Everybody likes a good story

Everybody likes a good story, that’s why gossip rags, scandal sheets, magazines, books, and movies sell so well. The world is hungry for stories, the juicier, the better.

“Storytelling: the world’s second oldest profession.” ~ Danny Harris

But a good story must have a head, a body, and a tail. In other words, it must have a beginning, a mid-point, and an end. AND, above all, it absolutely must have a denouement, a good or bad conclusion where everything is explained or resolved. If your narrative does not fit these criteria, or if the end is ambiguous, it is not a good story.

Last night I started to watch a French-speaking flick (Nos batailles) with a promising beginning. It was a story about an average working guy employed by a fulfillment center looking suspiciously like Amazon. Everybody looks harried and under pressure. The guy is married, with 3 children, and seems to have a happy home life. He is also a company team leader, concerned with the fair treatment of his team. He sometimes works late, trying to resolve some employee’s disputes.

One evening he comes home to discover that his wife is gone. She packed some belongings, left the children behind, and vanished without leaving any clue about where she went or why she left. The rest of the movie is spent watching the man going berserk trying to find out where his wife went and wondering if she is ever coming back.

But like many modern French stories, the end of this tale was extremely disappointing. It was disappointing because, after about 90 minutes of suspense, we were left wanting, hungry for closure. We never saw the wife again and were never told why she left and whether she would ever return.

The French seem to specialize in this kind of sadistic ending. A little bit like an inconclusive roll in the hay that leaves both partners frustrated and angry.

And last night this is exactly how I felt. Disappointed and angry. Because even after you go to sleep, your mind does not necessarily follow suit. It remains alert, groping for answers. In any movie, I want to know who killed the old lady and why. Was it the maid, the butler, or even the cop? I don’t care who did it, I just want to know who and why. Fair is fair.

Just imagine telling a bedtime story to a young child, and after 30 minutes of colorful details, you close the book and tell the kid to go to sleep. This is a clear case of mental cruelty, punishable by literary impeachment.

I don’t necessarily want a happy ending. I just want a good story with a well-thought-out, rational conclusion… so sue me…

Alain

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