February 15th, 2021
47 days until deadline
I bought An Education (2009) on iTunes the other day partly because it was on sale, and partly because I really enjoyed State of the Union (2019) and it was written by the same writer, who also did the screenplay for Brooklyn (2015), which I am not a particular fan of when I originally watched it in the cinema. Nick Hornby is also a published novelist, and his ability to write engaging dialogues really is something to be marveled at. When I was in film school writing dialogues was my favorite thing to do, mostly because it was the fastest way to fill up your pages in the screenwriting format. But as I grew older I have found writing dialogues to be the most challenging task. Beginning screenwriters have the tendency to write each character in a similar voice, being sassy everywhere just because you can. But understanding characters really is the central task, and presenting them in an authentic manner is not an easy thing to do.
I am fairly inspired by the film, even though there are certain parts that are not perfect. I like the fact that it really helps me to understand the relationship between thesis and antithesis and synthesis, which you can read more about on Scriptnotes, or listen to that episode on how to write a movie, narrated by Craig Mazin, who most recently won an Emmy for his writing on the HBO miniseries Chernobyl (2019). In the podcast, he talked about how films are about change, and this change could be explained by how a thesis that the character believes in the beginning changes to something else in the course of interacting with the antithesis.
In An Education, Jenny in the beginning believes that in order to have a glamorous life she must get into Oxford, though she may have her doubts about it, she still accepts the status quo. This is the thesis. Along comes this older man David who shows her the glamorous life she wants, and this is the antithesis: you don’t need Oxford to have a glamorous life. The journey of Jenny throughout this film is her grappling with these two sides, Ying and Yang, to reach a new synthesis in the end. In this case, after being abandoned by David(the loss of the antithesis) and rejected by the old school (the loss of the thesis), she visits the beautiful home of her school teacher and asks for help, realizing that you can create your own little heaven with an education, and you don’t have to rely on men(synthesis).
I think it also goes for life. We go through life with our own beliefs, and in the process of interacting with other people who share the opposite side, you create tension, and throughout this tension, you get to the other side, a new synthesis, and the process starts all over again. In perpetual motion. Such is the nature of life.