What kind of suspense do you like in film?
I think there are definitely different types of suspense that make a film memorable.
My husband and I were just talking about this, in fact - about our top 10 movies of all time list, and how it will change sometimes when something else comes out. We discussed how we analyze how we favor the films on our list and what makes a film stand out to even be considered on our list.
None of the films on my top 10 are considered pieces of "art" in the cultural gatekeeper sense of the word. But what does make me put a film on the list is how I feel when I see it. If I forget who I am for two hours and am swept away and moved deep in the belly of my soul then that is something that is remarkable to me.
People often take for granted now the type of battle scenes evoking heart-pumping action. The gritty violent and visceral feeling as if you're there. A whole lot of people forget that Braveheart is the film that brought that to film in a way that had never been done before. I would argue that Henry V with Kenneth Branagh actually attempted first, but it was a much smaller film and hardly anyone saw it.
(By the way, if I am categorically wrong here, please state the film and battle scene that was as crazy awesome as that first battle of Stirling)
I had as yet never been so caught up in a film in suspense as that charge of heavy calvary at the Battle of Stirling scene in Braveheart. My heart was racing, thumping, crazily beating in wild anticipation of those scots in kilts being run down, my breath came in short gasps and I had tears in my eyes. The subsequent violence and bloodthirsty grit of the battle to come absolutely swept me away to another place. The beautiful and heroic denouement of the film hours later was perfect.
That experience has sort of set the bar for me. Gladiator came very close to that heightened feeling. But I'll tell you, the charge of the Rohirrim in Return of the King on the Pelennor Fields had me gasping for breath, sobbing and choking on my emotion. The only moment that utterly and perfectly eclipsed it was when Sam carries Frodo on the Gorgoroth Plain. Just now writing about the memory of how seeing those moments brought to life so well on film gets me a little misty-eyed. Okay a lot misty-eyed.
(All of these wonderful exultant film moments are nothing compared to the same moments when I read them in books. When I read books, I'm often reduced to a gibbering mess, barely able to keep up with the lines of text through the watery jiggling window of tears of emotion, my breath shortened with excitement and holding it in, trying to act like a sane individual when in reality all I want is to feel it.)
The other kind of suspense that is almost the opposite of heroic suspense is romantic suspense. I discern that a lot of men may not even enjoy or understand or want to admit that they like romantic suspense, but billions of dollars a year are made off of it. Women adore it for the most part.
My favorite (thus far) film that portrays romantic suspense is Pride and Prejudice. Luckily this is nearly the original offering in the way of comedy and romantic suspense in a literary sense. It's still stands the test of time. The entire movie is one long drawn-out tense bubble. I love it crazy! That moment when he finally can't help himself anymore and he walks to her house in the dawn and meets her in the dewy grass, gulping and breathless, love showing so fiercely in his face as he finally professes to her, helpless and vulnerable. Hell, I still cry. Every single time. What an amazing and wonderful release. (Let's not even sit here and discuss how it's not very accurate for real life. I realize this. That's the whole point, escape and fantasy. Duh.)
The last type of suspense, terror, I for the most part do not participate in. It affects me too much. I mean it should be rather obvious by now that I really feel emotions. Terror isn't very safe for me. However, I do better with it once I know the story a little and know what's coming. Interestingly, I still seem to manage to forget what is going to happen and let the film take me along for the ride - but my mind compartmentalizes enough to protect itself from the shock of terror.
I think it's weird, though, that I found Paranormal Activity hilarious and boring and not at all scary in the slightest. Even that little CG face at the end. I laughed, it was ridiculous. I do imagine that if I ever see The Blair Witch project, even though I understand it's fake, that it will scare the living daylights out of me. :) Movies like The Woman in Black were perfect with their handling of terror. It was scary but artfully done and so didn't, in fact, terrify me. It was enjoyable terror, haha :)
What kinds of suspense do you like in film and what are you favorite scenes?