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“We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.”
One of the challenging aspects of analyzing a film is choosing which lens to view its story through. With so many theories and books out there, it’s not surprising to find variations on story structure and their resulting interpretations when everybody’s playing from a different deck of cards.
Compounding the problem is when a story comes along that’s structured in such a way its apparent story – that what seems to be – ends up being something much different once the filmmakers pull the veil back and reveal certain truths to the audience. We’re essentially spoon fed events that seem to set one story in motion only to be given a twist that plays against our expectations, turning the narrative on a dime. The challenge here is while the underpinnings of what’s really going on remain masked, they have to make sense going both forward and in reverse while working within the context of the apparent story that we were lead to believe was being told.
Such is the case with Ron Howard’s award-winning A Beautiful Mind where we follow young prodigy John Nash’s early life as a student in Princeton to his working as a secretive code-cracker for the Department of Defense – only to learn he’s actually been suffering from schizophrenia and many key characters in his life are delusions. This revelation forces us to re-examine everything that came before in an attempt to put this new information into context. In short, it changes the story’s apparent structure which, in turn, changes the story’s meaning – and to do that, the spine that it’s all hung on changes – starting with the inciting incident: the moment when the once-latent problem first emerged.
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