The smoke-addicted mastermind behind The Social Network and The Newsroom will be the first one to be discussed in this new, possible ongoing series of articles which will be about filmmakers that I admire.
Aaron Sorkin is a screenwriter if you didn’t already know and has mastered the craft to its finest detail: from the story to the dialogue to the characters, he masters it all. He is able to make conversations of the least interesting topics sound interesting since his writing style is so snappy, quick and full of information. Each word, each direction a character approaches a sentence, is character defying in Sorkin’s work. His writing is practically as music, as he himself sees it. There’s a flow to it, the rhythm. The dialogue has meaning and there’s an interesting story, the lyrics. The character progression is the beat. The literal beat as you will, because it’s also a screenwriting term used when there’s a character progression in a screenplay. It all fits together nicely into a whole that can be turned into a masterclass film, just like David Fincher was able to do in The Social Network, or like Danny Boyle did in Steve Jobs.
The characters out of Sorkin’s movies are all flawed. Flawed human beings, not written wrongly. They are all real people, they are not idealizations of humans, and they are real. They have their depth and personality, which makes them stand out in a subtle way. They don’t have flashy lights saying: look I’m well developed, as some characters tend to do in other films. Here they’re developed subtlety and that’s the key to good characters: subtlety. It may sound easy as I’m writing this, but it can be quite difficult. And then again, Sorkin masters this. He is able to put down characters with just one line of dialogue that has you interested in knowing more about this character. Just look at the opening line of The Social Network.
It is the cockiness of Mark that he himself is not aware of portrayed in a subtle manner already stating that he’s smart, quirky, and much more. It has you interested into the film from the first second.
And that opening line is a Segway into the thing that Sorkin is known the most for: his dialogue. It’s fast, sharp and interesting as I’ve already said, but most importantly, it is where Sorkin’s style shines the most. He uses multiple techniques to keep the viewer engaged into the story and to make the dialogue feel as realistic as possible. He does this by having overlapping dialogue, which is a key feature in a Sorkin screenplay. People talk through each other and they interrupt each other and this gives an organic flow to the scene. It can help to create tension and to build up to the climax of the scene. In the opening scene of the pilot episode of The Newsroom, this is very notable. I wasn’t able to find the screenplay of that particular episode, so here’s a clip:
No one likes to hear full-on exposition in a film like they often do in Transformers movies, yet Sorkin does this often enough in plain sight, but he gets away with it. How can he get away with it? Well, because it’s integrated so well into the scene. He does this by characters not being on the same page as each other, which causes confusion, and that confusion will lead to explanation, and that explanation is exposition. But the way it’s handled is natural and fits the characters. It’s very noticeable in The Social Network‘s first scene, where there’s constant confusion between Erika and Mark on which subject they’re talking about and Mark’s constantly the cause of that confusion, which already defines what kind of person he is: difficult to talk with. But it also shows that he’s smart. His brain’s going from one subject to the other and then to the previous. There are different trains of thought throughout the scene and this keeps the viewer engaged and also helps to mask the exposition being given to the viewer. As well giving the scene a natural flow. In this scene, we already know a lot of stuff about Mark, but also about Erika. He doesn’t push the exposition in your face, he gracefully tells you it, without you even noticing it and that’s very impressive.
As you can see in this little analysis, Sorkin really knows what he’s doing and you could be analyzing his style into the tiniest detail, but I’ll leave it at a scratched surface for this first article. Did you like this analysis, or would you rather read a more personal approach and tell you more about who they are over why I admire them? Please comment down below!
Images via: IMDb
Note: Sorry for the lack of uploads, but as stated in my last posted article: I had exams. These are now done, so I’ll be able to return to writing two articles every week.