Good Scene / Bad Scene

Chosen by Peter Sollett, director of 'Raising Victor Vargas'
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The Independent Culture

THE GOOD: Autumn Sonata Ingmar Bergman, 1978

It's when a young woman (Liv Ullmann) confronts her emotionally withholding, middle-aged mother (Ingrid Bergman), who has always placed professional ambitions above parenting. In a classic example of script technique that uses exposition as emotional ammunition, she tells her mother, with disturbing honesty, her shortcomings as a parent. It's a deeply traumatic experience for her. She recounts all the pain experienced as a child. There's no moving around; she's sitting at a table staring down her mother. There are no cinematicpyrotechnics, yet the scene can rip your heart out for 10 minutes.

THE BAD: The Royal Tenenbaums Wes Anderson, 2001

Often with bad scenes something is left in that could have been exploited, but was not. An example is the climactic scene of The Royal Tenenbaums. It is about a father (Gene Hackman, left) who fakes terminal illness as a way of drawing his estranged children closer to him. In this scene the lie has been uncovered, but rather than having his son (Ben Stiller) address him directly, a car crashes into the home. The scene is dense with action. Then, Ben says to his father - referring to his wife's death and his father's lies - "It's been a really hard year." It is an invitation for the scene to become emotional. But the father just pats him on the shoulder and walks away.

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