I am continuing my project of reading screenplays from films I’ve really enjoyed, not just to re-experience the film from a different perspective, but also to examine exactly why I enjoyed them so much in the first place.
I’ve just finished reading Shusett and O’Bannon’s (and Goldman’s and Povill’s) screenplay for “Total Recall”. Like “Blade Runner”, the screenplay is excellent. It is taut, compelling, emently readable, without a spare syllable on the page. Every word moves the twisted plot along. Even after reading it, I’m still not sure where reality cleaves from real memory and implanted memory. I was somewhat afraid that the screenplay would reveal where these faultlines lay. I’m glad they remain obscured.
Just in case you don’t know, the movie is based on the late Phillip K. Dick’s short story, We Can Remember it for You, Wholesale, which I’ve never read. I intent to rectify that situation in the next week or so.
These scripts make for facinating reading. I’ve always been a reader who forms detailed pictures while I read, so reading scripts works perfectly for me.
Why do Dick’s stories lend themselves to good film making? Is it because of Dick’s constant examination of identity? Or his interest in the intersection and interaction between memory, dreams and reality? Or his paranoid fantasies about all powerful government agencies and corporations pushing individuals to commit the extrordinary? Or is it something else? These themes are compelling in their own right, but why do they make for good movies? I’m not the only one who’s noticed, Wired has also. My pet theory: Since Hollywood’s bread and butter is the sale of illusion and the marketing of the unreal, writers, good writers, self-aware writers are drawn to Dick’s work, where nothing is real, where no-one is who they seem, and where surfaces are seductive lies.