Sunday, April 13, 2008

Introduction for Melissa Brandt's thesis

Set in small town Minnesota, Melissa Brandt’s screenplay “Dog Year” explores how love lost, whether by accident or death, bad luck or stubbornness, insecurity or our own dumb human fear can make a person hesitant to ever love again. Sarah, a woman described by her brother as “cold as a Minnesota winter” is the story’s emotional center. Her decision to return to the family farm after years away is as complicated as her decision was to leave it. This plot of land is a symbol of permanence for Sarah; she even admits “there is no therapy like farm therapy.”

Just there is tension between what’s transient and what’s lasting, there is conflict in this story as Brandt’s characters explore the push and pull between the present and the past. Sarah tries to re-connect with her stoic brother; she tries to sort through her memories of a distant father. When Henry, a man haunted by his own sad past, is hired on at the farm, he recognizes in Sarah a person as lonely and longing for connection as he is.

In Brandt’s story, there is likewise tension between sound and silence, between the living and the dead. The farm is a place where “you won’t find peace, but you will find quiet,” where the loudest noise is the roar of a tractor, snarling dogs, and gunshot. The quietest sounds are Sarah and Henry’s wordless pain—Sarah self-mutilates, Henry won’t talk about his dead wife and child. Dead deer, dead sheep, a dead dog, old grudges, old hurts, closed-up hearts. Sarah’s brother Peter says he is “careful not to love too much of anything.”

But ultimately, “Dog Year” is a story about healing wounds—physical and mental, spiritual and emotional. Melissa Brandt has written a powerful story about holding on— to the family farm, but even more to the possibility that someone might be both stupid enough and smart enough to love you in all your fragile human ways.

No comments: