Those Moments in Story

Today we have a guest post from the talented Caroline Bruckner. She is a screen writer and short story writer living here in Vienna. Not only is she a great writer, but she’s also a ridiculously lovely person! Check out this interview. And be sure to leave a comment on her blog post.

Those Moments in Story.

I sit at my desk with a blank mind and that drowning feeling that there is something missing in my story. And then it becomes clear to me. What is missing in my story is obviously what is missing in me: I am not Ingmar Bergman.

Ingmar Bergman, the holy asshole, the fantastic director, the incredible screenwriter and novelist. Why can’t I be more like you? Why can’t I be a tall wiry man with a nasty temper and an uncanny talent for bringing characters into the shit and back without anybody realizing what just happened? Why can’t I, like you, bring characters to the page and have them become so much alive no one could ever doubt having met these people in real life? Why can’t I write those moments that just punches one in the gut until one is bleeding to death inside?

There are two scenes that keep coming back to haunt me.

The first scene is from a film called ‘The Best Intentions’. In the scene an adopted boy, overcome by jealousy, grabs the newborn baby of the parents and runs. He runs over a meadow, knee deep in snow toward the furious, thundering, ice cold river. It is clear is he is going to drown the baby. He is going to throw the infant into the freezing water. The mother catches a glimpse of him. Her face, as she realizes what is seconds away from happening is full of panic and horror at the thought of her baby dying. The helplessness. The hate of the adopted boy that she never liked in the first place. But the thing that really gets to me is the look on the boy’s face as he is caught. There is no regret in his eyes, only cold stubbornness. And it is here we realize how deep his hatred is. His hate goes so deep that he can’t even put on a show of regret or ask forgiveness to redeem himself. Every time I watch this scene I get a stomach ache that lasts for about a week.

The second scene is from a film called ‘The Virgin Spring’. A father has just gotten the information about who has raped and murdered his beloved daughter. He is calm as a sphinx in Egypt. He tells the maid to prepare the sauna. He walks out from the farm towards a tall birch tree. He shakes it, tugs at it, pulls it and finally breaks it – all in silence. There is no trace of emotion. In the sauna he beats his body with a bundle of birch twigs. As he comes out from the sauna he asks for his slaughter knife as one would ask for a glass of water at a cafe. The scene always brings shivers down my spine. This man seemingly has zero emotion as he is preparing to kill the men who took his daughters life, and that lets us sense a rage and grief so deep it could never be communicated with an emotional breakdown or aggressive fury.

No words are spilled in either character of their hate – and that is what makes these scenes vibrate with depth. Me, when I write, tend to overdo the weeping and the shouting a bit. Oh, my character is sad, she must weep! My character is angry he must shout! And weep and shout they do indeed. I sit at my desk feeling complete hate as I think about all the weeping characters I have created though my years of writing. I stand up, walk out the door and down three flights of stairs. Down the road a tall birch stands swaying as the bus passes by. I shake it, I tug at it and I finally break it. Back at my desk I beat my head with a bundle of birch twigs. Oh, Ingmar Bergman! Why could I not have been you?

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What moment in a story, film or novel, moved you to want to become that writer?