Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Statement of theme

March 10th, 2012 by

As we wrap up a week’s worth of Daily Dialogues focused on refusal of the call [suggested by Ryan Smith], we move onto next week’s theme: Statement of theme. Like this:

“But I was a better man with you, as a woman…than I ever was with a woman, as a man.”

What movies can you remember where a character says in dialogue the central theme or one of the significant themes of the story?

You know the drill:

* Copy/paste dialogue from IMDB Quotes or some other transcription source.

* Copy/paste the URL of an accompanying video from MovieClips or YouTube.

So let’s see what we can come up with for dialogue that conveys a statement of theme.

See you in comments!

16 thoughts on “Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Statement of theme

  1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)


    INT — MESS HALL — DAY (1955)

    HEYWOOD: Couldn’t play somethin’ good, huh? Hank Williams?

    ANDY: They broke the door down before I could take requests.

    FLOYD: Was it worth two weeks in the hole?

    ANDY: Easiest time I ever did.

    HEYWOOD: Shit. No such thing as easy time in the hole. A week seems like a year.

    ANDY: I had Mr. Mozart to keep me company. Hardly felt the time at all.

    RED: Oh, they let you tote that record player down there, huh? I could’a swore they confiscated that stuff.

    ANDY (taps his heart, his head): The music was here…and here. That’s the one thing they can’t confiscate, not ever. That’s the beauty of it. Haven’t you ever felt that way about music, Red?

    RED: Played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost my taste for it. Didn’t make much sense on the inside.

    ANDY: Here’s where it makes most sense. We need it so we don’t forget.

    RED: Forget?

    ANDY: That there are things in this world not carved out of gray stone. That there’s a small place inside of us they can never lock away, and that place is called hope.

    RED: Hope is a dangerous thing. Drive a man insane. It’s got no place here. Better get used to the idea.

    ANDY (softly): Like Brooks did?

  2. The Elephant Man (1980)


    Merrick holds an elegant, silvertipped walking stick across his lap, and admires a ring that only fits his little finger.

    MERRICK: Thank you for your kind gifts. I can’t say enough about this ring. And this walking stick is ever so dashing. So much more elegant than my old one. More tea?

    The Lady and Gentleman nod nervously. John takes the teapot from the service and refills their cups. The Lady’s hand shakes, rattling the cup against the saucer.

    MERRICK: If you have a chill I can close the window.

    THE LADY: Oh no, no, no, I’m fine. Please… I mean, thank you.

    MERRICK: I don’t get out as often as I’d like to, for some people DO find my appearance disturbing. Of course, I can’t fault them.

    We see the smiling pictures.

    MERRICK (V.O.): People are often frightened by what they don’t understand.

    We see the picture of Merrick’s Mother.

    MERRICK (V.O.): And it is hard to understand, even for myself, for you see, Mother was so very beautiful.

    We draw close to his Mother’s picture.

  3. And here’s another theme from The Elephant Man:


    ANNE: …Freddie! What’s the matter? You’ve been like this all evening.

    TREVES: Oh… I’ve just been thinking about something that man Bytes said.

    ANNE: Oh, Freddie. What could that wretched vampire say to upset you?

    TREVES: That I am very little different from him.

    ANNE: Oh that’s absurd, Frederick. No, no Frederick, that’s all wrong! John is happier and more fulfilled now than he has ever been in his entire life. And, that is completely due to you.

    TREVES: But why did I do it? What was this all for? So John Merrick could live out his last days in peace and comfort? Or so I could become famous?

    ANNE: Frederick, just what is it that you are saying?

    TREVES: …Am I a good man or am I a bad man?

  4. I like it when they are a little veiled or a mystery, but so unbelievably on the nose in hindsight.

    FIGHT CLUB: People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden.

    On the surface, it seems like a throwaway line. In hindsight, it’s the key to the whole damn thing.

  5. Forrest Gump- Screenplay by Eric Roth


    Hello. My name’s Forrest Gump.

    He opens a box of chocolates and holds it out for the nurse.

    You want a chocolate?

    The nurse shakes her head, a bit apprehensive about this
    strange man next to her.

    I could eat about a million and a
    half of these. My momma always said,
    “Life was like a box of chocolates.
    You never know what you’re gonna

    Forrest eats a chocolate as he looks down at the nurse’s

    Those must be comfortable shoes.
    I’ll bet you could walk all day in
    shoes like that and not feel a thing.
    I wish I had shoes like that.

    My feet hurt.

    Momma always says there’s an awful
    lot you could tell about a person by
    their shoes. Where they’re going.
    Where they’ve been.

    The black woman stares at Forrest as he looks down at his
    own shoes.

    I’ve worn lots of shoes. I bet if I
    think about it real hard I could
    remember my first pair of shoes.

    Forrest closes his eyes tightly.

    Momma said they’d take my anywhere.

  6. Not much love for theme week, huh. Okay, here are a couple more for your consideration.

    The Great Dictator (1940)


    “I’m sorry but I don’t want to be an Emperor, that’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that. We all want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

    The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate;
has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in:
machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.
Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind.

    We think too much and feel too little:
More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

    The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say “Do not despair”.

    The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress: the hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people, will return to the people and so long as men die, liberty will never perish. . .

    Soldiers: don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, as cannon fodder.

    Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate, only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers: don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty.

