Less is More
The Divide Blog: October 8, 2014
By Jana Brown, screenwriter, The Divide
I am a writer. That means I love words. Lots of words. But I also know that people don’t always need to say everything they want to express; a little bit can go a long way. A small gesture can replace a long explanation, for example, and gain enhanced meaning. This is the approach I took when writing The Divide. The characters have plenty to say to one another, but much of what is left unsaid speaks clearly what words could not express. Perry and I talked extensively about the concept of “less is more” as we worked on the script. Every time I would begin to expand a character’s lines into a monologue, he would gently remind me that not everything needs to be said. He often referenced an experience he had while making the movie Slaughterhouse-Five in the seventies. His character, Robert Pilgrim, had a lengthy speech in the script to explain to his father why he had vandalized headstones at a graveyard. But when the time came for Perry to deliver those lines, Director George Roy Hill decided not to shoot them at all. At first, Perry was crushed – after all, those lines were going to win him an Oscar! But Hill felt (and Perry soon realized) that saying nothing combined with a single meaningful glance between his teenage character and the character’s disappointed father would suffice, even elevate the poignancy of the scene.
It was with that anecdote and the concept of “less is more” in mind that the dialogue was written for The Divide. It is intentionally sparse. Sam and Luke – particularly Sam – have a lot on their minds, but they choose their words carefully, reflecting their sparse lives on Sam’s drought-stricken land. Sarah, too, is selective when it comes to conversation. It’s one of the things I love about their story – that nuance and actions say more than dialogue ever could accomplish. And when the characters do speak, you listen.