Twists of all sorts have the potential to be fantastic. Have you ever had a spiral churro? They are superior to churros without a helical form. Cinnamon, sugar, and fried dough always amount to a culinary delight that everyone can enjoy. Compelling characters, intriguing and well-placed plots, and visionary cinematography always results in a delicious film.
How do we make churros and films better? A twist!
Churros are amazing, but I certainly would not want to sustain myself by only eating churros. I may or may not have attempted this method of sustenance. In the same way, one can not include a profound “twist” in every story. Some stories do not need “twists”, and adding these sorts of narrative elements distracts from the substance of the plot.
Let us imagine a brilliant film, directed and written by the critically acclaimed and universally adored Collin Johnson. This film follows the compelling tale of Collyn the Barbarian and his struggle against a very magic dragon. As Collyn, the wondrous and profoundly amicable warrior of righteousness, prepares to behead the the really, quite magical dragon. We have a compelling story so far, but Collin Johnson is a visionary director. Right before Collyn beheads the dragon, it is made clear that the explicitly sibylline dragon is… Actually a totally different dragon from an alternate dimension, that is also actually Collyn’s brother, mother, and Collyn himself.
Truly, a magnificent twist. But let’s take it to the next level: all of the movie has simply been a dream! Within a dream! Dreamed by someone who was dead the entire time! A dead man who had actually been the one that killed his wife the entire time! A wife, who may or may not have been a Replicant! A possibly Replicant wife appearing to exist on a planet other than Earth, but actually the planet is simply Earth in the future! But the future is the past!
And then all of this was just a dream.
Anyone can put a twist into any story, just like every street vendor can make twisty churros. The difference is that one does not need to add, say, fourteen cups of chalk to the churro batter in order to create a helical shape. To include a plot twist in a movie does obviously does not require fourteen cups of chalk, but adding an unecessary twist to a film can leave a bitter taste in the mouth of the audience. Probably a bad taste caused by the liberally distributed thirteen cups of chalk necessary to add a twist to a film.
Independent films, especially dramas and thrillers, have often been defined for their brilliant twists. In the last twenty years, mainstream films have more frequently using the vaguely defined “plot twist” to make a film seem more intellectual or compelling.
Of course, twists are nothing new in film. Citizen Kane has a twist, of sorts. The entire film explores possible reasons for Charles Foster Kane’s infamous last word, “Rosebud”. Why is this twist a good twist? Because it makes sense. Spoiler alert: it’s a sled from his childhood. The development is a surprising one, not because it is far-fetched but because of the context of the story. Mr. Kane had a massive estate with countless treasures, but the thing that he treasured most of all was a worthless sled from his youth.
To actually be enjoyable, twists need to make sense. Increasingly, both independent and mainstream film-makers seem to be compelled to add twists to their plots. This often makes for rather contrived and forgettable plots, rather than memorable ones.
What a twist? Usually, a pointless and bad one. I’m looking at you M. Night.
Dear reader, what film’s plot-twist is the most absurd, in your opinion?