Suspension of disbelief

How much is too much? I have watched a lot of movies recently where people have done ridiculous things, I’d even venture so far as to say impossible things. Sometimes they are so extreme that it pulls me completely out of the movie-world and I find myself sitting on my couch or in the cinema.

I know you don’t have to get everything factually right in a piece of fiction. I have no problems with flames in space, and I’m happy to pretend a bus can jump a 50 foot gap in an elevated roadway and people can just hang on to the handrails and make it to the other side okay. I’m sure it’s possible that if the bus made that leap 1000 times, at least once it would work. That’s enough for me.

But when someone dives from a moving vehicle (not a bus, different film), then slides down a tarmac road for 100+ metres on their back in a pair of jeans and a lightweight shirt and at the end stands up, dusts themselves off and runs away without great chunks of flesh missing, I really do ask the question – why? Why not at least put grass there? Have the car slow down a bit? Maybe someone conveniently dumped some mattresses on the side of the road that day? At least put them in a leather jacket.

The thing is, I know books probably do this too, but maybe my brain bends the rules for them, it puts the grass down, or quickly re-dresses them in a leather cat-suit? Or maybe I just watch more action movies than I read action books?

Don’t get me wrong, books are not immune to such impossible feats, but they seem to have far fewer of them. Maybe the act of typing the words on the page makes you really review what is happening and the impossible can’t be ignored.

I should add that I consider the ‘idiotic-decision-to-drive-the-story-in-a-contrived-direction’ an entirely different issue, and one that is found equally in books and films. Possibly even more in books. Possibly even in mine 🙂


One thought on “Suspension of disbelief”

  1. What a question to ask an engineer! If the bus makes it once, then it will make it every time if the boundary conditions and parameters are the same. And if it doesn’t make it, then it will never make it regardless of the number of attempts. But do we find naughty screen writers more often than we find novelists prepared to bend the boundaries of credibility? Well that’s a new hypothesis. Quickly doing an mental experiment of all the books ever written, vs all the movie scripts, it does seem more likely. But what about a novel that becomes an unbelievable movie… Should we scarify Paul Gallico? Or is believability in the eye of the beholder? I think more worrying are the people that can’t tell the difference.

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