Day 28- We are the stories we tell ourselves.

“I tell a story and therefore I exist.”

Shekhar Kapur is a Golden Globe winning director, whose films include ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘The Four Feathers.’ In this talk, he describes powerful ways to unleash creativity and improve the art of the story.

As a child, Kapur used to lie in bed crying because he was unable to touch creativity. He would look to the horizon and ask his father how far the universe went. His father, a doctor, told him it went on forever. The young Shekhar struggled with this, as in school they were told immeasurable things didn’t exist. Yet it is this power of not knowing which creates a story.

The subtext is one of the most powerful tools in modern storytelling. Kapur tells us he often prefers to go onto a film set in a state of panic. Out of chaos comes truth. Five good moments of organic work can make a difference in a film.

Kapur looks for four aspects to a story; the story on the plot level, the psychological, the political and the mythological. Often he ends up with four contradicting stories. He believes the presence of such contradictions ultimately lead to harmony within the story.

We see examples of this structure at work in the clips from Kapur’s films about Queen Elizabeth. The film opens with the young Elizabeth dancing, when Leicester asks to join her. The symbolism here paints a young woman in love who saw great joy in her life. A later scene shows Elizabeth in an altercation with her lady in waiting, who has just announced she’s pregnant with Raleigh’s child. Kapur uses sweeping, downwards camera shots from the cold stone walls of the palace to illustrate that the architecture is bigger than the character of Elizabeth. In this scene she comes to terms with her own sense of mortality and from then on embraces the spiritual Elizabeth. While the screenwriter in this film told a story of the Queen, Kapur based his story around the Gods (mythological), while his leading lady Cate Blanchett describes it as the story of a woman coming to terms with growing old (psychological).

Life is full of similar contradictions; men and women, night and day. We look for harmony in these. The sky at 4 in the morning, where the first flush of blue breaks out, is an attempt for night and day to harmonise with each other. And harmony is the suggestion of something far more embracing and eternal than simple resolution in a story


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