I haven’t done a movie review for nearly a year (when I revamped the site, I dropped the movie section). But when I saw the movie The Words, I knew I had to touch on it.
See, it’s a writer’s movie (don’t think that Finding Forrester was – that was a piece of shit). The Words is about a young writer (don’t we all know him) who is accepting an award for his critical success, living the life we all dream (don’t we look so clever? Isn’t our limo sooooo long?). As he and his gorgeous wife come out of the reception reinforcing his greatness, an old man watches him. Later, our literary wet-dream trots out to Central Park – seemingly engaged in his idyllic pursuit to read in the park (while the rest of us are working). The old man sits next to him, feeds the pigeons, starts to chat. He tells the young guy he recognizes him, he liked the book, that if felt like he was living every moment (spider senses tingling yet?) The he asks if maybe the young guy would like to write a story he’d thought of. The author, finding his companion a burden, excuses himself and walks off.
“It’s about an old man who wrote a story, and the pissant who stole it.”
That stops the guy.
See, after rejection and rejection, the young author doubted he would ever make it, that he could ever shine the way we all dream to. Then, in an old valise in a Paris second hand store, he finds a manuscript, yellow with age. He reads it. It’s brilliant. Then he types it up just so he can feel what it likes to write something that perfect. But then his wife reads his work and tells him how beautiful his work his, how he must show it to the publisher where he works as a clerk, all that. So he does. And it goes how we could only dream.
Except, of course, for that old man.
I won’t go into further spoilers. No, the reason I’m mentioning this is that here is a character all writers can identify with. If you are a true writer (amazing how many writers there are out there who never really swim in the sea of classics) and moan at the talent of others, then you will understand. You know what it would be like to find a work so magnificent, just sitting there yellowed and lost, and how easy it would be to make it yours. And that’s something to think about. Sure, maybe you would never steal an entire book. But a phrase? An idea? A passage? Tempting.
In fact, I’m sure just about every writer has borrowed concept or phrase from some other writer.
But be warned. I’ve noted before about the horror of finding myself trespassing in copyright (for song lyrics). The sleepless nights. The worried thoughts. The fear of the phone call from the moguls.
I guess what I’m saying is that you should always safeguard against copying. And you should always try for your true voice. And you should beware of the Sirens of fame.
But go and see The Words. Its a fine story-within-story-within-story. Or a horror-flick for writers. Something like that.