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07 August 2010 @ 08:17 am
Exploring Subtext  
Most of the time when we analyze an episode of television, we keep ourselves confined to the text - what was actually said, actually done.  But there is a wealth of information just below the surface, or hiding between the lines.  Subtext.  It can be one of the more difficult things to write, especially when it comes to film; you don't have the luxury of just writing what the characters are thinking that might be contrary to what they're saying.  A lot of it comes down to the actors and director interpreting the text, making it richer.

I have chosen a particularly meaty scene to try and explore what the subtext might have been.  This is only one possible look, of course; that's one of the great things about subtext.  Because it's implicit and not explicit, it lends itself to different interpretations, no single one objectively correct (especially if you're like me and don't mind ignoring authorial intent).  One of the things I like in this scene is that besides the subtext hiding behind the main focus of the scene, there is also a character without any lines at all who conveys a remarkable amount of information in a single shot.

(I do actually think some meta about subtext and the like would be very interesting, though.)
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Shannonkungfuwaynewho on August 7th, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC)
Dude, that woman at the counter is all I can see in this scene. Originally I was just capping her, and then every cap, Bruce was so expressive and hilarious and it just kind of grew from there.

That's actually one of my pet peeves about JMS: his absolute insistence that no one deviate from the script one iota. Like, everything that works on the page does not necessarily work on set, when you're actually saying the words and blocking the scene. His ego in that regard is annoying, because yes, I appreciate what he did with this show, but when you're working with a talented group of people why wouldn't you want their input? That always impressed me with the BSG showrunners, who always told the director and actors that they wanted at least two takes as written, and then they could feel free to experiment and explore. And some of the best moments on that show were adlibs or mistakes or changing the script around. I never get JMS admitting he wasn't the best at writing romantic, flirty scenes, but not letting anyone else try their hand at it.

Haha, okay, watched that scene. I never really paid attention to him in the background (I'm always hypnotized by O'Hare's NONSTOP BLINKING). I love when Sheridan's trying to figure something out. Actually, my favorite part of that scene is Delenn trying to interact with Zathras. At the very end, she turns back to Sheridan like, "ZOMG, you have to help me."
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Shannonkungfuwaynewho on August 7th, 2010 06:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, I totally understand JMS taking control of the whole shindig, and definitely of him relishing having complete power once the network quit giving him notes. I think he just took it too far sometimes, especially with his inability to understand that filming tends to highlight problems in the script that might not have been obvious before just on the page. And, you know, I'm not a fan of the auteur theory of film making; I very much look at film as a collaborative process, and JMS actively not inviting anyone to collaborate just tends to rub me the wrong way, LOL. (I'm having flashbacks to working with a self-described auteur as an undergrad. Shiver.)

I've heard O'Hare is much better on stage. And honestly, about four or five episodes into S1 I could see how much he had improved; but he's a blinky SOB, that's for sure.

"She can even cut off his...his...access to her family." God, his face there. So great.

Edited at 2010-08-07 06:45 pm (UTC)
mac_beth13mac_beth13 on August 7th, 2010 08:09 pm (UTC)
Haha, as soon as I saw the woman looking at the earrings I knew what scene it was. Her ZOMG face totally detracted away from what was going on and it's all I see unless I block her out with my hand.
Bruce does have some great facial expressions in his scenes. ('Captain Smiley' anyone?) When he's really into the scene is when you get the good expressions but sometimes, if other people have most of the lines, he gets a far away look. It cracks me up because you know he's probably going to respond with a "hmm?" "uh huh" "of course" or "no. no, no, no."
You have to love subtext because without it all the scenes would be flat. I thought Billy Mumy was pretty good on the body language aspects too. They all were, really. Love the frame-by-frame analysis! :)
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on August 7th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)
I cannot get over her face! She's just an extra, so it obviously wasn't in the script; I wonder if the director told her to do that, or if she took the "act like you're shopping" thing to its logical extreme and the editors laughed forever as much as I did.

She's amazing, I love her.

I love when you can see Sheridan just zone out in the background. Sigh.
vjs2259: sheridan trust mevjs2259 on August 7th, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
I never noticed her either! But there's a missing frame, I think, where John reaches around behind Delenn and pinches that woman. Clear as daylight.

It's good to be Captain.
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on August 7th, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC)
Purpleyin/Hans: canonmissyvortexdv on August 8th, 2010 01:29 am (UTC)
That woman in the foreground is pricelessly screencapped. XD
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on August 8th, 2010 01:40 am (UTC)
Haha, thank you. I always look for her in other crowd scenes, but I never saw her again.
Flarn Zukuski: John&Delennflarn_chef on August 8th, 2010 01:54 am (UTC)
The woman mugging with the earrings always slays me, but the new and improved dialog truly pulls the whole scene together!
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on August 8th, 2010 01:06 pm (UTC)
ingrid44: Sinclair-Deleeningrid44 on August 8th, 2010 03:48 am (UTC)
Did you some how add the girl? I don't remember ever seeing her in the episode!
But, nice interpretation...as you say, subtext.
Thanks for bringing it to our attention.
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on August 8th, 2010 03:58 am (UTC)
She is totally in the episode! I am so legit tickled by the number of people who had never noticed her before - because now, you'll be just like me, and that's all you'll see!

