Massive Concurrence

     Every now and then, an artist in some medium will come along to remind us about what really matters. Today, AoSHQ co-blogger “The James Madison” highlights one such artist:

     Listening to [Australian film director Peter] Weir in interviews, I find it hard not to really like the guy. He’s soft-spoken, unassuming, and very intelligent, and he makes the assertion that he’s really just out to tell “a good tale”. Well, bollocks, I say. William Wyler was out to just tell a good tale. Weir, though, has a very strong theme and series of motifs running through his work to the point where you think it’s intentional. As a writer, I can say that I recognize my own themes in my books, but they just end up being stories I’m interested in telling that I unconsciously mold into stories that speak to what I want to say about the world. I don’t think Weir was intentionally bending stories to his own worldview, just that it was a natural effect of most creatives.
     Anyway, I’d distill his work into a phrase: “human connections in systems that discourage it.” That seems generic and a bit glib because I have to generalize to a certain point because the “human connections” end up being of such variety, and the “systems” end up being of such variety, that you have to step a bit back at that level.

     Exactly. Weir grasped the essence of fiction. Fiction is about people and the ways they interact:

  1. With other people;
  2. With their own pasts, presents, and emotions;
  3. With events and challenges from the world around them.

     Peter Weir isn’t widely known despite his excellent films. Probably Master and Commander is his best-known work…and despite its brilliance, financially it wasn’t very successful. It was based on terrific prose storytelling from Patrick O’Brien. It featured wonderful performances, including Russell Crowe’s career-capping best as Captain Jack Aubrey. It was set in a thrilling milieu, as picturesque as cinematography can be…but it hardly made any money. There’s a moral in there, somewhere. But I digress.

     To tell stories that touch the human heart, you must focus on the human heart. What could be more obvious? Yet far too many would-be storytellers in our time think the way to great fiction is through bombast and titanic events: superheroes, world-shaking conspiracies, alien invasions, hordes of zombies, the opening of the gates to Hell, and likewise. Such matters can only be useful as a backdrop for far smaller things: love and hatred, commitment to an ideal, self-discovery, and personal growth.

     Just a few early-morning thoughts from yet another storyteller. I’ll be back to this later. Just now it’s time for Mass.


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    • Adrienne on August 27, 2023 at 12:05 PM

    Arrrrrgh!!!  Now I want to see Master and Commander and it’s “unavailable to rent” on Amazon.  Sigh…

  1. Master and Commander is quite possibly one of my favorite movies of all time. The accurate depiction of sailing and naval combat, the story, the interaction between the characters… I think that it’s lack of commercial success is proof that our current society doesn’t know good movies from a pile of dung.

    1. Well, the tastes of the movie-going majority certainly differ from ours. But then, “the movie-going majority” is a lot younger than are you and I.

  2. FP: “Peter Weir isn’t widely known despite his excellent films.”

    For those who don’t know his works, let me just give you a short list of movies of his that I recommend as  top-drawer (in addition to Master & Commander):

    Picnic at Hanging Rock
    The Last Wave
    The Year of Living Dangerously
    Dead Poets Society
    The Truman Show
    The Way Back

    These are just the ones off the top of my head that stand out. There are others. IMO, the man is a master.

  1. […] Yesterday’s brief piece about film director Peter Weir evoked quite a bit of comment and email. Our Gentle Readers largely concurred with my sentiments. I […]

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