December 2018

January 2019

February 2019

November 2019

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

August 2020

September 2020

October 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021

May 2021

June 2021

November 2021

December 2021

January 2022


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I'm into disc 4 of Rome, and I'm struck by how brave the writing is.

/* spoilers */

There's a scene between Atia and Servilia, who hate each other with a passion. Servilia has called upon the Furies to destroy Atia and her family. Atia has commissioned men to assault and shame Servilia in the public street. Atia has, one assumes, come to Servilia's house to gloat -- and to see if her attack has had the desired effect.

... and the conversation is entirely that of a tea party. The two women are as gracious as you could imagine. Atia acts sweet and sympathetic. Nominally she is there to invite Servilia to watch Caesar's triumph from her box seats. Servilia is gracious and cordial, because to admit she knows it was Atia would be to admit weakness.

It is brave writing because it relies on the director and the actors to convey without words or even overt actions the depth of the two women's hatred for each other.

It is brave writing because it relies on network executives not to come back with well-meaning notes like, "How are we going to know that these two women hate each other? Won't the audience be confused?"

And then there is the scene where Titus Pullo discovers that his slave girl does not, in fact, love him, and has been planning to buy her freedom so she can marry one of Lucius Vorenus's other slaves. And Titus Pullo loses it and bashed the boy's head in, killing him. Enter Lucius:

Lucius: Dead...
Pullo: Looks like.
Lucius: What happened?
Pullo: Doesn't matter.
Lucius: It matters to me!
Pullo: Him and Eirene...
Lucius: So what? Did you think she was a virgin?

Lucius Vorenus is upset. Just short of outraged. He's flailing about trying to state exactly what he's mad about. He's upset because Pullo destroyed his property. He's angry because Pullo did it in front of his kids. He's angry that Pullo flew off the handle, didn't think, hadn't considered the possibility that his slave girl, for all that she was docile and willing to satisfy Pullo sexually, actually had a private life.

What does not cross his mind is that he should be mad because Pullo just murdered someone. Because the boy is a slave. And when Pullo offers to pay for the boy, Lucius refuses the money, as I would refuse to accept payment if a good friend lost his temper and broke an expensive piece of pottery. Indeed, the only thing that crosses the line for Lucius is when Pullo criticizes him for violating his own morals by becoming one of Caesar's men. That is too close to home.

This is brave writing because it walks the gladius's edge emotionally. On one hand it is accurate: a Roman would be outraged if a friend killed his slave, but no more than if a friend killed his horse. (I'm inclined to suspect he would feel entitled to more anger about the horse.) On the other hand the audience is modern and considers slavery outrageous. On the other hand we sympathize with Pullo because his heart has been broken. On the other hand, WTF?!?

And again, the writers had the courage to trust that the audience would get it. They didn't have the slave boy be provocative in an effort to lose our sympathy for him. They didn't have Lucius anachronistically point out that Pullo has just murdered a human being. They didn't have Pullo feel sorry that he killed someone -- he's a soldier, he's lost count of how many people he's killed -- only that he blew it with the girl he loved. They trusted that we would still feel sympathy for Pullo, because we knew how much he loved her, because he killed a Day Player we've never seen before, and because, well, it was just a slave boy...

That's brave writing, that is.



ROME is one of my favorite things i've seen recently. We rented the DVD a while back.

Everyone talks about how great the writing is on DEADWOOD, but for my money, this is better. Not as self-conscious & showy. More real, emotional & subtle.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:24 PM  

Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.

This page is powered by Blogger.