David Lean: A Cinematic Novelist

I recently saw an interview were a person said that the British film director David Lean was a Cinematic Novelist. He went on to explain what he meant. David Lean used the elements and the environment to help with both character as well as the story. I agree, and I have included an example from a few of his movies.

Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)

An American Major escapes a Japanese POW camp and ends up in a small village. Soon he leaves in a boat with supplies and water. When he runs out of water, he drinks from the river and becomes ill. Lean portrays this with the river widening and becoming sluggish, and a hot sun beating down.

Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)

Lawrence leads an army of Arabs in a land assault of Aqaba. All the guns in Aqaba are pointed toward the sea because no one could come out of the desert and attack, but this is what they do. The last par of their trip, and the most difficult, required crossing a stretch of desert so formidable it is called the Anvil of God. Once across, they refresh themselves at an oasis and successfully attack Aqaba. Like a weapon, they were beaten upon an anvil and tempered in the water. Thus, they became an effective weapon.

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

When Yuri and Lara first encounter each other it is on a trolley. They sit one in front of the other. A small girl runs the opposite way from the trolley, and only Yuri and Lara look out at her. The trolley stops and they get up to exit, along with several others. They incidentally bump into each other, and from this they exchange a very quick glance. Immediately after this, you see the pulleywheel on the trolley cable, and sparks shoot out. We see not only their personal compatibility, but how sparks fly at even a small glance.

Ryan’s Daughter (1970)

A schoolmaster’s wife has an affair with a British officer during the trouble. At one point they meet in the woods for a little dalliance. As they are fooling around, the wind soughs in the tops of the trees, which imitates a heavy breathing sound. You also see two strings of spider web that twist about each other. After this, a pair of dandelions has their spores blown away until the two stalks are bare.

A Passage To India (1984)

A British woman in India inside a cave hears and echo, panics, and falsely assumes he was sexually assaulted by an Indian doctor. Once outside, she sits and tries to calm down. she looks up and sees a daytime full moon. The moon is itself not a source of light, but only a reflection. This incident reflects the racial undertones between the Indians and the British.

David Lean is my favorite filmmaker. But I believe to call him a Cinematic Novelists is a stretch. Not that Lean fails to use the details of element and environment to tell the story and contribute to the character, but that few novelists ever get around to doing it. My advice is to watch a few of his movies. You’ll be entertained, as well as fashioned into a better storyteller.

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  1. Pingback: Communicate With Confidence – Part Three: Have A Clear Understanding Of What Success Means To You | A WORD FITLY SPOKEN

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