On Tuesday night, I went to a screening of the silent film "The Last Days of Pompeii." All in all, I was pretty bored by it, but I did like one concept that I've enjoyed in other films like "Magnolia," "The Ice Storm," and "Short Cuts." And that is... the irrelevance of human disarray in the face of uncontrollable nature.
In all these movies, they lay out a plot that's filled with characters who have their own problems and obstacles and whatnot and you as an audience member get engrossed and concerned by them... and then... bam! A volcano erupts. Or the sky rain flogs. Or ice covers your city. Or an earthquake shakes the ground. And all these problems are leveled (and I'd argue - humbled) by something no one could ever control. Your little, inconsequential problems take a backseat to the greater power of chance.
It's a pretty beautiful concept.
And an awfully honest one, too, if you ask me. It's weird. This corresponds with an essay I just read that criticized conventional Hollywood plots. The essayist referenced Epes Winthrop Sargent who wrote that the most exciting thing in theatre is when a cat comes out onstage. Because no one in the audience knows what that cat's going to do because it isn't privy to the plot. It doesn't have to follow some pre-determined arc. Anything can happen. And then the essayist suggested that film plots in total should "let the cat out of the bag."
I myself have tried to do stuff in my work that does this, but often times, it just becomes a criticism of how art tries to have "spotaneity," but ends up controlling it even more. Like... I literally put a dog onstage just to make the commentary that trying to get it to do what you want it to do is impossible - similar to when you're in a relationship and you try to force your significant other to be how you want them to be. It can't happen.
But maybe I'll actually try to "put a cat onstage" as opposed to just saying it's impossible.