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Writing Short Films by Phil Parker
Introduction The Protagonist: 1 The Protagonist: 2 Point of View & Theme Style & Tone Further Reading
The Protagonist: 2
Springing Lenin (1992)

Springing Lenin (1992)

One of the key questions which helps to focus the first two questions into a potential dramatic narrative is 'Who or what opposes the protagonist?'. Knowing why a character cannot deal with a situation, or is forced to do something different, or against their normal way of reacting, is critical to developing an engaging story-driven narrative. The forces of antagonism can take many forms. In The Cutter, the son is obviously up against his father, who does not want him to follow in his footsteps and become an assassin. Here the conflict is clear and obvious, as it is in Deep Down, where the mother may be on the point of dying, and does eventually die, but she is still definitely her daughter's antagonist.

In Zinky Boys Go Underground, a series of different antagonists present themselves throughout the narrative leading to the final confrontations. This multiple-antagonist scenario is critical to success when working with narratives over ten minutes, but makes for serious problems of narrative construction if they are placed in a short film of less than ten minutes, owing to the feeling of too much being packed into to short a time.

These examples have very clear antagonists, but in Springing Lenin the forces of opposition are not so clear. The episodic nature of this film places the central character up against, and in two cases merely observing, several characters who all have their own agendas, which are different from her own. However, the key to this film is the conflict between the spinster and the cleaning woman, Mrs Shillinghaw, and we realise that in essence this elderly piano teacher has been fighting the legacy of her dead mother, and the narrow views of a small Highland community. This type of film is heavily reliant on its underlying theme, the desire for order, in this case in the face of the break up of the Soviet Block in Europe, and the death of the spinster's mother (see the discussion of theme in part 4).