Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Musing Pictures: Take Me Home (2011)

I just caught this sweet indie on Netflix -- my wife picked it, and neither of us knew what to expect.  "Take me Home" is not the only independent rom-com we've watched recently, but it stands out as a reminder of what movies (independent or otherwise) can accomplish.

A professor of mine from Brandeis, William Flesch, studies the "darwinian" evolution of stories.  Very roughly, he suggests that the stories that survive longest are the ones that somehow beg to be re-told.  From there, the analysis gets complicated, as he dives in to what goes in to such a story, and why it works.

Since first hearing about this theory, I began taking note of what stories have that effect on me.  When I was first bitten by the film bug, around age ten, "Jurassic Park" overwhelmed me in this way.  I wanted the story told to me over and over (I saw the film twice in theaters, and dozens of times on VHS at home), and I wanted it told in more than one way (I read and re-read Crichton's book until it was tattered, listened to the soundtrack until the tape got thin).  I told my friends about it, and since I couldn't tell the story in quite the same way, recommended they see the film, read the book, and thereby receive it themselves.

Now that I'm expecting my first child (due in three days, in fact!) I'm recalling other stories, other narratives that I feel an urge and an eagerness to share.  Books and movies that were important to me as a child become a part of what excites me about parenting: I may soon get to share those books and movies with my own kid.

But since I discovered my own interest in filmmaking, in telling stories rather than just receiving them, I've found myself in an unusual position of power.  I don't have to pass the stories along any more.  I can, to an extent, participate actively in their re-telling.

I had that sensation strongly when I saw Barry Levenson's "Sphere" back in '98.  I had loved the book and recommended it to friends (a good story, demanding to be re-told), and had high hopes for the movie version.  I was very disappointed, and decided (without irony, in the way a high-schooler dreams of conquering the world) that I'd re-make it someday, and that I'd simply have to do a better job.  It wasn't that I felt I could get rich or famous in the process.  The story simply hadn't been re-told well enough.

Sometimes, my response is subtler, as is the case with "Take Me Home".  I'm writing about the film, partly, because I think it merits being seen (it's a story worth re-telling), but partly because it feels like the kind of story I want to tell.  I don't feel a need to re-make the film (it's good enough as it is, after all), but there's something in the underlying structure of the story, something more basic that speaks to me, and that wants to find new expression through my work.  Perhaps this is where my professor's analysis might come in handy, dissecting the narrative for its evolutionarily selected genes?

But ultimately, I think that's a big part of my journey as an artist and a storyteller, to find the story I need to tell, and to do what I can to tell it.


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