A major narrative device which my story revolves around is tension. Currently my story relies purely on delivering tension through the plot; however I conducted further research into building up tension through dialogue and other narrative techniques. I looked at a video by the YouTuber Michael Tucker from Lessons from the Screenplay (2017) which covers how suspense is created in the film Inglorious Basterds (2009). The scene which the video analyses is the opening sequence which features the Nazi’s questioning a family who are hiding Jews under their floors. This scene is similar to my own story, as in my case it would be the Vietnamese questioning the Americans.
In order to simulate suspense Tucker claims that a lack of control needs to be created – “Our inability to influence the course of events can lead to an experience of tension” (2017) – In the case of Inglorious Basterds the lack of control stems from the unquestionable power the Nazi’s have. For my own film the lack of control emerges from the location of the story – the bunker. Being stuck in an underground bunker with no escape, forces the protagonist into a position where he has no control, therefore creating tension.
The dialogue used in Inglorious Basterds also aids the suspense of the sequence. Tucker (2017) makes reference to the Nazi character Hans Landa who is questioning the farther of the family; he uses mind games like asking permission to speak English and tells him how beautiful his daughters are, which place him in a position where he comes across as having little control, but the uncertainty of his actions reinforces the suspense of the sequence. In relation to my own script I feel like it requires a powerful antagonist similar to Hans Landa, who questions the Vietnamese men. This character will be Ho Dinh Phuc, a Vietnamese general who enters the bunker after his men has stormed it. In order to make him seem more powerful he too will engage in mind games with Sebastian, such as asking to smoke, enforce the idea that they are friends, and complement Sebastian’s family photo, which will increase the uncertainty of the scene and therefore build up tension.
A final narrative technique Tucker (2017) mentions is how tension is created more effectively when the audience knows the protagonist is in direct danger. This concept was first mentioned by Alfred Hitchcock who said, by telling the audience there is a bomb under the tale before it goes off, more tension will be created – suddenly it becomes an emotional experience – this is because the audience can recognize the danger but the characters cannot. In Inglorious Basterds (2009) the “bomb under the table” is how Tarantino reveals the family of Jews under the floorboards, once this information is revealed the tension is intensified. For my own story I plan on having a smoke alarm positioned on the ceiling which will eventually go off causing the climax of the standoff. The implied threat that it will go off eventually is heightened by action of Gareth and Ho Dinh smoking a cigarette. Once it does go off the characters will start to panic and eventual the confusion will trigger the massacre. Michael Tucker’s video was a tremendous help in planning my story as the information I learnt will enable me to create a script where tension spills out.
Inglorious Basterds. 2009. [Film]. Quentin Tarantino. dir. USA: Universal Pictures
Lessons from the Screenplay. 2017. Inglourious Basterds — The Elements of Suspense. [Online]. [Accessed 29 March 2017]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvtOY0YrF-g&t=3s