SPOILER ALERT – watch the movie before reading this post.
What most impresses me about 127 Hours is, although it’s an intensely visual film, the dialogue is deep with subtext. Take the Friday 13th joke in the opening sequence. Aron is out exploring on the Grand Canyon, and sees two girls, obviously lost. He bounds down the canyon and offers his assistance. We know he’s charming and likeable, but his face is covered by a dust mask, and he’s wearing a cap and shades. He looks scary – like Jason.
“Sorry about the Friday 13th thing,” he wisecracks.
Joke, right? Throw-away line, simple. Actually it’s very cleverly foreshadowing the fact that this family wilderness drama is going to suddenly twist genre in the final act to a gruesome slasher movie as Aron slashes off his own arm to free himself from the rock. It’s horrific to watch, terrifying and extremely bloody. The pain is excruciating. In this throw-away ‘joke’ the film makers are actually apologizing to us, the viewer, for the excruciating horror they’re about to endure.
Also, look at the line when Aron makes a joke about the insects crawling beneath him waiting for him to defecate. Although a simple joke, coupled together with the bird circling above, which feeds on insects, this seemingly irrelevant line is pointing to the film’s theme – that all living creatures are interdependent, that our world is interdependent, that no man is an island – that we, as people, as human beings, depend on each other.
This is the lesson Aron must learn, in Truby terms the ‘moral and psychological revelation’ he must have in order to change and become a better human being. This is his character arc: if Aron hadn’t been so selfish, if he’d have answered his mom’s calls, and told her where he was going, he wouldn’t be in this nightmare. He wouldn’t be suffering alone between a rock and a hard place.
Aron goes through an intense furnace of change – a terrifying, horrific experience.
It’s his – and therefore our – Friday the 13th.
How about your script? Have you foreshadowed the climax with a seemingly throw-away line?
What are your characters saying?
I’ve written a more extensive post here. Also, check out the article on symbolism & motifs.