We published Draft Four of the script last week. I figure now is a good time to reflect on some of it, especially in light of our original objectives. For those of you that weren’t following us back then, it was Stephen Rea who suggested a Robert Altman approach to a 72. I spoke to him a couple of weeks ago to give him an update on ‘The Confusion of Tongues’ (CoT). Unfortunately he won’t be joining us for the movie in Birmingham as he’ll be in a play with Peaky Blinder’s front man Cillian Murphy (in Galway of all places).
Ben Arntz and I were both perplexed by the challenge of writing a ‘polyphonic’ script, with multiple story strands and interweaving characters that interact with one another, but not necessarily in a linear fashion. The initial plan was to have no linearity to the characters, just start story lines all over the place and have them loosely thematically linked (like Short Cuts). However, we’ve moved away from this in the development of CoT as it was unsatisfactory and we worried about the story that lags behind all the others with less audience interest. We wanted to point them all towards one common goal. This isn’t truly ‘polyphonic’, just a multi-strand narrative that uses the conflicting story lines to create farce.
Which is the other development away from Altman; this is light on satire, high on farce. The satire is still present, especially within Ashley’s story or Mary’s. But we’re not interested in laying it on ‘thick’, largely because too much social criticism can get preachy and pretentious, and we don’t want that at all. Altman was great at nuanced satire, but I’m not sure it is something we can imitate.
Imitate is an interesting word. There’s no doubt that we started with a long list of inspirations and ideal objectives. However, through the process of drafting and sharing the script with many others, we’ve moved away from our imitation to create a new piece in its own right. That’s the creative process! Hopefully you’ll see the ‘shadows on the page’ from earlier drafts, where we’ve developed a story, away from a straight imitation.
I recently got accepted to present a paper on this creative process in Berlin in October. As we get closer to it I’ll share the research.