At the heart of every script is a conflict, and it is this conflict that drives the decisions of the characters. How the characters choose to reconcile this conflict is what gives the story its meaning. These conflicts manifest themselves in a variety of ways, sometimes as a single man versus seemingly overwhelming odds, or as a difficult choice a character must make that forces him to sacrifice something he loves. Sometimes this conflict manifests itself a little more directly, in the form of fists striking flesh, and feet shuffling to dodge blows, and when this happens the release of tension can be truly cathartic.
There are few images more compelling than a physical struggle between the sources of conflict in a film, and there are a number of ways this device can be used effectively. In films like David O’ Russell’s The Fighter the physical violence is only a manifestation of the internal conflicts of the film’s protagonist, whereas in Bronson the titular character relishes fighting as a way to garner the fame he desperately craves. In both cases it is a nebulous and abstract conflict giving rise to absolute primal resolution. This is the power of a well designed cinematic fight; it is truly raw.
A discussion of great movies about fighting would be incomplete without a mention of Sylvester Stallone’s first film which he wrote, produced and starred in, the immortal Rocky. Rocky is a beautiful example of the poetry of violence magnifying the conflict of a narrative, in this case the ambition of the hero vs. the insurmountable odds against him. In all these cases the violence comes when the hero is left with no recourse and the tension must find release. It isn’t always powerful, but when it is, its as poignant and poetic as any love story, and the push and pull between two foes locked in combat is closer to the posturing of new romance than one might think. These are some of the most impactful examples of the genre, though not as impactful of course as a punch from Tommy Conlon, Tom Hardy’s hard hitting character in Warrior. That guy ripped the door off a tank!
Screenwriters can often be seen as men and women “behind the mask.” Despite the fact that they create worlds that are presented to the world in movie form, they are often forgotten by the public and left to anonymity outside of professional film makers in the field. A good example of an anonymous, yet profound, writer is Paul Schrader. Most people who have seen the film Taxi Driver (1976) associate the film with its director, Martin Scorcese.
In all respects, Taxi Driver does represent many of the qualities that have distinguished Scorcese as a director. However, the film was written by Paul Schrader. The mental workings of this creative genius are apparent when looking at a few other scripts that he has written. Raging Bull (1980) was a profound drama about a boxer who goes through much tumultuous inner struggles before coming out on top in the end. The same thing goes for Taxi Driver.
In addition to these two films, Schrader is also responsible for the adaptation of one of the most controversial films in recent history. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) is among a few select films that have defied conventional morality in the retelling of Jesus Christ.
It goes without saying that Schrader has had a positive career in the industry, simply by knowing that he had a part in the making of the previously stated three films. However, his career has not been perfect. For every successful film script he wrote, there were a few flops that were considered weak. Some of his scripts became films that remain in anonymity to this day!
The most important lesson for a screenwriter to learn when writing a script is to have faith in their writing ability regardless of how an audience interprets one script. No matter how good a writer is, there will always be a time when he or she simply cannot express an idea in a way that an audience accepts wholeheartedly. Sometimes it takes years or decades for people to even start appreciating the work of one writer. However, he or she must not give up and continue to write; for each writers’ experiences are important and are worthy to be expressed, no matter how the rest of the world depicts it for a moment in time.
- (2007) The Walker
- (1999) Bringing Out the Dead Script
- (1999) Forever Mine
- (1997) Affliction Script
- (1997) Touch
- (1996) City Hall
- (1992) Light Sleeper Script
- (1988) The Last Temptation of Christ Script
- (1987) Light of Day
- (1986) The Mosquito Coast [Transcript]
- (1985) Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
- (1980) Raging Bull Script
- (1980) American Gigolo
- (1979) Old Boyfriends
- (1979) Hardcore Script
- (1978) Blue Collar
- (1977) Rolling Thunder
- (1976) Obsession [Transcript]
- (1976) Taxi Driver Script
- (1974) The Yakuza