Twists

I’m a fan of a movie with a twist. When done well, a good twist – by which I mean a story or character revelation that is not only central to the plot, but which changes the viewer’s perception of everything he has seen up to that point – can engage and excite the viewer.

Such a revelation can only be achieved effectively by a well-written script and subtle direction. It’s a tricky thing to pull off, as repeat viewings of such films tend to prove – rarely will a film with a twist stand up to (and be enjoyable on) repeat viewings.

I’ve been spurred to write this article having read Zack Handlen’s recent article (click here to view article) which considers the evils of spoilers (revelations about character / plot points to people who have not yet had the chance to view the material in question).

I’m completely in agreement with Zack, who states that any kind of revelation is essentially a sin. Some people might not mind so much, but I prefer to go into a new film or TV show as ignorant as possible of the plot (to the point that I almost always stop watching a film trailer half way through if it’s for a film I’m excited about).

Talk of spoilers brought to mind what I consider one of the most irritating habits of the average moviegoer, namely revealing the mere presence of a twist. Note that I don’t mean revealing what the twist is, I mean simply saying to someone ‘ooh, there’s a great twist at the end of that movie.’

To spend the film constantly wondering what the twist might be, conscious that everything might not be as it seems, takes you out of the experience and lessens the impact of the twist when it is finally revealed.

You’ll notice that there are no examples in this post. That would make me as bad as the people I’m criticising, wouldn’t it? I could refer to one or two twist-end classics, but I’m making a point and I stubbornly refuse to reveal what those movies are. Though obviously one of them would be Sixth Sense.

I watched a perfect example a few days ago – a recently released, big budget Hollywood film. I’d previously been told there was a great twist. My heart immediately sank. I don’t want to know that! Luckily my weak brain lost that information at some point between the fool telling me and the moment when I actually sat down to watch the film.

And it was a great twist. It subverted the plot in a clever way, forcing the viewer to rethink everything that had gone before. It completely changed the whole direction of the film and it did so in a convincing manner which led to a satisfying resolution. And it was all the more enjoyable because I had no idea it was coming.

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