Lesson#26 Mirrors, Spirals, and Story Fractals

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

#Verigo #structure #insidethescenes


What do fractals have to do with storytelling?

Most storytellers consider their creation to be a chaotic experience but recognize it as successful or whole and finished once the elements of that creation fall into some kind of order. It is known that for a stronger emotional impact it’s better if that ‘order’ is not visible or apparent at first glance, but rather felt like an emotional truth in the subtext. For successful correlation and communication, the patterns that are built into the story should at least resemble that elusive order of the human psyche.




Storytelling structures are like successful architecture: if we are inside a great building, we are going to feel comfortable and enjoy its beautiful design, but once we are outside the building, we will also feel its mightiness.

For the architects’ (storytellers) structures function as just the foundation of their constructions, but if the match between the idea and the plot is perfect, then they speak the language of the ultimate truth, or rather they let in the truth through its patterns, like rays of light that find their unique way through blinds to create the perfect meaning and perfect atmosphere.


The most fascinating notion about the chaos that surrounds us in our lives and in nature is that there is a hidden (or not so hidden) order to it. If we look closer or deeper, we realize that under the illusion of chaos, there is the real beauty in the world that is always hidden in patterns and ultimately, those patterns show us that order actually does exist.

If we would like to find a storytelling model that resembles life and nature the most from the perspective of the main arch, it would not be a circle, but rather a spiral.

Our stories never really end, as our learning never really finishes. As soon as we hit some kind of awareness, the story circle goes one level up and up and up… this learning process continues to infinity. Because of that, it is important to see that the geometry of the main arc of every story is closer to a spiral than it is to a circle, which is a closed system.



Intuitive Screenwriting Wheel


Through the whole Intuitive screenwriting wheel system, we mentioned mirrors as the main communication model inside this wheel-spiral. In every stage, every archetype communicates (and characters emotionally evolve) with the help of the opposing archetype. The stages also communicate with their opposing, mirroring stages.



The main arc, acts, scenes and fractals


As you know by breaking down the architecture of a film, we first recognize the main arc, then the acts and within the acts, we have scenes that are built upon a unity of time and space. Within the scenes, we can find some emotional beats that I think are also gathered in some kinds of patterns.


If we imagine a film as an “organism,” the “single cells” of this organism I see as “fractals.”


“A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop. Driven by recursion, fractals are images of dynamic systems.”


I will use term fractal because it suits me and my theory the most, but have in mind that Robert McKee the author of Story, defines the smallest particle of a story, as a ‘beat’ (as in a heartbeat). For him, that one beat is one action/reaction exchange and one scene can have many beats. So, you may have a ‘break up scene’ but the couple might try different approaches or tactics to fulfill their wishes. One might apologize, while the other might attack, one might cry, while the other might lie, one might want to leave, while the other might blame the other.

One emotional pair of ‘action vs. reaction’ will rhythmically be one beat for Robert McKee. And of course, this does work.


But for me, it is also very important to recognize that the smallest story particles, fractals or ‘atoms’ consist of the same material as the whole ‘organism,’ – so we can say, that everything about, around and inside one film belongs to the same DNA pattern.

Having that in mind, I see the Intuitive screenwriting wheel not just as the backbone of a story or as the main arc structure that we have been exploring in-depth, but also as the emotional material with which we can build our scenes.

Let’s see how it works in films, inside the scenes, without drawing any final conclusions yet.


And please don’t think that what I am trying to prove here has anything to do with robbing art of its playfulness and uniqueness. I would actually like to show that stories and films are built into the collective unconscious and as much as we would like to escape this truth, it will serve us more if we bring light to it.





I will use the screenplay of Vertigo, written by Alec Copple and Samuel Taylor, which you are familiar with as I analyzed the whole film in the previous post, step by step. Here I will put two scenes under the microscope: ‘the apartment sequence’ at the beginning of the film, and the final scene, in order to see how action and dialogue (in action) go through emotional shifts and how the archetypes can help us to recognize these shifts in characters. Once again, I’ll use the Ana Lasic story template which you can read more about here.



EXAMPLE 1: The scene from the first half of the movie uses the first half of the wheel stages in their order.


INT. AN APARTMENT ON RUSSIAN HILL - (LATE AFTERNOON)


It is fresh, light, and simple, and crowded with books, phonograph records, pictures. The most striking feature of the apartment is the view: The rising hills of San Francisco framed by a large picture window. To one side of the window is the owner of the apartment, MAJORIE WOOD, called MIDGE, at a commercial drawing table concentrating with professional intensity on a drawing of a slim, a elongated woman with few features and fewer clothes. A brassiere sits on a table at Midge's elbow, and she studies it as she draws. Midge Wood is about thirty-seven, attractive, straight-forward, well-but-simply-dressed; she wears glasses but does not whip them an and off as they do in the movies. The music comes from a

gramophone. The other occupant of the room is Scottie. He sits in a big chair, with his feet stretched out on an ottoman and his head far back. There is a drink on a table nearby.

He rouses himself to reach for it, and in doing so knocks over his walking stick that has been propped against the chair. He reaches out to catch it, and in the quickness of trying to keep it from falling, he wrenches his body around.


Warrior →Fool (The exposition of a wound — ego) BATTLEFIELD

Pain caused by the wrong identity vs. all possible identities.


SCOTTIE

Ow!!


MIDGE

(Paying little attention)

I thought you said no more aches and pains?


SCOTTIE

It's this darned corset. It binds.


He retrieves the stick.


MIDGE

No three-way stretch? How very un-chic.


SCOTTIE

Well, you know those police department

doctors: no sense of style.

(Sighs gratefully)

Ah, tomorrow!


MIDGE

What's tomorrow?


Creator →Orphan (A ray of hope) HEART’S DESIRE

Hero’s heart vs. non-authentic relationships.


SCOTTIE

Tomorrow... the corset comes off.

And this thing goes out the window.

(He waves the stick)

I shall be a free man. I shall wiggle

my behind... free and unconfined.


He raises his eyebrows with a surprised and gratified smile. Midge looks over at him with a grimace.


SCOTTIE

Midge, do you suppose many men wear

corsets?


MIDGE

More than you think.


SCOTTIE

(Interested)

How do you know? Personal experience?


MIDGE

Please!

(Then, impersonally)

And what happens after tomorrow?


SCOTTIE

What do you mean?


Explorer →Magician (The hero decides to go on a quest) A BETTER LIFE IS POSSIBLE

Wrong belief vs. new vision.


MIDGE

What are you going to do? Now that

you've quit the police force?


SCOTTIE

(Gently)

You sound so disapproving, Midge.


MIDGE

No, it's your life. But you were the

bright young lawyer who decided he

was going to be chief of police some

day.


SCOTTIE

(Gently)

I had to quit, Midge.


MIDGE

Why?


SCOTTIE

I wake up at night seeing him fall

from the roof... and try to reach

out for him.


MIDGE

It wasn't your fault.


SCOTTIE

I know. Everybody tells me.


MIDGE

Johnny, the doctors explained --


SCOTTIE

I know. I have Acrophobia. What a

disease. A fear of heights. And what

a moment to find out I had it.


MIDGE

Well, you've got it. And there's no

losing it. And there's no one to

blame. So why quit?


SCOTTIE

And sit behind a desk? Chairborne?


MIDGE

It's where you belong.


SCOTTIE

(With a grin)

Not with my Acrophobia, Midge. If I

dropped a pencil on the floor and

bent down to pick it up, it could be

disastrous!


MIDGE

(Laughs)

Ah, Johnny-O...


She considers him for a moment, then goes back to her work. By now he is up and wandering about with the help of the stick.


MIDGE

(Finally, as she works)

Well?... what'll you do?


SCOTTIE

Nothing for a while. You forget, I'm

a man of independent means. Or fairly

independent.


