Working with a film - Gone Girl
TASK 1: The beginning
a) Replay the start of the film and discuss how it begins. Consider such things as lighting, music, tempo, images (still shots) and how long the camera lingers on each of them, and the actors’ movements (e.g. Nick standing outside his home). What mood is created at the start of the film? Choose descriptive adjectives that will help you describe the mood from the list below. What impression do you have after the first three minutes? Has the director drawn you into the film?
b) Here are some adjectives that could be used to describe setting; some might fit for this film. Choose any you think will fit your description of the mood and feel free to suggest your own:
happy, charming, dark, light, humorous, eerie, foreboding, adventurous, exciting, interesting, melancholic, mysterious, dangerous, harmonious, pleasant, thoughtful, grotesque, terrifying, scary, quiet, creepy, joyful, bucolic, inviting, warm
c) What is the effect of the contrast between Nick Dunne’s home and the rest of the setting shown at the start of the film?
TASK 2: The ending
The film has a circular narrative. It ends almost exactly the way it began (see script below).
a) Is this a good way to end the film or do you consider it a cliché ending? What is the effect of ending the film in this way?
b) If you were the director, how would you choose to end the film?
V.O. stands for Voice Over.
(Start of film:)
When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.
INT. BEDROOM – SOMETIME
We see the back of AMY DUNNE’S HEAD, resting on a pillow.
I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brain,
Nick runs his fingers into Amy’s hair.
Trying to get answers.
He twirls and twirls a lock, a screw tightening.
The primal questions of a marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other?
AMY wakes, turns, gives a look of alarm.
(End of film:)
INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT
They lie down side by side on the marital bed. Nick is staring at the back of Amy’s head, just as in the opening.
What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?
Amy turns, and gives him a haunting SMILE.
FADE TO BLACK.
What is the effect of the following sentence from the opening of the film (think about the effect of the verbs and adjective used)?
I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brain
TASK 4 - THEMES
a) Read the following statements about the film. Choose the one that you think best explains what the film is about and give reasons for your answer.
- The film is about how two people can destroy each other in a marriage.
- The film is about how morally corrupt American society has become.
- The film is about the mysterious disappearance of Amy Dunne.
- The film is a husband’s story about his psychopathic wife who is taking revenge on him for being adulterous.
- The film is about how the media influence our daily lives.
- The film is about how men treat women.
- The film is about America in decline.
- The film is about a bad marriage.
- The film is a murder mystery with a twist.
- The film is the story of a spoiled girl who likes things her way.
- The film is about the modern obsessive desire to present a perfected version of ourselves to others.
- The film is about deceit and how we are all fooling each other and perhaps ourselves.
b) Choose two other statements that you think explain strong themes/sub-plots in the film and explain your choices.
TASK 5 - BOOK VS FILM
a) In the extract from the novel in your textbook the author describes the American decline and recession by describing the demise of the Riverway Mall. Do you think this theme from the book has been given adequate treatment in the film, or is something lost in translation from book to screen?
b) Go to the textbook and re-read the text from the paragraph that begins with: “The bankruptcy matched my psyche…”. This is an example of how a writer uses her story (in this case a thriller) to present insightful and provocative social commentary. Gillian Flynn is saying through Nick that in the Postmodern media age nothing is real anymore and is describing how we experience the world second-hand. While this type of commentary is typical of novel writing, it can be difficult to transfer to the screen. How well do you feel the film manages to capture this theme? Refer to ways in which you think the film tries/manages to highlight this theme.
Are we all the same? Are we so taken by the media (TV and films) that we are dissatisfied with “normal” life and trying for something more/exciting? Discuss this question in terms of Amy’s behaviour, the behaviour of her neighbours, and other people she meets.
TASK 7 - WRITING AND DISCUSSING
The film has two main characters: Amy and Nick Dunne.
a) Write down your thoughts on both characters. What are their traits? What makes us care about Amy and Nick?
b) Discuss your analysis with others in class.
c) Discuss if you think Amy and Nick are typical examples of people in modern Western society.
d) Write a full analysis for the two characters based on your initial thoughts and any new ideas that emerged from the discussion. End your analysis by answering this question: Whose side are you on at the end of the film?
- What do we know about Nick?
- How do we learn about Nick?
- Is Nick the protagonist?
- Is Nick a flat or a round character?
- Does Nick have any faults?
- Is Nick a happy person?
- Why is Nick still with Amy at the end of the film?
- What do we know about Amy?
- Why does the adjective “amazing” have special meaning for Amy?
- What do you think of Amy’s parents?
- How do we learn about Amy?
- Is Amy the protagonist?
- Is Amy a flat or a round character?
- Does Amy have any faults?
- Is Amy a happy person?
- Why does Amy still want to be with Nick at the end of the film?
When thinking about what we know about characters, remember that we learn about them in many ways, including through:
- the point of view of the story
TASK 8 - EXTRACTS
Read the extracts below that have been taken from the film script and write a brief paragraph for each in which you point out what the text refers to and discuss why it is significant.
Nick loved a girl I was pretending to be. Cool Girl. Men always use that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. I waited years for the pendulum to swing the other way, for men to read Jane Austen and make out with each other while we leer. And then we’d say, yeah, he’s a cool guy.
We have our First Clue!
She stage managed me! I really did go and think about our marriage and I was really sure I wanted a divorce.
I thought writers hated clichés.
I’m not a writer anymore.
Amy made me better. She made me work — to be clever and thoughtful and cultured. Andie let me be.
Look, this case hangs on what people think of Nick. They need to like him.
I don’t want to deal with your groupies outside. But as soon as they go, I go.
Give it the night. Sleep on it.
(Cameras flash. Amy whispers sweetly into Nick’s ear.)
Kiss my cheek. Now.
(He kisses her cheek. She takes her champagne from him.)
You need to own this, Nick.
TASK 9: WRITING A FILM REVIEW
Before working with this task, use the “Table of genre characteristics” (PDF) provided in the margin on traits of the film review. You should also read “Film review: Example” (PDF) to learn more about writing reviews.
a) Write a film review of Gone Girl using some of the phrases from the list below, if you think they apply.
b) Write an extra paragraph in which you explain why you chose the phrases you did.
- Amy Dunne is an enigmatic femme fatale
- a sense of hollowness to her character
- very smartly cast
- a dull Nick
- Nick perfectly played, bored with life
- a gripping adaptation of the novel
- loses some of the message of the novel
- America, old and tired
- quite a twist in the plot
- murder mystery,
- cynical, sexy social satire
- unnerving, shocking and provoking
- everything is a performance
- media rules the day
- lifts the lid of comfortable American life
- visual tone cool and detached
- gruesome and bloody murder of old lover
- excessive violence
- realistic dialogue
- many expletives
- agonisingly un-final showdown
- displaying America at its worst
- slow paced, leaving the audience asleep in their seats
- the film effectively shuttles between two time periods,
- the film’s confusing shuttling between two time periods
TASK 10 - WRITING
The film does not end on a conclusive note. Write a text in which you discuss what you think will happen to Amy and Nick and their marriage. Some suggestions:
- Write Amy’s diary summarizing their life together after she has returned home and the newshounds have packed their equipment and left
- Write Nick’s dialogue with Margot where he tells her about his life with Amy after she has come back
- Write a continuation of the story in the same style as Gone Girl
- Write a film script depicting some scenes from their marriage
- Write an article for a gossip magazine about rumours you have heard about the couple
- Imagine that something has happened between Nick and Amy (you decide what). Detective Rhonda Boney investigates this event and writes her report. Write her report.