A gruesome villain who has been torturing people all throughout changes his mind and seeks apology just before the curtain falls. Well this might be a scene that you might have seen in many movies. Few of them would have been convincing and few other leave you wondering what changed his mind. Well the various phases a character traverses through in a movie is called a Character Arc. In this week’s Friday Fundas we will understand Character Arc.
In the movie “As good as it gets” the character played by Jack Nicholson is that of a man with obsessive compulsion disorder. As the movie traverses his character undergoes modification and reaches a point where he would have to overcome his fear to get the love of his life. In the early scenes of the movie you see him walking on the platform without placing foot on the joining lines of the tile and in the climax scene you see him walking normally with his girlfriend. The Character Arc of the character traverses from a man deeply troubled with OCD symptoms to a changed man who overcomes his inhibitions. There are various points in the narrative which consists of incidents or turning points that impacts the nature of the character. How well these incidents are placed and convincing would also convince the audience about the transformation to the character and also makes them glued to the character.
Usually in a three act structure the character is established in the first act. The second act is divided into two parts. In the first part the villain or the situation that the hero is averse of chases to such an extent that the hero reaches a breaking point and starts changing. Now in the second part the hero chases the villain or the adverse situation. The plot deepens, gets complicated and reaches a point which seems to be a point of no return. At this juncture at the beginning of the last act the hero makes decision which transforms the character into a new self.
Let us look at this with the help of an example. In the Tamil movie Shivaji the lead character played by Rajinikanth is a computer architect who returns to India for good. He wants to bring in positive change to the society by offering low cost education. However he is pushed down to the streets by the villain. In the mid-point which is the breaking point he tosses a coin to decide if he would have to fight against the situation or not. This is the first transformation of the character. In the second half he fights against the villain and reaches a point where his life is threatened. In the last act he comes in a new avatar and takes over the villain to establish truce.
A Character Arc can be either positive or negative. In the case of Shivaji the arc was positive as it resulted in the character emerging victorious at the end. In the case of Tamil movie Nanda the character dies at the end there by going through a negative arc.
Whichever way the character arc goes the transformation of the character should be in line with the events for it to be convincing. If not audience would be disconnected from the character.
Now if you can think of some of the characters you remember well in the movies you have watched you would notice that their character arc has been very well done.
Related: Friday Fundas Archive