October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.
Today: The 1983 movie Local Hero, written by Bill Forsyth. IMDB plot summary:
An American oil company sends a man to Scotland to buy up an entire village where they want to build a refinery. But things don’t go as expected.
His business responsibilities over, Mac (Peter Riegert) sets off to leave Ferness and return home to Houston.
Local Hero may not, at first glance, appear to be a Hero’s Journey, but it most certainly is. Mac departs from his Ordinary World (Houston), then immerses himself in an Extraordinary World (Ferness). There he meets all sorts of new faces, new customs, and new ways of looking at life. He is transformed and we can see as much when he enters his apartment back ‘home’ in Houston. I say ‘home’ because it feels foreign to him. Note how he sets out artifacts from Scotland — sea shells, driftwood, photos — to try and make himself feel more comfortable. But then he steps out onto the balcony, his reverie swallowed up by the ambient noise of the city.
Then that final shot: The little town of Ferness. And the phone in the phone booth rings… and rings… and rings…
Sometimes, like Dorothy, the hero goes away, then returns home with a new appreciation for their Old World. Sometimes, like Mac, the hero returns and has been so influenced by their experiences, they cannot feel at home in their old digs. In both cases, the hero has been transformed.
To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.
If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!