Derik Badman's Journal

2020-11-06 09:30

Day 6 and I'm already seeing that 1700 words a day of fiction is more than I am likely to be able to accomplish, but if I can keep up a daily word count that is at least progress towards something. Maybe it's National Novella Writing Month for me...

I took too many days to slowly watch Hong Sang-Soo's Right Now, Wrong Then (2015) on the Hoopla service the library subscribes to. I've enjoyed a few of his quiet, rather Rohmer-esque films. This one, like many of his more recent films, stars Kim Min-Hee. The basic story is about a movie director who is visiting a city to talk for the showing of one of his films. He ends up there a day early and in walking around a temple meets a young woman who is a painter. They talk; they visit her studio; they have coffee and sushi and soju; they go to a cafe owned by a friend of hers and socialize; they take a late night walk. The next day he has his lecture. Without any other elements this could be really boring or it could be interesting depending on how it was done. Sang-Soo takes an interesting tactic with it. The plot I describe above ends at almost exactly the halfway point of the film. Then the title is shown again, then the story starts over. The second time through some of the more basic background info is elided (we don't have to re-see him talking to his assistant at the beginning, for instance) but also the interaction between the two protagonists changes.

In the first version they are more closed off, and the director is, if not exactly lying, leaving things unsaid, putting a polite veneer over everything. For instance, when they are in her studio, his comments about her paintings are very positive and kind in the first version, but in the second version he seems to say more clearly what he actually thinks: still positive, but more nuanced, more critical. At first this makes it seem like they are getting along worse than in the first version, but as the second version continues the opposite becomes the case as they both are more open and honest in their conversations. In the first version, she only learns he is married when one of her friends at the cafe (who is a fan of the director) brings it up. This causes her to be distanced and basically ends their interactions on a sour note. In the second version he tells her pretty early on, as he expresses his feelings for her and his situation (wife, two kids, etc.) which allows them this bittersweet almost romance for the rest of the second version.

On a meta-level, I already know that Sang-Soo and Min-Hee actually did have a relationship (at this time and for a few years it seems), despite him being married. The film seems autobiographical in feeling, if not fact, since the two in this movie do not actually go onto any real relationship, they just express feelings and a sense of the impossibility of it all.

As I was watching the movie, something occurred to me about film and writing. I often find it hard to write dialogue and conversations as I'm working on my fiction, and I realized that one big aspect of that for me, is silence. In film, especially quieter ones with a more realistic style of dialogue, silence and pauses is so important to the interactions. In writing, those pauses in speech and silences between characters talking are so much harder to convey. You tend to have to fill them with words, descriptions about expression or movement or just explaining the silence, which for me really dilutes the effect.

I'm wondering if I could better replicate such with acutally silence of words, which is to say blank space on the page. Surely someone has done such before, possibly I have even read books like that before and am not recalling them now. The economics of doing such in print is no doubt not great for longer works, as it would eat up pages. I bet a lot of readers would find it really annoying too (some people seem to hate blank space in books, especially if they consider it too gimmicky), but I think it's something worth exploring for me.