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Qualities Of Better Film #31 of 32: DEPTH OF CHARACTER / DEPTH OF CHARACTERS

I don’t like characters to be solely in service to the plot. To relegate characters to this secondary position, values actions over the people who take them. Audiences will not recognize these characters as real people if they feel everyone is there just to drive the story forward. Similarly, if all we learn of a character is what is needed to advance the plot, our imagination will never be free to roam. Films that provide audiences this freedom and openness are generally some of my favorites.

I am regularly impressed by how complex and diverse the people I encounter in real life are, but the opposite more than often holds true for those I find on the screen. Granted we can’t be expected to capture the nuance of any life in 90 minutes, but we can recognize that each life encompasses many worthy stories. A consideration of the depth of each life in a film is nothing short of respect for life in general. The same can be said for the range of characters we meet in a film: is everyone just there to service the plot? Here’s to those that have the courage to show that life is more than just story and how it plays out!

Even from the most practical view, filmmakers should want to give their characters depth and complexity, if only to engage the audience. A feature film is a relatively long-term commitment; audiences are interested in more things than just how a body moves from Point A to Point B. By enriching the character with fears and hopes, quirks and concerns, the desires that both drive or repel, a filmmaker will give the audience sufficient substance to hang onto, to actually want to anticipate what will happen, to wonder how they will react.

Frankly, cinema is not just about story.

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