Dramatic Moments & King Kong

I saw King Kong the other night.

As I watched the movie, I saw shades of Titanic, shades of Jurassic Park, shades of LOTR, even shades of Serenity (the natives were a disturbing cross between Orcs and Reavers, with all that facial mutilation).

And yes, there were some obvious little nagging issues that didn’t really make sense, such as how they managed to get a massive wet unconscious ape onto their boat, and could they really have had enough chloroform to keep that massive beast sedated the whole voyage back.

Those small things are but trifles. The movie itself was gorgeous – loving care and detail put into the recreation of New York, and painstaking time spent on putting expression into King Kong’s face.

My favorite part of any movie are the small moments, the few seconds where your heart stops, for lack of suitable response to the moment.

See, this (to me) is the difference between fiction and life. In film, all sorts of people work together to create moments, single moments. Immense effort of direction, writing, casting, acting, lighting, props and folio editing will go into the creation of one single space in time – and during that time, the audience revels in that intense emotion. Such moments are painstakingly crafted in books too – like the moment where Dagny Taggart walks into the ballroom on her 17th birthday – radiant, expecting/demanding something that nobody there could deliver.

Real life rarely has these moments. Not that we don’t dream about them, and work hard to try and construct them.

For example, all those girls buying prom dresses for their graduation dance – what are they really looking for? I believe that they are looking for that mythical moment where they walk into the room and the music gets quiet, and all eyes are on them. That is the engineering goal, if you will. The problem is, however, that real life isn’t a moment stopped. Real life is a million moments a second, in full speed, with plenty more moments immediately on their way. There is rarely a time where it all comes together, in front of the right people, at the right time, and even if it does, it comes and goes in the blink of an eyelash. We cannot savour it. We plan for moments, but we live through hours. This is why prom is never quite the dream anyone expects.

But back to King Kong. The artful creation of dramatic moments in a film has a formula attached to it. The camera zooms in, the music swells. But there is still something that has to be there, some intangible thing that makes the heart catch. Well, my heart was catching all over the place during this movie.

The scene where Ann Darrow stands outside the burlesque theatre is masterful. To be honest, any scene with Adrien Brody in it turned my crank… but the scene where he admits to Ann Darrow that he’s written a play for her is a lovely, tender moment. He becomes a non-entity in the latter half of the movie – but I was ok with that too.

And I loved the relationship between the ape and the girl. I loved/hated the moments where she knew that she had inadvertently participated in the murder of something rare and precious and beautiful. I loved the moments where she forced the pattern change from prey to entertainment. I loved the moments where the ape sat, with his back to her, attentive in his postured disinterest.

I love that she went to Kong, when she heard the panic outside.

You see, in the original movies, it was hard to see anything but the greed and the destruction. In the original movies, even the one person Kong loved was afraid of him. Not to mention, it is hard to imagine anyone falling in love with a vain, stupid, vacuous Jessica Lange (yuck).

To me, this movie was not an action adventure film. It was a collection of moments (with a lot of things crushed inbetween). It was moments of wild beauty, and senseless destruction, and forgiveness. It was moments of fear and greed, and consequences that can’t be avoided.

And just in case you haven’t already guessed, I bawled my eyes out at the end. Even though I knew whatt was coming…

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~ by Pamela on 29 Jan 06.

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