Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Princess Bride vs Pulp Fiction

I'm starting the new Lights, Camera, Learn! blog by re-posting the blog entries I made for the official AFI Screen Education blog.

Thu 1 Nov 2007

Occasionally we get a question that gives us pause, and also allows the staff here to reflect on why we love movies! Like this question from Charles, an 11th grader in Conneticut who asks:

“I recently got into a heated debate with several students on which movie was better. Pulp Fiction or The Princess Bride. I was amazed to see how many people stand behind The Princess Bride. Could you please end our debate by telling me what movie is better and why? I still can’t believe this is a real topic of discussion. ” -Charles E.


I hope we never stop arguing and debating about our favorite movies so I didn’t settle the issue. Instead we tried to give Charles and his friends something to think about…

Ultimately, the question of which is the best of anything is a very personal one, especially in the subjective area of the creative arts. I’m not surprised that these two films are being debated in this way. Both THE PRINCESS BRIDE and PULP FICTION are films that have their origins in different types of mythology. BRIDE represents the kind of fairy tale mythology that speaks to America’s shared European roots while FICTION represents a more modern-era American mythos, detective and action novels of the 30’s &40s, and popular culture of the post-50’s era. The archetypes represented in both films also speak to our shared understanding of story and character, from the princess in distress, Buttercup and Mia Wallace to the dark hero Wesley and Vincent Vega, even Indigo Montoya and Butch, as the ‘loner on a mission’. Both movies tell great old stories in engaging ways.

To pick a favorite of these great movies, is tough. I’d look at two factors, first how the basic crafts of filmmaking and storytelling are applied in both movies. Second, which of these films would you send out on the next space probe to represent the best of humanity? In my opinion THE PRINCESS BRIDE wins on both counts. The technical challenges of BRIDE I think trump FICTION, you need not look much further than the duel sequence between Wesley and Indigo to get a taste of the old style swashbuckling films, somehow Vincent & Mia’s dance contest performance don’t rise to that level of grand cinematic storytelling.

The main point that I think distinguishes BRIDE is that the entire story is told by a grandfather to his grandson. Peter Falk’s patient reading of the story to a first skeptical Fred Savage who starts the movie playing video games eventually gives in to the joy of the story and the low tech medium it was related from, the written word…a book. One generation telling stories to the next is how we as humans pass on knowledge and and build civilizations.

Charles, for these reasons and many others, given the choice of which film entertains but also speaks to the best of what humanity has to offer, THE PRINCESS BRIDE would be my choice to open the 1st cineplex on Mars.

THE PRINCESS BRIDE is #88 on the AFI 100 Years/100 Passions list of great American love stories of all time.

PULP FICTION is #94 on the AFI Top 100 and#53 on the AFI 100 Thrills lists.

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