Thursday, 23 February 2012

Doing a Dark Moment Well: Princess Bride Lesson 2

This month I'm all about the Princess Bride, one of my top ten films of all time.  Swashbuckling.  Romance.  Giants and Sicilians.   It has it all.

And it has a dark moment.

Without rehashing the plot elements too much, our story goes something like this:

Let's take Westley, our hero.  Not only did his True Love not keep faith once (believing he was dead, she agreed to marry the Prince), but when he returned and rescued her, she failed to keep faith again.  Faithless Buttercup! To add insult to injury, he dragged to the Pit of Despair and put on a rack to be tortured and killed.  And all for nothing. Buttercup has not kept faith. 

And let's not forget Buttercup's torment - knowing that she stupidly placed the man she loves in the hands of his enemy.  Knowing that she betrayed him, in her efforts to keep him safe.  Knowing that once more, she failed him.  The one thing she promised never to do again. 

And let's not forget Inigo Montoyo, a secondary character who utterly steals the show.  Having resurrected himself from his pit of drunken misery, he has gathered his forces, resurrected Westley and managed to break into the castle to chase his nemesis: the six fingered man who killed his father.  For more than twenty years he has devoted himself to hunting down and killing this man.  And at the last moment?  WHAM.  A dagger in the guts.   He is going to fail his father. 

Arguably, the most utterly joyful moment in the Princess Bride is the moment when Inigo Montayo pulls himself to his feet and says, "My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father, prepare to die."

Again.  And Again.  With gathering strength.

Inigo's is the strongest dark moment in the film.  And why?  Because he stands to lose everything.  His whole life has been devoted to one end: avenging his father.  The six fingered man is a loathsome sadist.  Inigo has to prevail.  He HAS to.

In the years since he lost Buttercup, Westley has become clever, skilled and rich.  Since she lost Westley, Buttercup has become a princess in waiting. Okay, okay, it's all irrelevant because all either of them wanted was each other...


Inigo's life has been a tragedy.  A wasted, wine-soaked failure.  His love of his father is the one thing keeping him alive, sane and active.

He can. Not. Lose.

It would be too devastating.


What's the one thing that would destroy your character?  What's the one thing they have longed for and worked towards all their lives?  What would happen if it was destroyed?


David A Ludwig said...

I love that movie too, and I love your question--unfortunately for many of my characters.

Stacy Bennett said...

Wow! Terrific food for thought as always. I must say I have a slightly differen thought for that final Count/Inigo scene: Inigo is injured, leaning against the wall bleeding, but unable to stop baiting the Count. The Count thrusts, intending to kill Inigo who seems too weak to move. Then his sword flick - just the sword - averting death not once, but twice. It always seemed to me that it was Inigo's father's who flicks the sword at that moment. In the same way he moved to sword to find the Man in Black in the grove.

In that moment, when Inigo has "failed" and said "I'm sorry, Father," pretty much giving up hope, the spirit of his father steps in to help him. To me this makes the love between father and son that much deeper and touching. What do you think?

Meg McNulty said...

You're right - he gets re-energised and brought back to life. Agreed! Either way it's a GREAT scene. Tear jerking.