Interfilm Tension

If nothing is going on in the story, top, or undercut, another film.
Reported on 10th of August, 2012

Liking terminology as I do, one could say that one also likes using the third person impersonal.  


Then one could on to say that there are three types of film tension: intraflim, interfilm, and filmreal.  Tension has got a bad rap as of late, thanks largely to the focus groups that test films by giving groups of people little knobs that they fiddle with according to their interest in various scenes.  Telling people what you think they think you should think is not science.  It’s called the Oscars.

Sitting in a dark room with nothing happening would be boring for a caveman, even if he could make hand puppets in the shape of Plato.  In the name of tension, we ask our films not to bore us.  Most tension is of a intrafilm, or narrative, variety; that is, us wanting to know what’s going to happen according to what we’ve seen already.  No doubt I’ll come up with three types of that tension, but in the meantime, there are times when you’re not doing anything story-wise and may want to keep my infant-onset restless leg syndrome from running me away.

May I then suggest interfilm tension, that is that the expectations of what’s going to happen are not according to the film, but according to what other films we’ve seen before – the tension between the film we’re seeing and all the film’s we’ve seen?  Many jokes are of this variety, as in the shockingly brilliant Kiss Kiss Bang Bang‘s take on the Russian Roulette interrogation scene.  The example I’ve used before is the plane crash in The Grey, which is competing with the still breathtaking sequence from Alive (which would qualify as filmreal tension, in that no one had done a small plane crash like that before, and what made it great/terrifying was the way in which in referred to our own fears).  The Grey succeeds in the interfilm way because it knows about the plane crash scenes before it and refers to the tension: building small plane shakes, then simply gets to the crash which is on the same scale as the film: small.  The point being that if you’re writing a scene and nothing is going on in the story, you can do something that tops or undercuts either films or reality. That, or my restless legs are going to kick your ass. Hey, it’s a medical condition. I’ve got a note.

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