Please read Simon Owens’ “His Lasts” first.
What’s Not in a Title?
This Challenge will appeal to the philosophers as well as the writers among us. Simon Owens’ “His Lasts” is deceptively simple. It seems to be a screenplay describing a perfectly ordinary day in the life of an old man. The film is punctuated by a series of titles — or, perhaps more accurately, subtitles — each beginning: “His last...” and listing whatever it is that the old man happens to be doing.
What is the effect? Morbid suspense. With every “last,” what can we expect but that the old man will drop dead and be carted off to the morgue. But... it doesn’t happen !
What are we to make of it? Let’s mentally rewrite the scenario. What would be the effect if the old man did suddenly expire at any moment?
- After “His Last Awakening” — An obscure and very tasteless joke,
- After “His Last Sunrise” — No longer a joke; wouldn’t it more like an execution? And that would leave us wondering what the “larger story” is.
- “His Last Walk,” “His Last Cigarette” or “His Last Meal”?
- “His Last Sleep”?
- “His Last Breaths”?
As it stands, is the screenplay a visual interpretation of the German popular song, Alles ist zum letzten Mal — “Everything is for the last time”?
- What would be the effect if the character were not old but young?
- What would change if, at the end, the Moonlight Sonata faded out and then, after about three beats, softly began again?
- What do the titles and the screenplay suggest about last — and first — things? What do they tell us about the nature of time?
Copyright © 2004 by Bewildering Stories
What is a Bewildering Stories Challenge?