MIDGE

Mmm. Why don't you go away for a

while?


SCOTTIE

(Grins)

To forget? Don't be so motherly,

Midge. I'm not going to crack up.


MIDGE

Have you had any dizzy spells this

week?


SCOTTIE

I'm having one now.

She looks up sharply with quick apprehension.


SCOTTIE

From that music.


MIDGE

Oh!


She goes and turns off the gramophone. Scottie has wandered over to the drawing table.


SCOTTIE

What's this do-hickey here?


He turns the brassiere over with his stick


MIDGE

It's a brassiere. You know about

those things. You're a big boy, now.


SCOTTIE

I've never run across one like that.


MIDGE

It's brand new. Revolutionary uplift.

No shoulder straps, no back straps,

but does everything a brassiere should

do. It works on the principle of the

cantilever bridge.


SCOTTIE

(Impressed)

Uh-huh!


MIDGE

An aircraft engineer down the

peninsula designed it. He worked it

out in his spare time.


SCOTTIE

What a pleasant hobby.


He wanders back to the chair and watches her work for a long moment. Then:


Lover →Caregiver (Wish storyline) LOVE INTRODUCED

Love triggers fear (overprotectiveness).


SCOTTIE

How's your love life, Midge?


MIDGE

That's following a train of thought.


SCOTTIE

Well?


MIDGE

Normal.


SCOTTIE

Aren't you ever going to get married?


MIDGE

(Lightly)

You know there's only one man in the

world for me, Johnny-O.


SCOTTIE

Yeah, I'm a brute. We were engaged

once though, weren't we?


MIDGE

Three whole weeks.


Sage →Destroyer (Healing is possible) REASONS BEHIND SUFFERING

Healing provokes self-destructiveness.


SCOTTIE

Ah, sweet college days. But you're

the one who blew it. I'm still

available. Available Ferguson. Say,

Midge, do you remember a guy at

college named Gavin Elster?


MIDGE

Gavin? Gavin Elster? You'd think I'd

would. No.


SCOTTIE

I got a call from him today. Funny.

He dropped out of sight during the

war, and I'd heard he'd gone East. I

guess he's back.

(he fishes out a slip

of paper)

It's a Mission number.


MIDGE

That's Skid Row... isn't it?


SCOTTIE

Could be.


MIDGE

He's probably on the bum and wants

to touch you for the price of a drink.


SCOTTIE

Well, I'm on the bum; I'll buy him a

couple of drinks and tell him my

troubles. But not tonight. If you

won't drink with me, I'll drink alone,

tonight.

(He rises to go)


MIDGE

Sorry, old man. Work.


SCOTTIE

Midge, what did you mean, there's no

losing it?


MIDGE

What.


SCOTTIE

My... the acrophobia.


MIDGE

I asked my doctor. He said only

another emotional shock could do it,

and probably wouldn't. And you're

not going to go diving off another

rooftop to find out.


SCOTTIE

I think I can lick it.


MIDGE

How?


SCOTTIE

I've got a theory. Look. If I can

get used to heights just a little at

a time... progressively see?


Ruler →Innocent (On the top of the false mountain) WISH FULFILLED

Controlling the outside world vs. the soul’s real purpose.


He has been looking about eagerly, sees a low footstool,

drags it to the center of the room as he speaks.


SCOTTIE

Here, I'll show you what I mean.

We'll start with this.


MIDGE

That!?!


SCOTTIE

What do you want me to start with --

the Golden Gate Bridge?


He has stepped up on the footstool and stands there proudly looking up and down.


SCOTTIE

Now. I look up, I look down. I look

up, I look down. Nothing to it.


MIDGE

(Overlapping)

Stop kidding. Wait a minute.


She dashes to the kitchen, returns quickly with a small aluminum household ladder.


SCOTTIE

Ah, that's my girl! Here?

He steps on the first step.


MIDGE

Step number two.


SCOTTIE

Okay.


He gets up on the second step and goes through the routine.


