Written by Hannah Borenstein
The all too familiar feeling of dialogue deja vu we get when we hear something on TV or in a movie that we swear we’ve heard somewhere else before, is sometimes because we have.
“This isn’t TV camp,” says William H. Macy in Sports Night.
“This isn’t TV camp. It’s not important that everybody gets to play,” says Bradley Whitford in The West Wing.
“This isn’t government camp. It’s not like, it’s not important that everybody gets to play,” says Richard Schiff, again in The West Wing, again under the guise of Aaron Sorkin’s writing.
Aaron Sorkin. Photo courtesy of Eric Weiss.
But sometimes that feeling is not one that requires scrutinization; sometimes that sense of familiarity is what we crave.
On June 25th a video appeared on YouTube, entitled “Sorkinisms – A Supercut” in which YouTube user Kevin Porter strings together clips from Sorkin’s various works to highlight the frequently used phrases of his screen writing.
Although Sorkin’s continuities are outwardly recognizable, many other established filmmakers have similar tendencies. Their stylistic paths may not deliberately or technically contract in series, but there often appears to be certain phrasal or atmospheric qualities that can make an artist’s works appear sequel-ish: creating a non-sequel sequel.
The iconic living director Woody Allen is known for his neuroticism and obsessive style. Consequently, he is also perhaps the most prominent practitioner of the non-sequel sequel.
His most recent film, To Rome With Love, immediately strikes a familiar chord; among recent titles including Vicky Christina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris. The movies not only share a major European city in their title, but all films construct and challenge the ideals in relationships between love and intellect, while crediting the scenery in which they take place.
It’s no secret that Woody Allen is one known to fall into patterns, making series of movies that are similar and build upon one another. His biography on Yahoo Movies structures his description around “four distinct phases.” He began his career with absurdist satires such as Take the Money and Run and Bananas. Then he saw something special in Diane Keaton, where he was able to channel insecurities and New York-driven intensity in critically acclaimed films such as Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Hannah and Her Sisters.
Woody Allen. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
For a man who has made a film every year for over a decade, themes and ideas are bound to circulate. But other filmmakers have fallen into their own patterns of repetition as well.
This week marked the release of Christopher Nolan’s epic conclusion of the Batman trilogy. Although The Dark Knight Rises is a literal sequel, it still aligns nicely with his other individual films. Memento, The Prestige, and Inception, all very different in budget and plot have characters and viewers grappling with the real versus unreal.
Nolan’s mastery of the ambiguous ending creates something of a cliff hanger for what his next film will be – even if they are composed in different worlds, under different circumstances, and with different characters.
When something has a positive effect on our sensory system we want more. TV Shows and trilogies are obvious attempts to propel us forward and to keep us hungry for whatever feelings the artists provide for us.
Whether we crave Sorkin’s snappy and quick dialogue, the dryness caused because of Allen’s neuroticism and awkward love sequences, or Nolan’s adrenaline inducing ambiguities, the indirect sequels can have the same effect and allow for the retrieval of that “more” in a new and enticing way.