Lesson #21 Final Act Four: Emotional Break-Downs and Break-Throughs
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
#featurefilm #structure #emotions #subconciousness
With the fourth and final act, we dive deep into the subconscious waters of the story. The Caregiver stage on the Intuitive Screenwriting Wheel marks the beginning of the emotional act. It is like a dam that has suddenly opened up, causing emotions to overflow and flood like water, and break and clean every single aspect of the hero’s journey that is not aligned with the truth. Once the hero’s ego is broken, in the Destroyer stage, it can let go and die in order for love to resurrect at a higher level, which in different shapes or forms always happens at the very end, during the Innocent stage.
“I said empty your mind, be formless, shapeless like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, water can crash… be water, my friend.”
Bruce Lee’s character, from the Longstreet, American TV series, 1971
As you already know, every act in the archetypal feature film structure is represented by one element, and every element is represented by three different archetypes. Here, in act four, we are going to explore the water element through its triplicities.
If you need a little bit of preparation, click here to read about the four acts as closed systems and here to find out everything about act three in feature film structure.
So, why are the last three stages also the most important on the journey of the maturation of an individual?
After act three where the hero’s relationships are the most important, in act four the hero is facing and embracing his emotions. This does not mean that other acts in the story are not emotional. It’s just that in this act, the hero is forced to become aware of his/her emotions; they are now out in the open and are becoming tangible. It also means that when it goes for real, and at the end of every story it certainly does, the only way out is through.
Riding the waves of emotional experience is the ultimate intimate experience of our existence. No reason, no analysis, no force, and no friends can help the hero finish his quest, he has to feel his way through.
The hero is ready to dive deep into this unknown realm. Since water is unknown in many ways, it actually symbolizes the unconscious and, as we know, the unconscious/water/emotions are uncontrollable, dreamy, unpredictable, unreal, non-linear, subtle but ultimately the strongest force on the planet and the biggest part of us. Emotions always show us that behind our every action, desire or goal is a hidden logic and wisdom that knows how to find us and save us, even though, a lot of times it seems that our emotions are there to destroy us.
In act four, the hero finally allows himself to get carried away, to get lost, and molded. Instinctively, he is just giving up in a way, tired of fighting. In the crucial moment of an emotional breakdown, the key element is presented: what needs to happen in order for the hero to become whole, or in other words, become the caregiver himself.
The hero embraces his biggest fear and that is the fear of emotions themselves, and the fear of death, caused by the universal destructive force that can’t be controlled and never truly known and is actually the part of us that carries the purest truth about us. This paradox is the essence of every story – and from there everything can be either dead or recreated through alchemical processes (sexual connection).
The hero either literally dies and resurrects in a new form, or his ego/control mechanism dies, and he finally realizes that emotions are not his greatest enemies, but his biggest allies. Like a tide, they elevate him to another pool and he can start innocent (knowing everything and knowing nothing) again.
As mentioned in one of my previous posts, the Caregiver stands for ‘I nurture.’ It deals with the emotional self, defined during one’s first and closest relationships, usually with one’s mother or parents. The Caregiver archetype starts in the womb. It gives us a home, food, and security and is meant in terms of both emotional and physical space, but also in terms of genetic material. It literally feeds us into what we become and proves that we will always be vulnerable children. Vulnerability also comes out of the constant change to which this relationship is subject, and it is also the main gateway to maturity.
The Caregiver represents our root system; it is the blueprint of our emotional matrix.
The Destroyer is ‘I transform (with passion)’. This archetype deals with the emotional self shaped by encounters that we let into our personal space. It defines that sacred space with strict lines and boundaries (this is my ‘yes’ and this is my ‘no,’ and with you, I want this, but with him I share this…), where magic and sexual alchemy can create passion, a new life, and our new realities. The key of transcendence here is facing the most hidden fear, the shadow of all shadows that is in the heart of Destroyer: the fear of death. One who fears the most destroys the most. Wisdom is an acknowledgment that there is no death… if passion is alive.
Destroyer knows that everything happens in cycles, Destroyer either merges or cuts the roots in order for new life to sprout.
The Innocent is ‘I love’ or should I say ‘I am loved’ and ultimately ‘I am love.’ It strips the hero’s experience to a soul level, where nothing material is left to cling on to. Beauty is in its purest form and can be encountered with eyes that see as if they are seeing for the first time. We are all one and the hero can finally experience how it feels not to be separated. He is at peace with himself – this is the end of the conflict because he saw the light and now he also knows that he is loved, that he is not alone and that he can always be saved. Not a sacrifice, as commonly thought, but the oneness in love is the essence of the Christ consciousness, and Christ is the most prominent example of the Innocent archetype. Forgiveness and compassion are two important keys here, and the wisdom is: the less I know, the more I feel, the more I feel, the more I am – because emotions are the only currency that really counts in the end. When our emotions are integrated, when we recognize them and accept them no matter how scary they are - they show us the infinite potential of life.
Innocent is the only archetype that can transcend and see life in something, that from other perspectives, is seemingly not alive. It rules integration.
All three archetypes are revealing different layers of separation and connectedness :
Caregiver – The first family – the root system, birth is the first separation and later on when a child is leaving home is the second. Womb.
Destroyer – The second family – merging or cutting, creating life and death. Underworld.
Innocent - The third family, soul family – beyond death – the birth of spirit, integration. Universe.
ERRORS AND FLAWS
For the purpose of storytelling it is useful to know:
The Caregiver is about facing the wounds of separation. The shadow side is clingy and needy: ‘my wound hurt the most’ and ‘I am not enough.’
The Destroyer is about facing the fear of connection. The shadows are projections, obsessions and a whole range of emotions on the lower emotional spectrum such as jealousy, envy etc.