Friday, December 4, 2009

From the Midst of the Montage

Have you ever felt as if you’re in the midst of your life-changing montage?

You know what I mean, right?

In movies, we watch our hero/heroine suffer some tragedy, be it the death of a loved one, the loss of a career, or a broken heart, some combination of events that leads them to their lowest of lows, and then …. the montage.

The montage typically consists of 60 seconds or less of quick flashes of scenes showing our hero/heroine (Oh, let’s just go with “she” shall we? What? No reason) taking those necessary steps to pick herself up, dust herself off, and move on with her life. We see glimpses of her at the gym, beginning a new job, meeting new people, throwing out old things, buying new, painting or decorating her home, perhaps physically moving to a new locale. The montage ends, of course, with our heroine shiny, new, and completely physically and emotionally ready to turn the corner and *BAM* run into that love of her life who was just waiting, it seems, for her to get her own together.


A good, recent example of this is the movie (500) Days of Summer.


[Stop reading if you have plans to see this movie and don’t want spoilers.]


We see our hero, Tom, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt [remember that cute little alien from 3rd Rock from the Sun?] writing greeting cards and falling in love with a girl named Summer. The film jumps around a bit time-wise but we see how Tom views their relationship, his hopes and dreams, and then we see those dreams crushed, revived, and finally obliterated when she finds someone new and he quits his job. Then … the montage. Tom finally takes up architecting again, trashes his apartment but starts drawing on the walls (I know, right?), and starts pounding the pavement looking for his “real” career. He focuses on making his own life better … and getting over lost love. We end with him 1) at an interview for the job he’s likely to finally get and 2) meeting Autumn …. that girl who was just waiting for him to notice her.

Wow, that almost made me gag and I LOVE that movie.


Do you know why directors make use of the montage? Because the actual process is long and excruciatingly painful. The actual process takes months or years. The actual process is ripe with setbacks, false starts, minor (and major) horrors, grief, and disillusionment.

The montage doesn’t show you the day-to-day, seemingly never-ending stress, the psychological and physical warfare a person goes through as she recovers from the lowest point in her life.

And, when is the montage over?

When has our heroine “finished” her re-construction to the point that the requisite *BAM* happens?

Is there a checklist out there that someone is hiding from me?

Do I simply need to check off “new car” and *BAM* … or “painted wall” and *BAM*?

Ooh … can I yell “CUT! SCENE!” and start the new scene?

‘Cause I’ll do it. In public if necessary.