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Monday, May 9, 2011

One of My Favorite Openings

I love the Lion in Winter.

To me it never ages. One of the things I admire mostly is the economy of the story telling. The story is full of complex plots and incredible monologues. It could easily become stagey or worse incomprehensible if done wrong. But the writers and filmmakers deftly avoid that trap.

Look at the very first scenes. Just two images and a single line sum up the story perfectly.

Swords clash. Then we get Peter O'Toole yelling "Come for me!" But he has an insane grin on his face. He is in fact sparring with his beloved son, Prince John. Trying to teach him to be a king. But in those first few moments you have the entire film. This is about violent people. Their world is full of conflict. But Peter O'Toole's Henry isn't afraid. "Come for me!" he yells at the audience, daring to take on the entire world. And he's got a grin on his face. He's not afraid. He loves this. Conflict, battle, war make him feel alive and young. But that's the problem, he loves battle too much. It may be the only thing he truly loves. He can't relate to his wife Elanor or his sons Richard and Geoffrey except through the prism of conflict and war. He's sparring with his son. His entire personal life is just one long duel. Later in the movie he says he wants peace, but that's a lie. Such a man as this can never be truly happy in peace. It would kill him.

All that is explored in great depth during the rest of the film but it all begins with that one simple scene.

That's how you open a picture!

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