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when you can't "suspend disbelief" any longer...

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Ted Lee, Apr 4, 2005.

  1. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    that's what it's commonly called, "suspension of disbelief" ... correct? as in when you go to the movies, you must (sometimes) kick common sense out the window to enjoy the movie???

    well, i just saw a particular movie and let me tell you ... that movie pushed the envelope big time. without giving too much away, it involves a guy and a girl trying to find eachother, and some things that get in the way.

    the whole time i'm watching this, i'm thinking why don't they just call eachother on the cellphones that they both (apparantly) have? if they would have called eachother...the problem would have been solved (and, of course, there would be no movie).

    and, get this. when the girl finally finds the dude's friend, the friend is like, "hey, he's been looking for you. give me your info.". to which she says, "no...have him meet me. he'll know where." [​IMG] [​IMG]

    ----

    ps, i'm just giving a rant because i'm bored. but i would love to hear your favorite "suspension of disbelief" movie. [​IMG]
     
  2. mark alan

    mark alan Supporting Actor

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    wicker park. Stupid movie
     
  3. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    Serendipity?
     
  4. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Sugartastic T., Ebert's movie glossary has just the term you're looking for.
     
  5. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    [​IMG] haggai ... that's perfect!
     
  6. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    That's not what the term means, although, like many phrases, its meaning has been corrupted. "Suspension of disbelief" refers to the audience member's participation in storytelling. No matter how the storytelling occurs -- on the printed page, on a stage, in an auditorium where still pictures are flashed in rapid succession on a screen -- the audience chooses to believe in the story and imbue the characters and events with reality.

    Now, when the characters behave oddly or inexplicably, or the story is badly written, or the acting isn't convincing or (fill-in-the-blank), it can become impossible for viewers/readers/etc. to keep up their end and enter into the storytelling process. But that has nothing to do with "common sense". After all, common sense tells you that even the most realistic dialogue doesn't actually sound like the people you hear in your everyday life.

    Movies, like all storytelling, are based on artifice. Suspending disbelief means agreeing to participate in the artifice.

    M.
     
  7. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    The full phrase is "the willing suspension of disbelief", and it originated with the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and originally referred specifically to what we would now call "fantasy". Here is the phrase as it first appeared in Coleridge's Biographia Literaria (1817)


    The phrase has been applied more to "fantastic" literature, fantasy, gothic romance and even science fiction, than to more "mainstream" works, presumably because there is less disbelief to suspend when you're watching two businessmen argue over a deal than when watching a vampire sucking the lifeblood out of his latest victim.

    But it still has nothing to do with common sense or story logic. Stephen King somewhat restated Coleridge's image by picturing the fantastic as something heavy, and the imagination as a kind of muscle used to "lift" it. Children, oddly enough, tend to have the best developed "fantasy" muscles, and can lift the oddest ideas about gents in red suits, chimneys, rabbits with chocolate eggs, giants and trolls quite effortlessly, whereas most adults in the workaday world have to work much harder to do so - and some can't lift the weight at all. (Which is why my sister can't stand most science fiction and can't sit through an "unrealistic" bit of fantasy like The Lord of the Rings. She can't get past the elves and orcs to see the human drama. On the other hand she is a devotee of soap operas where the characters behave less like the people we meet everyday than Frodo and Gimli, and where story logic is pretty much non-existent. But to her it is "realistic" because there are no spaceships, rayguns or magic rings. Oddly she quite enjoys horror films, although she prefers moderns slashers to classic supernatural stories.)

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  8. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    hmmm...not where i meant the thread to go, but interesting topic. i think i get what you're saying.

    so, suspension of disbelief simply means you're accepting what you're seeing (i guess at face value) and "buying into it"?
     
  9. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Haggai, that was awesome.

    --
    H
     
  10. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    Tricky, what one person has no problem going along with, others are *incapable* of moving past. A good example of this audience-variable is often stuff involving guns or gunplay in movies.

    Matrix, as one, at the end where Smith shoots Neo, has a top-down shot looking at Smith as he fires the first shot into Neo's chest, and shows the gun recoiling. I was enraptured with how cool the shot was, while the jerk in the seat next to me immediately piped up about how the round they were showing in the chamber of the gun was a blank.

    Another good example of Suspension of Disbelief is horror flicks. Notice how there are a *lot* of 'retro' horror movies the last five years or so? I think part of this is horror films set in the 70s or prior are easier to write, because you don't have to write around modern inconveniences that wreck otherwise good plots. Scream cleverly used these modern plot wreckers in its plots, which is probably part of its successful writing.

    Ultimately, SoD is up to you. Do you want to have fun at the movies, or did you go with the intention of sitting there and bitching? If more critical viewers would relax and enjoy their movies, it'd be more fun for them.
     