SCOTTIE

I look up, I look down. I look up, I

look down. I'm going to go right out

and buy me a nice, tall stepladder.

Here we go.

He gets on the top step.


MIDGE

Easy, now.


SCOTTIE

This is a cinch. I look up, I look

down. I look up --


And at this moment he makes the mistake of turning and looking out through the picture window.

FROM SCOTTIE'S VIEWPOINT

We see the depth down to the street below the window. The whole picture begins to weave.


INT. MIDGE'S APARTMENT - (LATE AFTERNOON) - CLOSEUP of Scottie -- expression of nausea.


FROM SCOTTIE'S VIEW POINT - LONG SHOT

The weaving view changes to the original scene where the ground receded in a rush and the body of the policeman fell into space.


INT. MIDGE'S APARTMENT - (LATE AFTERNOON) - MEDIUM CLOS SHOT


Scottie's face distorted with agony -- his eyes close and he begins to slump. CAMERA PULLS BACK SLIGHTLY as Midge now comes into shot, putting up her hands to him to hold him, and his weight is on her and his head is slumped, and the joke is over.


MIDGE

Johnny!


SCOTTIE

(Muttering, his face

tight, his eyes shut)

Oh, damn it! Damn it, damn it --




EXAMPLE 2: The scene from the second half of the movie uses the second half of the wheel stages (in their order).


EXT. SAN JUAN BAUTISTA - (NIGHT)


Fool →Warrior (Need storyline) DOUBLE IDENTITY — FOOL AND GAMES UPSIDE DOWN (INSIDE OUT)

Right (new) and wrong (old) identity meet, the hero is fooled by fools.


Scottie comes around the car and opens Judy's door.


JUDY

Scottie, why are we here?


SCOTTIE

I told you. I have to go back into

the past. Once more. For the last

time.


JUDY

But why? Why here?


SCOTTIE

Madeleine died here.


Pause.

He holds out his hand. She shrinks, frightened.


JUDY

No, I don't want to go. I want to

stay here.


SCOTTIE

I need you.


JUDY

Why?


SCOTTIE

I can't do it alone. I need you, to

be Madeleine for a while. Then, when

it's done, we'll both be free.

He draws her out of the car.


JUDY

I'm scared.


SCOTTIE

So am I, But it has to be done. I

have to tell you about Madeleine,

now.


He closes the car door and leads her slightly away, and they stop and look across the green toward the Livery Stable.


SCOTTIE

There...


He points to the Livery Stable, bathed in moonlight.


SCOTTIE

...We stood there and I kissed her

for the last time. And she said, "If

lose me, you'll know that I loved

you --


JUDY

(Pleading)

Scottie --


SCOTTIE

(Going right on)

-- and wanted to go on loving you."

And I said, "I won't lose you."

(pause)

But I did.


He turns slowly, and Judy with him, and he looks up. Her eyes follow his.

FROM THEIR ANGLE

The high church tower in the moonlight.


SCOTTIE'S VOICE

She turned and ran... into the

Church...


SCOTTIE AND JUDY

He puts his arm around her protectively but firmly, and begins to impel her gently to the church.


EXT. CHURCH, SAN JUAN BAUTISTA - (MOONLIGHT)

SHOOTING from the door. Scottie impels Judy to the door.


SCOTTIE

...And when I followed her, it was

too late...


The CAMERA PULLS AROUND as his tree hand goes to try the

door.


JUDY

(Frightened)

I don't want to go in there!


Scottie pushes the door open.


SCOTTIE

...too late...


He pushes her into the church with gentle firmness.


INT. CHURCH, SAN JUAN BAUTISTA - (NIGHT)


The darkness is relieved by shafts of moonlight. Scottie impels Judy toward the foot of the tower.


SCOTTIE

I couldn't find her. Then I heard

her footsteps on the stairs, she was

running up the tower.


INT. CHURCH TOWER - (NIGHT)


It is lit by shafts of moonlight through the slit window. Scottie comes into the area holding Judy. He looks up.