    In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written:
”The kingdom of God is within man”. 
Not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men; in you. You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let’s use that power, let us all unite.

    Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfill their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

    Soldiers! In the name of democracy, let us all unite!”

  7. Another scene where a character pours his heart out and speaks not only to the audience on screen but also to us, the real audience. Peter Finch as Howard Beale:

    Network (1976)


    “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be! We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy! It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone!’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone! I want you to get MAD! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad! You’ve got to say, “I’m a human being, goddammit! My life has value!” So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now, and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!… You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

    You could also argue that this next speech is the true theme of the film. The CCA chairman explaining how the world really works and that there’s nothing you can do about it. Ned Beatty as Arthur Jensen:


    “You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it!! Is that clear?! You think you’ve merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, Reichmarks, Yen, Rubles, Pounds, and Shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU WILL ATONE! Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state — Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there’s no war or famine, oppression or brutality — one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.”

  8. I’m not sure on this one, but I guess this might qualify as a statement of theme. Unless “Greed is good” should be taken literally.

    Wall Street (1987)


    Lou Mannheim: Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.

  9. CJ says:

    This isn’t a very long line but it’s in keeping with your succinct Tootsie excerpt.

    In Stand by Me, the main character/narrator (Gordie, played by Richard Dreyfuss) actually writes the following line on his word processor, so it’s unspoken, but it’s a form of communication with the audience of his thoughts, so I think it fits:

    “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”

    The theme of the power of friendship, and how it can sometimes be stronger than family (most of the main characters had rough family lives), ran strong in the film.



  10. Def Earz says:

    “You may think you know what you’re dealing with, but believe me, you don’t.”

    CHINATOWN (1974) directed by Roman Polanski written by Robert Towne

    CROSS: Tell me what do the police say.
    GITTES: They’re calling it an accident.
    CROSS:Who’s the investigating officer?
    GITTES:Lou Escobar. He’s a lieutenant.
    CROSS:You know him?
    GITTES:Oh yeah.
    CROSS:Where from?
    GITTES:We used to work together. In Chinatown.
    CROSS:Would you call him a capable man?
    GITTES:As far as it goes. Of course, he has to swim in the same water we all do.
    CROSS:Of course, but you’ve no reason to think he’s bungled the case?
    CROSS:Mm, too bad.
    GITTES:Too bad?
    CROSS:Disturbs me, makes me think you’re taking my daughter for a ride – financially speaking, of course. What are you charging her?
    GITTES:My usual fee, plus a bonus if I get results.
    CROSS:Are you uh, sleeping with her? Come, come, Mr. Gittes, you don’t have to think about that to remember, do you?
    GITTES:If you want an answer to that question, Mr. Cross, I’ll put one of my men on the job. Good afternoon.
    CROSS:Mr. Gits.
    CROSS:Gittes. You’re dealing with a disturbed woman who just lost her husband. I don’t want her taken advantage of. Sit down.
    GITTES:What for?
    CROSS:You may think you know what you’re dealing with, but believe me, you don’t… Why is that funny?
    GITTES:That’s what the district attorney used to tell me in Chinatown.
    CROSS:Yeah. Was he right? Exactly what do you know about me? Sit down.
    GITTES:Mainly that you’re rich, and too respectable to want your name in the newspapers.
    CROSS:Of course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.


    1. That’s interesting. You should check out Matt Bird’s post Withholding the True Statement of Philosophy in Chinatown where he says the statement of theme was in the very first scene of Robert Towne’s original script but was cut out of the movie so Gittes would actually learn something along the way and have an arc.

      1. Def Earz says:

        Thanks for the link. I don’t think that “the rich can get away with murder” is the primary theme of CHINATOWN, Gittes knows this from the outset – his flaw is hubris, thinking he can beat the system and the powerful anyway, and Cross refers to this indirectly when he tells Gittes he doesn’t know what he’s up against.

        1. I agree. I wouldn’t say that cut scene spells out the main theme either. “Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown.” does more to explain the theme than “the rich…”. Meaning, there are some things you can’t change, you can’t fight the system, some things you just have to let go, etc.

          I guess the point Matt Bird was making is that Gittes didn’t understand that in the beginning but learns it along the way therefore creating a character arc. But Gittes is not the one saying that final line so we are left to wonder if he truly gets it in the end.

  11. Saint 716 says:

    Little Man Tate

    TATE: I once got this fortune cookie that said, “only when all who surround you are different will you truly belong.”

    JANE: Thanks for the dance, Fred.

    DEDE: Hey, it’s a party. Gotta wear your party hat, Jane.

    TATE: Well, we were all different, that’s for sure. I’d see Jane every day at the Institute. And once in a while, Dede’d let her take us out to fancy restaurants. Sometimes we even had fun.

    DEDE: Ready?

    JANE: Waaahhhh!

    TATE: For a while, I was the most famous kid at Jane’s school. But a year later, a six-year-old boy named Roy Yamaguchi got into law school and suddenly I wasn’t such a big deal any more. But I didn’t care, because I was happy.

    1. Saint 716 says:

      Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is comprised almost entirely of statement of theme moments.

    2. Saint 716 says:

      I love the Why Are You Alive? scene from from Equilibrium too. And the call back to the statement of theme sans dialog as Bale’s Grammaton Cleric hears Beethoven for the first time.

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