May 30, 2010
How to Begin: Illustration (Opening Scene from ‘Blood Simple’)
The opening scene of the film, needless to say, is vital. Very vital. Screenwriting gurus teach you all sorts of mantras to follow as you open your first scene, and thus your film. Following is the opening scene from ‘Blood Simple’ (1984). This was the first film written-directed by the Coen Brothers, the first signs of their genius. Watch the film, now. If you can’t, well, just read this scene. In my next post I will discuss the beauty of it.
Note: The numbers in parentheses are for reference. Read my next post for that. Also, I have made minimal changes to the draft of this scene, for convenience only.
INT. CAR – NIGHT
Backs of two people in the front seat-- a man, driving, and a woman next to him. Their halting, awkward conversation punctuated by the occasional glare of oncoming headlights and the roar of the car rushing by. The windshield wipers wave a soporific beat. (1)
WOMAN "...He gave me a little pearl-handled .38 for out first anniversary." (2)
WOMAN "...Figured I'd better leave before I used it on him. (3) I don't know how you can stand him." (4)
MAN "Well, I'm only an employee, I ain't married to him." (4 contd)
Pause, as an oncoming car passes.
WOMAN "...I don't know. Sometimes I think there's something wrong with him. Like maybe he's sick? Mentally?... Or is it maybe me, do you think?" (5)
MAN "Listen, I ain't a marriage counselor. I don't know what goes on, I don't wanna know... But I like you. I always liked you..." (6)
Another car passes.
MAN "...What're you gonna do in Houston?" (7)
WOMAN "I'll figure something out (8)... How come you offered to drive me in this mess?" (9)
MAN "I told you. I like you."
WOMAN "See, I never knew that." (10)
MAN "Well now you do."
Another pause. Another car. Suddenly:
WOMAN "Stop the car, Ray!"
BRAKE Stamped on. The car squeals to a halt. A car that has been following screeches to a halt just behind it. Both cars sit. Rain patters. (11)
MAN "... Abby?"
She doesn't answer. He turns to look back and we see his face, for the first time, in the headlights of the car behind, waiting, patiently. Rain drifts down past its headlights. Finally it pulls out and passes them slowly, their headlights showing it to be a battered green Volkswagon. First the car itself, then its red taillights, disappear into the rain.
MAN "...You know that car?"
WOMAN "No." (12)
MAN "What's the matter?"
WOMAN "I don't know... I just think maybe I'm making a mistake..."
She looks at the man.
WOMAN "...What was that back there?"
MAN "Back where?"
MAN "I don't know. Motel... Abby--"
WOMAN "Ray. Did you mean that, what you said before, or were you just being a gentleman?"
MAN "Abby, I like you, but it's no point starting anything now." (13)
MAN "I mean, I ain't a marriage counselor--"
The man is uncomfortable.
MAN "...What do you want to do?"
The woman is uncomfortable. After a long pause:
WOMAN "...What do you want to do?" (14)
RAY and ABBY in bed, making love. (15)