FROM SCOTTIE'S ANGLE:

the open stairway spiraling upward.


SCOTTIE'S VOICE

She ran up those stairs... and through

the door at the top of the tower,

and locked it behind her. Then she

jumped.


BACK TO SCOTTIE AND JUDY

He is still staring up. Judy is rigid with fright and the memory of that moment.


SCOTTIE

And I couldn't follow her.

(He closes his eyes

in the agony of

remembering)

God knows I tried.

(He glances down)

One doesn't often get a second chance.

I want to stop being haunted. You're

my second chances, Judy.


JUDY

(A frightened whisper)

Take me away...


SCOTTIE

You look like Madeleine, now. Go up

the stairs.


JUDY

No!


SCOTTIE

Go up the stairs, Judy.

(Pushing her to the

step)

I'll follow.


She starts up slowly, unwillingly. Scottie follows behind her, fighting to keep the impending vertigo under control, trying to keep his eyes fixed on her back to avoid looking up into space. They move up in silence, and in shadow, their faces occasionally lit by the shafts of moonlight that stream through the open arches of the tower. Judy's eyes are wide and staring; her face and body are stiff with the struggle to keep from breaking under the strain of remembering the last time she went up these stairs. And Scottie fights his way up behind her. Judy slows down and comes to a halt at the landing that Scottie barely reached the last time, at the moment of death. She leans her back against the wall for support. Scottie struggles up and comes to a halt near her.


Orphan →Creator (Loneliness) PROBLEMS IN (CRISS-CROSS) RELATIONSHIPS

Fairness between relationships and the hero’s heart, freedom. Cheating.


PAUSE, as he gathers himself for the last assault.


SCOTTIE

(Quietly)

This was as far as I could get. But

you went on. Remember?


She stiffens and stares at him.


SCOTTIE

The necklace, Madeleine. That was

the slip. I remembered the necklace.


A moment, then suddenly she ducks and tries to run past him, down the stairs. He grabs her wrist and holds on.


SCOTTIE

We're going up the tower, Madeleine.


JUDY

No! Let me go!


SCOTTIE

We're going up the tower.


JUDY

You can't. You're afraid!


SCOTTIE

I'm going to. It's my second chance.

He starts to drag her up the stairs and she fights it, close

to hysteria.


JUDY

Scottie, please...!


SCOTTIE

But you knew, that day, that I

wouldn't be able to follow you didn't

you. Who was at the top when you got

there? Elster? With his wife?


JUDY

Yes!


SCOTTIE

And she was the one who died. Not

you. The real wife. You were the

copy, you were the counterfeit. Was

she dead or alive when you got there?


JUDY

Dead. He'd broken her neck.


SCOTTIE

Took no chances, did he? And when

you got there, he pushed her off the

tower, was that it? But you were the

one who screamed. Why did you scream?


JUDY

I wanted to stop it, I ran up to

stop it --


SCOTTIE

Why? Since you'd tricked me so well

up to then?!! You played his wife so

well, Judy! He made you over, didn't

he? Just as I've done. But better!

Not just the hair and the clothes!

the look! the manner! the words!

Those beautiful phony trances! That

jump into the Bay! I'll bet you're

really a strong swimmer, aren't you!

Aren't you!!


The blind, frantic nodding of her head as she struggles

against him is his affirmation.


SCOTTIE

Did he train you? Rehearse you?

Teach you what to say and what to

do?


JUDY

Yes!


SCOTTIE

And you were such an apt pupil! What

fun you two must have had, playing

games with me! Why me? Why did he

pick on me?!!


JUDY

Your accident...


SCOTTIE

Ah, yes! I was a set-up. I was the

made-to-order witness. Where is he

now?


JUDY

I don't know... Switzerland?


SCOTTIE

We'll find him.


They have reached the door to the tower and he stops, with a grim, almost triumphant smile.


