Cracking A Beautiful Mind’s Schizophrenic Inciting Incident.


You can find this article in its entirety HERE.  


“We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion.  The great task in life is to find reality.”  

–Iris Murdoch

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 11.48.45 AM

Appearances can be deceiving.

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.

We’ve found a new home!  You can read the rest of this article as well as others HERE.  







About Jim Barker

A multi-award winning sculptor who uses a pen to shape words on a page that leave impressions in the mind.
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10 Responses to Cracking A Beautiful Mind’s Schizophrenic Inciting Incident.

  1. thepissedoffpundit says:

    I thought I had the whole “inciting incident” down, but now I’m getting confused. I assume you’ve been to Scriptlab. I have some bones to pick with some of their inciting incidents, especially The Godfather movies.

    I’ve heard some people say the incident in the first movie is when Sollozo meets Don Corleone ( like you suggest here for A Beautiful Mind) . I argue that it is when Vito gets gunned down since that is the incident that unravels the status quo. Scriptlab says it’s when Michael tells the Luca Brasi story and tells Kay that’s his family, not him.

    What are your thoughts?


    • I’d have to watch the movie again :). There are potentials for numerous inciting incidents depending on the number of subplots, story or through lines happening. I’m a fan of Dramatica and there are four through lines in every complete storyform in their theory. While they call them drivers, the function is similar so each one should have an incident “driving” it. Just as with Ordinary People, it can be rather difficult to identify each and keep them separate. My guess is some of the analyses for The Godfather identify inciting incidents that aren’t part of the central (or in Dramatica overall) story.


    • MikeWest says:

      They have it wrong.

      “That’s just my family, Kay, its not me” is Michael’s misconception, a thesis the whole story will spend proving fallacious.

      The inciting incident is something outside the protagonists control, not something they do or say which is a response to that incident.

      In the “Godfather” the inciting incident is the attack of Vito Corleone in the fruit market, the first domino to fall in Michael’s ascension to the throne of the family. How he reacts to the shooting, which is basically laying low until the hospital visit where they try to kill the Don is his first response, a reticent reluctant response at that, letting Sonny handle it.

      However Sonny isn’t smart enough to protect their pop, and Michael suggesting the killing of Solazzo and the police chief is the first plot point.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thepissedoffpundit says:

        Thank you, I knew I couldn’t be alone on this. The scriptlab people were on some military-grade acid when they wrote that.


  2. thepissedoffpundit says:

    No kidding there are potentials! I’ll go back to my books to see what they say, but at this stage I’m probably making a mountain out of a molehill. It’s always better to keep things simple (at least at the most basic level)


    • Trust me, you want the molehill! Too many people choose the obvious because it IS simple, but what they short-change themselves of is exploring all the possibilities for a greater understanding. In the end simple is a nicety, but you want something that’s going to be truthful – otherwise one little piece of the puzzle can throw the rest of it off (motivation, desire, need, purpose, drive, methodology, etc.).


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