Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Know Thy Character

"Supposedly carved into the temple were the phrases γνῶθι σεαυτόν ("know thyself") and μηδὲν ἄγαν ("nothing in excess")..." --

So for this current assignment, I've managed to create a character--or, at least, a shade of a character--that really intrigues me:

A male, mid-to-late twenties, has tattooed across his chest "Nothing in Excess", and has "Know Thyself" tattooed across his back. He is a drug dealer of some sort--whether he is symbolically or literally a drug dealer I'm not yet sure--but somehow, he enables others' excesses and does so with little conflict of conscience. Clearly, he does not know himself. And yet, he believes in these two aphorisms enough to have them carved into his flesh. Does he really mean them? Does he really care? Perhaps he did at one point. Obviously he must have. But maybe he did not care in the sense that he knew truly what they meant, only that they were social ideals to aspire to. He did not understand why he should aspire to them, nor did he truly attempt to engage with what it meant to have nothing in excess, and to know thyself. Therefore, they have been easily forgotten, and now serve only decorative purposes.

I'm tempted to frame the character's journey as one wherein he re-learns these lessons. Where he is reborn. But, this seems to incredibly pat. Too linear an arc. Perhaps the real journey is the audience's as they learn the value of aspiring to these two ideals, but that we are brought to them through the character's downfall. When we meet him, he is already well on his way down. It's a moral tale in the sense that Roger Avary considers his films moralist cinema: they are moralist not because the characters have morals, but rather because they do not, and his films judge them as such. He shows why not having morals is bad...Is that what I really want to do? More complex perhaps than taking the character on the journey to a positive end, is making the character's journey's end the antithesis to morality, but nevertheless, it too seems to reduce human complexity down to bipolar disorder. Where are the shades of gray?

What is his journey to be then? What is his name to be then?

Some points to consider:
-Is "Nothing in Excess" tattooed so that he can read it in a mirror, or so that someone else can read it?...It would be in keeping with his character's superficiality that he would not be able to read it when looking at in a mirror--that is not the important part: it's a declaration, not a reminder.
-When did they stop becoming reminders, and start becoming declarations? (Have a shot of the letters rearranging themselves?)
-Is there any metaphor to be had in equating the character to the Oracle at Delphi? Since the gateway to Delphi was marked by these two aphorisms, perhaps we can equate the character to the gateway, just as he is the gateway to the temple of addiction. A false happyness, a false truth. Temporary, elusive relief.

Watching: Yojimbo

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