Magician →Explorer (Magic comes from the above) THE TRUTH IS KNOWN

Right belonging changes the hero’s belief structure.


SCOTTIE

I made it.


JUDY

(Apprehensive)

What are you going to do?


SCOTTIE

Look at the scene of the crime. Go

on in.


He pushes the door open. She shrinks back.


SCOTTIE

Go on!


He pushes her through and follows her in.


INT. BELL TOWER - (NIGHT)


The black shadows are cut by shafts of moonlight. Heavy beams support the great bell hanging at the center. There are additional temporary support beams. Judy backs up against

the stonework as Scottie looks about.


SCOTTIE

You both hid behind there, mmm?...

'til everything was clear... then

sneaked down and drove back to the

city.

(Glances at her)

And then? You were his girl. What

happened to you?


She stares at him, wide-eyed with apprehension.


SCOTTIE

Did he ditch you?


An almost imperceptible nod from her. Scottie almost laughs.


SCOTTIE

Oh, Judy!! When he had all her money,

and the freedom and the power... he

ditched you? What a shame! But he

knew he was safe. You couldn't talk.

Didn't he give you anything?


JUDY

(Faintly)

Some money.


SCOTTIE

And the necklace. Carlotta's necklace.

That was your mistake, Judy. One

shouldn't keep souvenirs of a killing.

You shouldn't have been that

sentimental.


A moment, as he stares at her, then he advances on her slowly.


Caregiver →Lover (Emotional breakdown) FINAL SEPARATION

Growing up. Vulnerability leads to love.


JUDY

(Apprehensive)

What are you going to do?


SCOTTIE

I loved you, Madeleine.


JUDY

(Desperately)

I was safe when you found me, there

was nothing you could prove! But

when I saw you again I couldn't run

away, I loved you so! I walked into

danger and let you change me again

because I loved you and wanted you!

(She throws herself

into his arms)

Scottie, please! You love me now!

Love me! Keep me safe!


And she is in his arms, pressing tightly against him in desperation, and he holds her tight, and they kiss, deeply, passionately. The kiss ends but they remain together, holding

together, and Scottie's eyes are tight with pain and the emotion of hating her and hating himself for loving her.


JUDY

(softly, pleading)

Love me... keep me safe...


SCOTTIE

(Whispering)

Too late... too late... there's no

bringing her back.


Suddenly Judy's eyes, looking past him, go wide with horror.

FROM JUDY'S POINT OF VIEW

The figure of a woman draped in black stands motionless in

the shadows by the door.


JUDY, IN SCOTTIE'S ARMS, TRANSFIXED

FROM JUDY'S POINT OF VIEW

The black figure moves forward, seems to merge with the shadow

and become part of them.


Destroyer →Sage (Death of an old belief, self) KILL OR HEAL (Change or die)

Facing the biggest enemy (fear) brings healing.


JUDY

Pulls out of Scottie's arms and backs away, terrified.


JUDY

(Whispering)

No... no...


She is backing perilously close to the edge of the drop below. Scottie stares at her for a moment, then swings around to see what she is looking at.


FROM SCOTTIE'S POINT OF VIEW

The black figure advances into a shaft of moonlight. It is a

nun.


THE NUN

(Simply)

I heard voices...


There is a terrible scream. Scottie swings around again, steps quickly to the edge and looks down. He backs away, his face tight with horror and holds the stonework for support.

The nun comes into the SHOT. She steels herself to look below.

She crosses herself.


THE NUN

God have mercy...



She reaches out for the bell cord.


Innocent →Ruler (Ascension to a new world) LIVE AND SHARE

Controlling the inner world, compassion is the right way to rule and influence.


INT. THE BELL TOWER - (NIGHT)


The church bell is tolling. It swings in and out of the picture. Through the archway, we can see the Mission garden below. Figures are hurrying across toward the church.


DISSOLVE TO:



#Vertigo #scenes #structure



53 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
  • Amazon Social Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon
  • Black LinkedIn Icon
  • Black Facebook Icon