Beginning in the 1930’s with gangster movies, Warner Brothers became known for producing fast-paced melodramas with colorful over-the-top characters and loud soundtracks. Everything about the films was emotional and exaggerated. Among the best of them were “Each Dawn I Die”; the original “Kid Galahad” (aka “Battling Bellhop”); and “Angels with Dirty Faces.” Their hallmarks were a sense of gritty reality. It’s as if, by exaggerating the various elements, the movies broke down the barrier between viewer and art object. By being hyperreal, they became more real.
The apex of this type of movie, in my opinion, was Nicholas Ray’s 1955 flick “Rebel without a Cause,” which featured saturated color, hyper-emotional acting, particularly from James Dean, and a nonstop blaring score by Leonard Rosenman.
Can this technique be applied to fiction? It’s what I’ve attempted to accomplish in various projects, especially in the ebook novella Crime City USA, and in a different way with my novel about protest in a major American city, The Tower.
Literature of course is a different medium from film. How do you capture the same kind of emotion? One way I’ve tried is through passionate speeches, added to a fast pace and striking plot situations. Art at its best is always somewhat stylized. It’s how the elements are mixed that determines the work’s effectiveness.