As many already know, Beast was made in an attempt to make the audience engage strongly with a Machinima film. I would say it’s designed to evoke an emotional response more so than most Machinima films so was very difficult to make. Many Machinima artists are familiar with making comedy or action whereas is this is something much less practiced for many of us.
First of all the idea behind the film is something many people feel strongly about as revenge is a well visited theme in cinema. Some of you may have watched the film and found that it reminded you very much of certain others and in fact it’s heavily inspired by Park Chan-wook’s 'Vengeance Trilogy': Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. It may also have reminded you of other films like Reservoir Dogs and maybe Se7en, the list could probably go on and on.
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While the film is nothing revolutionary in terms of storytelling it was a massive challenge not only because of the limitations often experienced in Machinima, but also because it was meant to exist as a short story and as such needed to be kept concise, potentially compressing a feature length story into a five minute film. This means the film’s objectives had to be laid out clearly and while I didn’t want the audience to understand what was happening immediately, I had to make sure the film wasn’t too confusing at any point.
The script was divided into four sections I called the introduction, the banter, the reveal, and the revenge and it was in these sections the very short growth of the characters was to take place. The opening of the scene is something that is very easy to recognize as borrowed from some of the inspirations that I mentioned above. The beauty of having Skiff tide up is that it placed the man in a position of complete power and control. This automatically makes the viewer start to ask questions, which are further compounded by the man asking a question that must doubtlessly be running through Skiff’s mind. Not “Where am I?” but “Who is this man?” and “Why am I here?”. With the introduction over there was only the ‘banter’ section left for the audience to glean what kind of people these characters where before the film changed. I think this is where the bonds with, or dislike of the characters is best made. Some might think this is something that really happens in the ‘reveal’, but in reality the reveal doesn’t give you much choice as far as emotions go. It set the Man up as the victim and Skiff as the bad guy –period. In the banter there was more room to maneuver and the characters have a chance to judge each other in addition to us deciding who was good or bad at this point. Of course the reveal is where the heartstrings are ultimately pulled yet where the ambiguity many people have expressed feeling also seems to come in.
The Man’s story is obviously a sad one, but it’s afterwards that we seem to see a change in Skiff’s character, and the abrupt move on to the revenge section snatches his ability to show any remorse or verbally express any possible feelings of regret. That’s great if you’re on the man’s side, but for those in the audience who anticipated an option for forgiveness or defiance - that is snatched away. At the film’s release event, at The Machiniplex someone even brought up the possibility that this wasn’t the man who committed the crime and that it may have been a case of mistaken identity. While I think that’s a stretch, it’s none the less one possibility that the viewer might be left exploring due to the sudden change of pace. This isn’t how things were planned originally. My first idea was to make the man gradually decend into a rage during the reveal, but I felt that the energy during the revenge wouldn’t have the same high.
The last aim was to hint at a feeling of emptiness in the man after Skiff had been killed. This is what I thought would ultimately make the story a tragedy: the fact that although the man had now succeeded in his long-term aim, he was at a dead end rather than relieved or satisfied. This in turn could raise further questions for the viewer. What now? Where will he go? Can he rebuild his life? Does he deserve to?
This is why in the end, despite the films burrowed premise, and somewhat familiar scene of the “guy tied to a chair” it was difficult to craft.
If anyone would like to find out even more, Ricky Grove has written quite a bit about the film, over at the Machiniplex blog.