Black & White Character Study


This week I was introduced to a 1950s film starring Henry Fonda, called 12 Angry Men. It contains no action, no scene changes, no character names and no resolution. It’s simply 90 minutes of character study, and it’s jumped straight into my Top Ten Film list.

As a writing technique, it’s fascinating to see how much story you can make on such lean ingredients. Writing a short story or novella with absolutely no action? That’s a tall order. Can anyone think of an example that works? Obviously there’s some differences between page and screen, as you can show things instantly which would be clunky and time-consuming to tell. No character names wouldn’t work on the page. But nonetheless there’s plenty to be learned and considered from this spartan approach.

Anyway, here’s the film on YouTube in decent resolution. It’s got subtitles but hopefully you won’t mind that. Seriously, take 90 minutes to watch it and see the mastery of character technique. It’s a thing of absolute beauty.


One response »

  1. I love that film. As you say, it’s a really amazing piece of work. Not sure I’d say that it has no resolution though – just maybe not the one some people might want or expect, and that’s part of what makes it so great.

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