– [Michael] Hi, I'm Michael.
This is Lessons from the Screenplay.
In the last couple of weeks, every time I've mentioned to someone that we were working on a video comparing “SunsetBoulevard” and “Parasite”, a very puzzled look wouldappear on their face.
And to be fair, that'scompletely understandable.
On the surface, these twomovies look very different.
But underneath, they'reactually quite similar.
Most films tell storiesof positive change.
The protagonist overcomesa deep character flaw in order to become thebest version of themselves.
But both “Sunset Boulevard” and “Parasite” tell stories of disillusionment.
Featuring characters who believe they can achieve their dreams, but are ultimately confrontedwith a different ugly reality.
So, today, I want to comparethe character arcs found in both “Sunset Boulevard” and “Parasite”.
To examine the lie the character's believe and the truth they're unwilling to accept.
And to track how thedecisions each character makes lead to the film's dramatic climax, which will leave theprotagonist's dreams shattered.
Let's take a look at “SunsetBoulevard” and “Parasite”.
(upbeat dream pop music) In both a positive change arcand a disillusionment arc, the protagonist beginsthe film clinging to a lie and by the end of the film, they're confronted by the hard truth.
Weiland writes in her book “Creating Character Arcs”, “Just as in a positive change arc, the protagonist is growing into a better understanding of the Truth and yet the story is still a downer.
The character is moving from a positive outlook to a negative one.
His new Truth isn't sunshine and roses; it's cold hard facts.
” “Sunset Boulevard” tellsthe story of Joe Gillis, a young screenwriter in Hollywood who is struggling to make ends meet.
The first 10 minutes ofthe film are dedicated to showing how desperate Joe is for money.
So much so that he has left behind any integrity he once had.
– I'd always heard thatyou had some talent.
– That was last year, this year I'm trying to earn a living.
– [Michael] Joe believes money will solve all of his problems.
The opening act of “Parasite”introduces the Kims, a family that, like Joe, is desperate for money.
We see them chasing down free Wi-Fi and working menial jobsto barely scrape by.
But despite their dire situation, the family son, Ki-woo, isambitious and optimistic.
Trying to sweet talk hisway into a better position.
(speaking foreign language) – Ki-Woo believes his familycan join the affluent class if only he can make enough money.
These are the lies the characters believe and because both of them are ignorant to the hard truth theywill eventually learn, both Joe and Ki-Woo arewilling to do anything in pursuit of their lies.
So when opportunity knocks forJoe and Ki-woo, they answer.
– You're Norma Desmond.
Used to be in silentpictures, used to be big.
– I am big.
It's the pictures that got small.
– [Michael] While fleeing debt collectors, Joe happens to park his car at the home of a former silent movie star who needs a screenwriter to help her work on a comeback script.
While Joe thinks the script is terrible, he sees a way to takeadvantage of the situation.
– You know I'm pretty expensive.
I get $500 a week.
– I wouldn't worry about money, I'll make it worth your while.
– [Michael] Ki-Woo alsoseizes an opportunity when his friend asks him to takeover tutoring the daughter of a wealthy family, the Parks.
(speaking foreign language) And like Joe, Ki-Woo iswilling to lie to make a little cash.
Both characters are nowactively pursuing their lie, and even though a darkending to their arcs is on the horizon, at this step of their journeyeverything seems great.
For Joe, Norma representssuccess in an industry in which he is struggling.
Her career has broughther fame, money, comfort, and something Joe hasalways wanted, a pool.
And for Ki-Woo, theParks' home represents a similar dream of successfor himself and his family.
But soon they'll beconfronted with a choice and their fate will bedetermined by what they decide to do at the midpoint.
Midpoints come in many forms, but in almost every casethe midpoint of the story is when the truth makes itself known.
As we talked about in ourvideo on “Collateral”, in stories where the protagonistchanges for the better, the midpoint is themoment at which they can no longer ignore their lie andhave to confront the truth.
The same is true of negative change arcs.
