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 Post subject: Chekov's gun
PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:27 pm 
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This has been bothering me for a while.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekhov%27s_gun

I guess it depends on your interpretation really. Whether you go for the literal meaning and never mention anything unless you're going to use it or the more liberal meaning which may involve putting things into the story and eventually revealing that some have a purpose other than to just add colour.

I know that for me the more hard line interpretation as used in a lot of TV nowadays is just bloody annoying, you just know in a lot of crime drama if some random friend, relative or event appears/happens that it will be important in the end. Perhaps that's a sign of p*ss poor writing more than anything.

I quite enjoy the hints scattered through some series but the problem there is that they require a near eidetic memory.

So there you go, one semi rant/discussion encourager over. Feel free to pour scorn or make a more complete argument. :shifty:


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 Post subject: Chekov's gun
PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2009 1:28 am 
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Reminds me of someone's review of Angels and Demons where McGregor's character says he can fly a helicopter early on, which comes in handy later.

I do prefer not to have useless info wafting about. Can clutter things up, and sometimes you see something, think oh wow, that will prove handy, and then it comes to nothing and it feels like a forgotten idea.

If something is going to become important or vital later on, I think I prefer a kind of subtle build up. Shows intent, but if done right it won't show too much.

Imagine watching a film about a newspaper covering mega incidents in Metropolis, and some nerdy bloke called Clark Kent is in early on, and then never again until he reveals himself at the end. You'd think WTF?
If he comes in more and more though, it will feel like a part of the central plot.

And yeah, in the crime thrillers it seems to have gotten to the point where the creators are terrified the audience might guess, so they throw in all kinds of misinfo and bits flitting about early on.
"Oh look, the killer was that bloke who passed by behind us and said hello and then moved on, and is in fact the victim's cousin's sister's mother's grandaughter!"

I think, to be picky, foreshadowing is when you give a good warning about what is to come, and C's gun tends to be 'what was that?! Oh too late! Let's hope it wasn't important. *wink*'
I do think it can be done well, but when the piss poor do it, it sticks out badly.

Then again, think I'd prefer C's Gun to Deux Ex Machina.

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 Post subject: Chekov's gun
PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2009 3:26 am 
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The film student in me tells me that nothing in the plot should be pointless or inconsequential but, deep down, sometimes I like to be fed misinformation; it at least keeps things lively.

Make it too needlessly obtuse and you end up with Lost which seemed to buckle under the sheer weight of pointless "OHHH! LOOOK! MYSTERIOUS FORESHADOWING GUYS! NUMBERS AND SHIT WRITTEN ON THINGS!" Go too far the other way though and you end up with House Of The Dead and the clunky moment where one of the characters explains they're good at fencing. There should probably be a sign that says PLOT POINT floating about the character's head at that point.

As with any narrative device or rule in film, once you know how it works you can go and break it. Hitchcock's Psycho is the obvious winner for introducing a seemingly important key plot item (Marion Crane's stolen money) before completely discarding it (she's dead within the hour and the money is never seen again).


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 Post subject: Chekov's gun
PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:11 am 
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So this has nothing to do with nuclear wessels? :scratch:

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 Post subject: Chekov's gun
PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:14 am 
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Was my first though as well. Wictor. :roll:

I know there are times it's been done but I can't think of any examples offhand. :scratch:

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 Post subject: Chekov's gun
PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2009 1:34 pm 
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Yeah every now and then someone comes along and turns things on their head, and it is great when done with such skill.
That's the main shock of that moment in Psycho. Rule Number One: you don't kill off your main character halfway through. (sorry about spoiling that one)

It shows how hard it is by the fact few others have tried doing the same.

A different one would be the Usual Suspects, where you watch a story be told and by the end you have no idea if any of that actually happened.

Speaking of Hitchcock, I saw Rear Window a while back and noticed that at the end of the movie they never actually state whether he killed his wife. There is no big confession or the copper saying we found the evidence. It is so cleverly done you just assume he has (for good reason) and enjoy looking at Doris Day. :pop:

But again, handling a plot seems to come down to how does it. If a skilled storyteller, most things work well. If a hack, it is crowbar time.

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 Post subject: Chekov's gun
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:14 am 
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That sums it up for me too.

It's down to the writer and director, if they're good and the studio leaves them alone it can be amazing. If not, well Basil Exposition will make himself known, usually more than once.


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