the margin

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How important is Margin in culture? If the goal is to engage the interest and intellect of the audience, then I would call it absolutely essential. You need only have see films on a regular basis to recognise how, in a good film, much work goes in to what is not said, what is not shown on screen.

The film Scarface has an infamous scene early on involving a chainsaw that is interesting for its effective use its sound, and the director never needs to show its actual use on a person. A similar method was used for the film Jaws: for much of the film the shark is a phantom menace lurking beneath the waves.

Another "phantom menace" was invoked in the second generation of Star Wars films, starting with Episode I; behind the events and
direct attacks on planets and people, the larger concern was to find out what, if anything was behind the apparently random actions of apparently unaffiliated parties.

Much was left to the imaginations of the protagonists, and of film-goers, unless they had previously read books written on the topic. Just as important, however, was the void in the overall story arc left by the order in which the films were made: the original Star Wars films were renamed Episodes, IV, V and VI, then Episodes I and II were made, years later.

How much of this was deliberate is debatable, but it should be noted how much of a canny marketer George Lucas became. By leaving fans of the genre with a hole to fill for several years, he was able to engage the fans' imagination in filling it, until the eventual release of Episode III.

How would the characters develop, to change from who they were before, to who they became? One character, that of Anakin Skywalker, would undergo a complete physical and mental metamorphosis into Darth Vader: just how would that happen? Would it be deliberate, wilful, planned, or would he be a victim of circumstances?

These matters employed the minds of many people, within and without the film industry, and it was quite understandable that the final result would not satisfy all who had imagined it differently. Reality has enough difficulty competing with one reality, never mind thousands of imaginations.

We talk about clothes "leaving nothing to the imagination", with the implication that the wearer is less interesting as a consequence. By leaving questions unanswered, you invite people to answer them for you, and that leads to more questions, more interest, more involvement. If your writing doesn't dictate how a change happens, you invite the reader to fill in the margins with the products of his or her imagination. Where one imagination has its limits, a thousand imaginations, pulling in different directions and operating at different levels, can flesh out a simple idea into a complete world, universe, or culture.

Written by brian t

May 13, 2006 at 6:23 pm

Posted in culture, margin