Love your icon.
rebecca2525rebecca2525 on August 8th, 2010 07:28 am (UTC)
Lol! Great captions!I'll be looking out for Earring Woman next time I watch this. :)
nhpwnhpw on August 8th, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC)
This is awesome. Thanks for the laugh!

I agree, part of what I love about Bruce (on B5 and elsewhere) is his "reacting" ability. His facial expressions are priceless. He does it well on B5, and also on "Scarecrow." Kate Jackson has some ridiculous rambles in the early seasons and his face is always like, "Seriously? Shut up. Just shut up shut up shut up shut up or make a point, but I'd rather you just go away entirely."

I agree that JMS is kind of an egotistical turd for not allowing the actors the ability to deviate from the script. HOWEVER, I think he DID recognize Bruce's ability to grab at subtext and to "react" because he took a whole episode to showcase it - "Intersections in Real Time." I've read a couple of interviews with Bruce about that episode and he says he loved it, in part because it gave him a real chance to explore that subtext/act-and-react thing.

Lastly, have you ever seen Bruce and Melissa in Danielle Steel's "Zoya"? There is this one scene in particular where he does the subtext thing so well - and I think they make it better because obviously, with a real relationship, the on-screen love comes off as more realistic. She's in his quarters and they're having this conversation where he says they CAN'T stay here, they HAVE to go out and get something to eat, because "I don't think I can control myself around you." And she responds, "What do you think might happen?"

His lips say different words, but his face says, "ZOMG, I'd totally do you RIGHT NOW."

It's on YouTube. Check it out sometime :P If the story bores you, start with... I think Part 4? That's where Bruce shows up.

Thanks again for posting this!
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on August 8th, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)
I hadn't thought of "Intersections" in that way; I'll have to rewatch it sometime from that perspective. (Not that rewatching it will be hard; what a stunning episode.)

I think it's because I went to film school before I studied screenwriting, so I've been on both sides, that makes me so "no no sometimes you have to change things on set argh" about the whole thing. I am all for respecting the writer, but sometimes the writer didn't know that that day this one thing didn't work or the blocking ended up making the scene look dumb as written or whatever.

I will have to check out the Zoya thing; I didn't know they'd filmed anything together. It's funny; I was kind of indifferent about MG before - I didn't really like her or not like her, I don't think I had an opinion either way - but now I'm like, she's great! I like her! Just because she's married to an actor I like. I'm like the anti-fangirl.
nhpwnhpw on August 8th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
I love "Intersections" but I have a hard time making it through without either crying or yelling at the TV. One time I was writing a fic and I had to go back and watch it for a specific quote, and in my handwritten notes I actually wrote, "You're going to have to watch 'Intersections' to get this. Don't cry, you big baby."
Shannon: dwight sadkungfuwaynewho on August 8th, 2010 05:36 pm (UTC)
See, I'm one of those people that take Aristotle's "drama's purpose is catharsis" thing really seriously. I love nothing more than if it makes me cry like a baby. On days when I'm feeling kind of overwrought but unable to work through it, I will totally throw in the last twenty minutes of Schindler's List or something and sob my heart out.

I'm a big cryer anyway, though. I cry at everything. It doesn't even have to be sad or painful; if the music/cinematography/acting hits the right note, I'm gone.

I actually did pretty good with "Intersections" until Delenn showed up. Then I was a goner.
V: Stormellogalyndean on August 8th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
Hrm... I've watched the entire series through I can't even think of how many times, not to mention randomly picking up a disc to watch a few episodes here or there.

I have never seen that woman before. I must ignore extras.
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on August 8th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
I've only seen her in this scene, in Sic Transit Vir. IDEK. She's awesome.
Anne Marieindigoviolet on August 11th, 2010 06:49 pm (UTC)
Glad I'm not the only one who's always completely distracted by Overacting Woman. If she was facing the other way you'd think Delenn stood on her foot or something.
Shannon: b5 transitkungfuwaynewho on August 11th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
She's amazing; I love her. I mean, I think I actually have come around to loving her unironically. At first I was just, like, what is she doing? And after watching that part of the scene, IDK, a million times, and then capping this, I just...love her. Her face!
Alexalexcat on August 16th, 2010 12:58 am (UTC)
You are quite wicked!! :)
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on August 16th, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
Heh, thanks!