Differing Sacrifices

Advantageous and Snowpiercer both deal with sacrifice. Both main characters choose to give up their lives in order to make life better for others. Yet, one sacrifice feels much more powerful than the other. Why is that?

Curtis’s sacrifice, both of his hand and of his life, felt much more powerful than Gwen’s sacrifice of her life. I believe timing greatly affected the emotional impact of these two moments. For Snowpiercer, we journey with Curtis throughout the entirety of the film, and then at the end we watch as he sacrifices everything he has in order to protect Yona and Timmy; the entire film was building to his final sacrifice. Furthermore, the film used subtle foreshadowing to help build up to this climax, like the line on his arm. Then, during the climax the film employed various elements—slow-motion and Steadicam movement—to switch up the feel of the film and focus the audience on his sacrifice. For Advantageous, the timing was different. Gwen transitions bodies halfway through the movie, and then struggles with her choice for the rest of the film. The film never highlighted her sacrifice; it continued with the same style, pace, and cinematography. I was never heavily focused on the moment of her transistion; it simply happened. Only until later was the true nature of her sacrifice revealed. She knew the transition would kill herself, but the audience did not. While this may have led to an interesting climax, the sacrifice itself felt very minor. Its emotional impact was completely lost because the audience did not even know it existed.

Another differing aspect in these two sacrifices was the element of choice. In Snowpiercer, Curtis had everything he wanted; he was at the front of the train and on top of the world. But, he willingly chose to forfeit it all in order to save others. This created a very moving finale. In Advantageous, it almost felt as if Gwen never had a choice at all. As soon as she was fired, she found herself unable to find work because her resume had to be investigated, presumably because of her previous company. Then, toward the end of the film in a flashback, Fisher revealed to Gwen that his company knew from the beginning that she would undergo the operation. Everything in the film had led up to her sacrifice, but it felt like she did not willingly make it. The difference between the character’s choice in their sacrifice greatly influenced how powerful they were.

Do timing and elements like choice affect the emotional power of scenes? Does switching up the style of a film cause a scene to be more or less powerful than it otherwise could have been?

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Author: Bailey T.

Hey y'all, I'm Bailey, a writer, director, editor, and all-around storyteller.

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