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Disruption is what creates films

Roslyn Hull

Our world cannot be changed or improved without disruption.

But is anyone else tired of being told that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger? I am.

However, this struggle is essential to storytelling of every kind. It is a truism to say that great art is not created by the happy or content, but it is fact that no movie exists without disruption and discontent. Without disruption there is no story. There are only travelogues and art or nature documentaries.

To quote Orson Welles’ character (Harry Lime) in The Third Man:

“You know what the fellow said—in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace—and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

Disruption is the essence of every story, because what would be the point of showing life as it is and as it continues to be? Even Meerkat Manor needs the injected drama of family conflict to make it compulsive viewing.

Where would horror movies be if the hero/heroine/disposable cast member took the advice of the rest of the group and did not go into the deserted house, pick up the creepy artifact or use the Ouija board? The Scream series, in a meta moment for Jamie Kennedy, even explained the rules for behaviour AFTER the disruption (after the murders start).

Bruce Willis would have been without an action film career if Alan Rickman had not disrupted a Christmas party.

However, in case readers are thinking that, of course, disruption is necessary for action, or drama, or horror—what about musicals? What about the granddaddy of them all—Singing in the Rain? The whole story hinges on the disruption to Hollywood of the coming of sound in films. Other musicals are even more obviously disruptive: gang warfare in West Side Story, murder in Chicago, racial tension in Hairspray. Do I need to convince you more?

I think Rocky Horror‘s Brad and Janet were not just disrupted but also disturbed, Eddie was dissected and the servants displaced from their planet.

Is there disruption in that most innocuous genre, the family film? If you cannot see it in Frozen you need to (ahem) let it go. Where would Finding Nemo be without him getting lost in the first place? Even Mary Poppins has the disruption of a new nanny— and votes for women—and big bad banks.

Ultimately disruption makes the story, it drives the action forward and it changes the characters.

And we go along for the ride.

This article originally appeared in Magazine: Disruption for Spring 2017, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here

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Feature image: facebook.com/pg/SinginInTheRainOfficial

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Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand.

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