  11. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    I won't say there's no truth to this, but I think it's incumbent on the filmmakers to create an environment where the incredible or unlikely is convincing. I don't go into a movie planning to find fault with it, but when I see something that makes no sense within the world the writer(s) and director have presented, my first reaction is to say "that makes no sense", not to pretend otherwise.
     
  12. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    It's up to the moviemakers to produce a film that follows its own internal logic. Ebert's "idiot plot" is certainly worth "bitching" about, as is a movie that turns out to be fantasy while pretending to be about the "real world".
     
  13. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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    I think internal logic is most important. Clearly if we see movies like Lord of the Rings we have to accept a world in which magic is everywhere, there are powerful beasties, etc. However, that doesn't mean we'll accept EVERYTHING. For example, if in Two Towers suddenly Sam was able to run really, really fast, we wouldn't buy it, for that would violate the rules of the film's world.

    When my then-girlfriend and I saw Shrek, she liked it but she griped because Donkey got stabbed in one scene and didn't bleed. I said to her, "You're willing to accept ogres and a talking donkey but you get miffed because they didn't show some gore?"

    But in a way, she had a point. She immersed herself in the fantasy - to a degree. When it violated basic assumptions, then it became a problem.

    I also think we'll pick many fewer nits when we like the movies we see. For example, I could tear apart Terminator 2 for all sorts of problems, but I don't because it delivers what I wanted - strong action and entertainment. Frankly, I barely noticed the flaws when I first saw it - I was too involved in the movie.

    If I saw a movie that bored me, though, I'd focus more heavily on the problems. I'm always willing to suspend disbelief, but the movie itself has to earn that...
     
  14. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    The "selective suspension of disbelief" phenomenon does tend to lead to funny examples. When I saw the Muppet Treasure Island with some friends, one of them said that one of the muskets was firing multiple shots too quickly, or something like that. I pointed out that this wasn't much compared to the singing vegetables, and he admitted that I was right.
     
  15. Beau

    Beau Supporting Actor

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    I suspend my disbelief very far. I never really find myself picking apart movies for dumb little logic problems. Unless I already don't like the movie and I'm just venting for it wasting my time and money.
     
  16. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp
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    I'm pretty forgiving with movies. I have a friend that drives me nuts though, he writes off entire films, hell, entire film series because of a nit pick (weither story wise or technical, or because he thinks he could do it better.)

    We've had fights about this, I almost kicked the bastard when he wrote off Jacksons entire Rings trilogy as complete shit because one effect with a goblin in the first film looked wrong to him. And don't get me started on the behaviour of the propane tank in Panic Room. I started throwing stuff back at him about the things he does like, just to dig him ("you know, Sara Michelle Gellar isn't really a vampire slayer, she just PRETENDS! That show is such bullshit!)

    Some people probably shouldn't watch movies. But than, maybe I'm too forgiving. I'll stop ranting now.
     
  17. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Lead Actor

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    And then you have people with no imagination whatsoever. I wonder how they make it through the day.
     
  18. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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  19. Chris Brock

    Chris Brock Second Unit

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    I normally just lurk in this particular forum but this discussion kind of got me thinking. I enjoy just about any movie out there unless, like it has been stated above, something in the movie goes beyond the realities that are set by the movie.

    I think the best example for me that hits on this is Van Helsing. For as bad a rap as movie took half way through it I didn’t see it as being so bad and was enjoying it. BUT......Frankenstein started swinging from the rope it totally took me out of the movie. That has got to be one of the most ridicules things I have seen depicted in a movie. I was with a group of friends and it literally made me feel personally embarrassed that such an event was being shown at my house and on my TV. It literally made me feel as if I had went to work without zipping up my pants or something and everyone was laughing at me.

    Now when I commented on this one of the guests said something along the lines of “well if the hot chicks can fly then I don’t see that as being a big deal”. But the thing is that just about all of the other things that happened in that movie were within the boundaries of reality that were established in the movie. That particular scene went way past those boundaries.
     
  20. Steve Kuester

    Steve Kuester Second Unit

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    SoD is why I choose not to listen to commentary tracks for movies I know I'll want to watch again. I know there are many people here who love commentary tracks. They want to find out how a scene or effect was done, or why a decision was made. I can't have that. If I were to watch the movie again, I would have such a hard time "suspending my disbelief" since I know how a scene was done, the decisions made, or funny cast stories at the time of filming.

    Example: Whlie watching the extended edition of the Fellowship of the Ring, I was waiting for my wife to come back downstairs before the start of the second disc. I decided to play a litte bit of it with the commentary track on. I was on the actors track, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan were talking about how they asked Peter Jackson to have the female elves look sad when the fellowship leaves rivendel as they have some "Hobbit buns in the oven" or something to that effect. - Very funny, but if I had a whole movie of that kind of info, I would no longer be able to get lost in the story.

    Must be the way my brain works, I don't know.
     

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