GENIUS, the mentor, and the artist – an analysis of the film

A film about an author can teach us something fundamental about the writing ? The recent Trumbo, although interpreted with talent by Bryan Cranston, failed miserably in this area, simply place the life of a writer. The GENIUS of Michael Grandage based on the working relationship between a writer (Thomas Wolfe, played by Jude Law) and his editor (Maxwell Perkins, played by Colin Firth). The film is, unlike Trumbo, a curveball on the writing work, to after analysis of learn.

Engineering 101

As a spine, which gives the film its coherence is the exploration of the notion of “genius”. It is easy to test around us what meaning this word covers a – when speaking of the success of an artist, it often explains its success in a simplistic way : “so-and-so is successful because he has talent” ; or when one prevails “, it is quite simply a genius“… These explanations are not satisfactory, since they are of the “genius” something that isinnate and notacquired.

The concept is not far to evoke the grace which touches the most pious believers. At first glance, the concept of engineering, it evacuates entirely the work, the training, the effort, social relationships, or by chance. Before knowing the success, most of the major artists were first known large failures, which they have learned and how the experience has made you stronger. The quality that we should recognize, therefore, is above all the persistence and work.

What is a mentor ?

Thomas Wolfe is a workaholic apparently struck by bad luck : his “genius” is misunderstood, until the day he meets his editor, Max Perkins. GENIUS opens and closes on an image of this editor. Is it so the “genius” mentioned in the title ? Not so fast.

The film suggests but never spell it out in a loud voice that the artist is nothing without a mentor. This figure story is well known, it forms one of the 7 archetypes identified by Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s journey, one of the 7 characters of the most recurring, regardless of the history. In the first part of the movie, the mentor natural Thomas Wolfe is, therefore, Max Perkins. Together they will channel the energy of the writer to a result acceptable to the readers. Wolfe does not know the “symptom of the white page” but compensates for his anxiety by diarrhea that is literary: he can’t stop writing. The work together, Wolfe and Perkins, therefore, is to choose what to keep in the edition of the book. The film is clearly conscious of itself, references to the term “cut” to cut there too, which refers to the assembly. These winks are not free, they are clues that lead the viewer to look at the grammar underlying the script : its narrative structure.

Style vs. Plot, the scenario being written under our eyes

Wolfe and Perkins are fighting to get the other that he will recognize HIS definition of genius. Wolfe has only praise for the subtlety of the style, while Perkins is heading to shorten the work to make out the plot. The opposition of values embodied by the characters of Wolfe and Perkins is the mirror direct to the dilemma that occurs to every writer : a successful implementation lies in its style (its substance) or its plot (its structure) ? The writer of GENIUS, John Logan, has had to ask themselves this question when he leaned on the adaptation of the biography of this editor. The theoretical debate between these two values is embodied in the psychology of the two characters. The confrontation had an impact on the story at three levels : the personal relationship between Wolfe and Perkins (the plot), the understanding of the viewer of the two ideas in tension (meaning the film) and the resolution of the screenplay, written by John Logan (the curveball).

A scene masterfully summarizes in the process. Wolfe comes up with a manuscript of 5,000 pages, Perkins wants to reduce it. They focus on a chapter that, in the manner of a Proust, is expressed in endless phrases about the meeting between the hero and a woman, with whom he falls immediately under the charm. The whole point of Perkins is to make it clear to Wolfe that while these pages are beautiful, but they do not reflect the situation. Wolfe wants to transcribe a thunderbolt of love, a moment strong, but brief, diluted with metaphors for extension. Perkins never said to Wolfe where to cut or which words to replace, it just, like a zen master, to ask his students questions that he answers himself. With this example, Perkins can persuade Wolfe (and the viewer) that we are equally responsive to the form at the bottom, to the structure and the style.

“1 + 1 = 3”

By confronting their vision of the particular “genius” (Style vs. Plot), Wolfe and Perkins are creating a new meaning. Rather than being a quality individual, the “genius” is a working relationship possible thanks to a communion of intellectual between an artist and his / her mentor. As a result the opposition of departure has not for vocation to see one of the poles (the style or the structure) outweigh the other. Rather, it is in their blood that work becomes great. The genius, therefore, is not something “that one” or “that one.” The genius is a state of mind that appears in the collaboration.

It is in the tension between an artist and his / her mentor that the work becomes awesome

For all that GENIUS does not fall into the facility by reducing the genius to be the only collaboration of an author and his publisher. The character of Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman), the companion of Wolfe, can add complexity to the archetype of the mentor. It is understandable that Bernstein has assisted Wolfe during the dark years of his life, giving him the confidence and the resources necessary for its toughness. More than that, she was a partner, creative, criticizing with positivity its proposals in literature. This professional feedback takes time and energy, it is not allowed to require it of the relatives “on the pretext” that they love us. Gold Wolfe loose unceremoniously Bernstein from his meeting with Perkins.

Since he has found another “mentor” (editor Perkins) he no longer feels the need to love his former teacher. This tragic relationship casts a harsh light on an aspect very little media coverage of the creation. That would be an artist without the support of his friends or his family ? GENIUS shows little by little how Thomas Wolfe is the product of social relations, as well as its individual will. GENIUS offers a simple lesson, but fundamental to any aspiring writer or a writer : the quality of his work is on the basis of its relations. It is never as gifted as when one is surrounding oneself with competent people, people we like and respect.

It is refreshing to see in our time individualistic genius, not as an innate quality, but as the energy that emanates from the relationship between individuals inspired. This energy we can feel flowing between Wolfe and Perkins, in the contemplation of a view of New York or in a cap placed on the desktop. Managing to transmit to us by little touches of this energy, GENIUS also speaks to a level deeper than the intellectual analysis that we have done. Hope, therefore, that the spirit of this movie inspire all those who wish to channel this energy. Writers, artists, novelists, dancers, musicians… don’t forget all the ones that are your genius. Your friends and family are also your mentors.

Thomas Coispel

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