Archive for the ‘Independent film’ Category

Love on the Range

Posted: January 5, 2011 in Independent film
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I want to talk this week about love scenes. Why now? Why not wait two months for Valentine’s Day? You are so bossy. Because I feel like it. That’s why.

Anyhow, many movies have love scenes. Some of them are more graphic than others, but the reasons that one is classic and others are forgettable has nothing to do with the amount of flesh involved. I am actually against most movie sex scenes, as they mostly ring false (that weird scene in Underworld) or are over glamorized  (can anyone say Top Gun?) and are usually require the story to stop while the screen gets gauzy and guys lean forward and look for nipples.

But I have come to see three things as crucial to making a love scene powerful.

1. Delay. That’s pretty obvious, but every so often, someone believes it is a rule they can break. But a movie that begins with characters getting together can’t have as it’s payoff that the characters get together. When romance is a subplot,  there doesn’t have to be as much delay, but the more delay, the more tension. And the relief of tension is an emotional experience for the audience.

2. Sound. Specifically, the sound of breathing. This is a little cinema trick that I have seen others use to great effect. The sound of breathing can’t be loud and obvious for this to work. Just audible.

When a scene is gearing up to love scene, when the two character’s eyes lock, bring up the sound of breathing. Only one character’s breathing will do. Usually filmmakers use the actress’s breathing, but it shouldn’t matter.

What happens is that the audience will subconsciously start breathing in rhythm with the breathing that they hear. It’s a wonderful side effect of being so close to our mothers’ lungs in utero. We don’t even realize the comfort it gives up to breath at the same rate as another person. This is also true of heartbeats, but harder to use in film.

So as the scene progresses, speed up the rate of the the breathing, and your audience will breath faster, and they will feel viscerally the increased intensity which leads to a good love scene.

3. Hunger. For a really good love scene, I recall the acting advice one Jimmy Stuart followed. He was told, in order to look lovelorn, to eat less and imagine the beloved as a thick juicy steak.

He did some decent love scenes with a side of baked potatoes.

Why does this work? Why is love related in some way to hunger, and the object of affection in some emotional way equivalent to the best meal you ever had? Do I really have to answer that? Really?

So the next time you are putting together a love scene, try some of these tips. At the heart of the love scene is the emotion, not the actions. Love is one of those things that have been done so often all the standard actions are cliche.

Good thing that cliche still works fine in real life.