Five Movies That Changed My Writing
Silence of the Lambs
This was probably the first serial killer movie I watched and it set the bar for all the others. The beautiful monster, Hannibal Lecter, stayed with me throughout my life. I devoured all the movies, the wonderful TV show, but have yet to read any of the books. I tried, but just couldn’t get into them. Silence of the Lambs is one of my all-time favorite films. Usually, there is one bad guy to face in movies but in SotL, there are two, plus the sexist FBI with Clarice to guide us through. Hannibal and Clarice have such a complex relationship, is it love? Hate? Attraction? Disgust? I don’t know, but it’s magnetic, symbiotic, and had a huge impact on my writing. People don’t always have to like each other to need each other.
Stand by Me
Stand By Me, adapted from Stephen King’s novella, The Body, is a gorgeous movie. It has that nostalgic tone so common in King’s work, like he’s laid a sepia filter over everything. Stand By Me is the ultimate coming-of-age movie. It’s got everything, friends, fights, laughs, bullies, and darkness. So much darkness. Even though the four core friendships, in particular the brother-like relationship between Chris and Gordie, are strong and absorbing, all four kids have tumultuous family lives. They have darkness and worry but when they’re together, the four of them are untouchable. It’s an inspiring story of childhood friendships which endure, even in some small part, well into adulthood to which we can all relate.
Most people will find this strange and probably, disturbing, but Misery made me want to be a writer. I also watch it whenever I finish a novel, a kind of ritual I’ve fallen into, much like Paul Sheldon and his cigarette and glass of Dom Perignon. Kathy Bates’ performance is stand-out as crazed superfan Annie Wilkes. Although she is a middle-aged, unassuming woman, she is utterly terrifying. What makes her particularly scary, for me, is her voice and her word choice, as well as her obsessive nature. The fact that she abhors foul language, substituting swear words for ‘cock-a-doodie’ or ‘dirty birdy’ says so much about how unhinged and stunted her character is, which only makes her that much more unpredictable. Bate’s portrayal, the one-room setting, the incapacitated Paul Sheldon, all make this movie a masterclass in tension and fear.
Forrest Gump is a movie I’m always in the mood to watch. I love being told a story in film and I always feel like the woman at the bus stop with Forrest, being regaled with all these events and connections by a seemingly unremarkable man. His story grows and builds but has such heart and simplicity to it that I find inspiring. It reminds me that it’s always important to have humor and love in a story, no matter what form that takes.
This one is going to be controversial. So many people don’t like the David Lynch adaptation but I love it. David Lynch is a unique filmmaker and has such clarity of vision in his work that I end up staring, open-mouthed, at everything he creates. His vision of Frank Herbert’s Dune is the pinnacle for me. It’s so rich and weathered, the language, costumes, sets, all feel like they are from another world. I watched the film several years before I read the book and I loved them both but preferred the movie. It’s got a beautiful strangeness to it, a kind of unpredictability and romance to it that you don’t find in movies these days.
Beth Lewis is a managing editor at Titan Books in London. She was raised in the wilds of Cornwall and split her childhood between books and the beach. She has traveled extensively throughout the world and has had close encounters with black bears, killer whales, and great white sharks. She has been a bank cashier, a fire performer, and a juggler. Her novel, THE WOLF ROAD, debuted July 5th. You can learn more about her at bethlewis.co.uk