Both Joe and Ki-Woo areabout to be confronted with the truth, but how they react to the truth will have fatal consequences.
As “Sunset Boulevard”and “Parasite” build to their respective midpoints, everything is goingwell for Joe and Ki-Woo.
Although Joe isn'tnecessarily happy playing house with Norma, – Empty the ashtray will you, Joe Dear? – [Michael] he's gottencomfortable taking advantage of her vast wealth.
In “Parasite”, Ki Wooand his sister Ki Jung use their influence onthe Parks to install their parents in other domestic positions.
Culminating in the eveningwhen the Parks leave for a camping trip andthe Kims can finally revel in their victory andact like they own the place.
In both of these films, the midpoint is an apparentvictory for the characters until the truth rears it's ugly head.
For Joe, the truth becomes clear atNorma's New Years Eve party.
– It's a quarter past ten.
What time they supposed to get here? – Who? – The other guests.
– There are no other guests.
We don't want to share thisnight with other people, this is for you and me.
– Oh? – Hold me tighter.
– [Michael] Confrontedwith the reality of Norma's feelings for him, Joe canno longer ignore that he's sold his personal andartistic integrity for money.
Prompting him to leaveNorma's mansion and make plans to move in with a friend.
– Can you put me up for a couple of weeks? – It just so happens wehave a vacancy on the couch.
– I'll take it.
– [Michael] Joe even runsinto another young writer, Betty Schaefer, who remindshim of who he used to be.
– It's true, it's moving.
Now why don't you use that character? – Who wants true? Who wants moving? – Drop that attitude! Here's something really worthwhile.
– [Michael] But rightwhen it seems like Joe might escape from his lie, a phone call presents himwith a startling revelation that Norma has tried to kill herself.
– Madame got the razor from your room and she cut her wrists.
– What? Max! Max! – [Michael] So Joe goesback to Norma and makes a decision that seals his fate.
Joe embraces his lie.
Choosing financial securitywith Norma over integrity.
In “Parasite” the midpointdecision also arises as the result of a startlingrevelation for the characters.
The Kims discover that theParks' former housekeeper and her husband, people who are as poor as they used to be, have been living inthe basement all along.
(speaking foreign language) This revelation presents theKims with the opportunity to be generous, to showsolidarity with their fellow domestic servants, but instead they choose toflex their newfound privilege.
(speaking foreign language) But in a matter of momentsthe tables are turned.
When it's revealed thatthe Kims have been keeping a secret of their own from the Parks.
(speaking foreign language) The resulting struggleto silence Moon Gwang and her husband to protecttheir lie at all costs will set the Kims on apath they won't be able to turn back from.
It's at this point thatKi Woo and Joe's journeys start to diverge.
Both are confronted witha heavy dose of reality at the midpoint, but how they react tothat reality sends them on different trajectories.
Because while Joe continuesto wrestle with the truth throughout thesecond half of act two, Ki Woo doubles down onthe lie that he can change his family's life.
So I want to pause, rewind, and discuss two other characters whohave also been on their own important journeys this whole time, Norma and Ki-Tek.
At the beginning of”Sunset Boulevard” Norma is a former movie star whobelieves in a lie of her own, that she is still famousand that the new movie Joe is writing can revitalize her career.
– Because they want to see me.
Me, Norma Desmond! – [Michael] And no matterhow clear it is to others that she is no longeran in-demand movie star, Norma's belief persists.
– It's important enough for Mr.
DeMille to call me personally, but any idea of havingsome assistant call me say I'm busy and hang up.
– [Michael] MeanwhileKi-Woo's father Ki-Tek has been on a journey of doubt.
While Ki-Woo's beenruthlessly pursuing his dream of making money for his family, Ki-Tek has been trailingalong less confidently.
At times even making mistakesthat could compromise the family's plan.
(speaking foreign language) – [Michael] So althoughKi-Woo fully believes that his family can fitin with a wealthy family like the Parks, Ki-Tek isn't so sure.
And after the midpointwhen Ki-Tek helps restrain the couple in the basementhis uncertainty only grows as he realizes that he ismore similar to the man in the basement, Geun Se, than the Parks.
(speaking foreign language) – [Michael] So whileNorma and Ki-Woo double down on their belief in the lie, Joe and Ki-Tek descendfurther into doubt as the truth becomes harder to ignore.
This doubt continues toeat away at Joe and Ki-Tek right up until the climax.
Here at the climax of the film, disillusionment storiesdiffer the most from positive change stories.
Instead of the characterslearning the truth and growing into the bestversion of themselves.
– Scott earned the power of self respect.
[Michael] The characters in “Parasite” and “Sunset Boulevard” chooseto either ignore the truth or retreat from the lifethey once dreamed of.
As the Parks throw andimpromptu birthday party for their young son, Ki-Woo is more investedthan ever in his lie that he and his familywill be rich some day, just like the Parks and their friends.
So he decides to takea last desperate action to remove the people whoare threatening his dream.
In “Sunset Boulevard” Normamakes a similar decision and tries to drive away Betty, who threatens to take Joe from her.
– May I speak to Miss Betty Schaefer? – [Michael] Both Normaand Ki-Woo are prepared to do something extreme inorder to preserve their lies, but in both cases it backfires.
– What are you doing? – I'm packing.
– You're leaving me.
– [Michael] Normaultimately drives Joe away.
– Joe, Joe! – [Michael] And Ki-Woo'smoment of triumph does not go as planned.
Ki-Woo and Norma glimpsed the truth, but completely rejectedit and end the film continuing to believe their lies.
But while Ki-Woo andNorma reject the truth, Joe and Ki-Tek acceptthe truth which leads to their ultimate disillusionment.
(speaking foreign language) – [Michael] In “Parasite”going into the impromptu party Ki-Tek is morecertain than ever that he and his family don'tbelong in the Parks' world and that they can not change their lives.
So when Ki-Tek's despair culminates in an outburst of violence, he fully accepts the deathof his dream and descends into the basement to hide indefinitely.
In “Sunset Boulevard”Joe lies to Betty driving her aways because hebelieves that he's not good enough for her.
– Good luck to you, Betty.
You can finish that scripton the way to Arizona.
– [Michael] And he decides to give up his dream of being a screenwriter and to leave Hollywood all together.
But it's too late for Joe.
His fateful decisionat the midpoint to stay with Norma has already sealed his fate, there is no escape.
(gunshots firing) All four characters havereached the end of their arcs and are worse off than when they started.
Two have accepted the unpleasant truth, while the other twostill cling to the empty promise of their lies.
– All right, Mr.
I'm ready for my close up.
– [Michael] Billy Wilderwho co-wrote and directed “Sunset Boulevard” oncedescribed his film as a movie about a man who wanted a pool, got a pool, and ultimatelydrowned in a pool.
Not only is it a darklyhumorous way to sum up “Sunset Boulevard”, it's a perfect way to describethe disillusionment arc.
A character pursues a dream, finally seems to achieve it, only to realize that the dream is hollow.
Movies that follow a negative change arc can help us accept theloss of a belief system, face a difficult reality, or explore complex social problems.
And despite the 70 yearsthat separate the two films, “Sunset Boulevard” and”Parasite” both demonstrate how a story of disillusionmentcan resonate with and inspire an audience.
Hey guys, Micheal here.
In the past I found thata quick path to personal disillusionment is to getexcited about a new project, dive right in, and then watch as myenthusiasm peters out and the project ends up in a pile with my other unfinished works.
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On a personal note, I have the pleasure ofknowing Thomas and he's shared advice that I use to runthis channel, the podcast, and many other aspects of my life.
So check out his Skillshare class today, you won't be disappointed.
The first 1, 000 subscribersto click the link in the description willget a two month free trial of Premium membership so youcan explore your creativity.
Thanks to Thomas for all his advice, and thanks to Skillsharefor sponsoring this video.
I hope you enjoyed the video.
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