The suspension of disbelief

In filmmaking, suspension of disbelief is such a crucial element that often decides the fate of a film. If used effectively, it can make the audience believe in the fictional world and can make the characters relatable. This helps the viewer to connect with the characters so that they care about them and invest themselves emotionally in their journey. But failing to do so can make the experience alien and creates a disconnect between the audience and the film that often leads to its debacle at the box office or OTT.

Let’s see the elements that contribute to creating the suspension of disbelief.

Character: if the characters are well-developed and appear relatable, it helps the audience connect with the story and character on a deeper level. If you are able to do so, you have created a solid ground for your story.

Storytelling: We all have ambitions, goals, fears, and intentions that drive us in life, likewise a character in a film needs to have these things for him or her to drive the story ahead. In your film, your character’s objectives, motivation, and conflict should be clear and well-crafted for a compelling story.

Dialogue: How would you feel, if you go to work and everyone starts talking like Shakespeare characters? You will be creeped out, that’s what unnatural dialogues do to a film. Therefore it is essential for a film to have dialogues that sound natural and true to the character’s personality.

Logic: In films, characters’ actions and motivations should align with their established traits. If characters begin to behave in ways that are inconsistent and contradict established rules or traits, it can jolt the audience out of the movie’s world. A logic rooted in the character’s past and its consistency can help to maintain credibility and the audience finds it easy to invest themselves in actions.

For example, in the film “Chinatown,” Jake Gittes, the private investigator, consistently displays intelligence and expertise while unraveling a complex case. His actions and deductions align with his character’s traits that are established earlier in the film, maintaining a sense of logic in his discoveries.

Similarly, a fictional world in a movie should have its own logic and consistency to ensure the audience remains immersed.

Example from Harry Potter: In the Harry Potter series, the consistent use of wands as tools for performing magic reinforces the internal logic of the wizarding world. Wands are essential for casting spells, and all characters abide by this rule, maintaining consistency.

Emotional resonance: Tapping into universal emotions can bring your character closer to the audience. A good example would be Alien in E.T. Although none of us have ever seen an alien in real life, when we watched E.T., despite all the dissimilarities between him and us, the one thing that connected us is his desire to go back home, the fear of the unknown, and friendship. We have all faced these emotions at some stage in our life, and that is what connected us with the character, and we resonated with him emotionally.

Set design and costumes: Proper attention to set design and costumes will make the world and the characters living in that world feel real and authentic. For example, in Avatar, despite the uniqueness and differences of their world from ours, the attire and the set design made the characters appear authentic, and their story became believable.

These are just a few of the important elements to create a suspension of disbelief. Good writing, strong direction, and authentic performances are a must to make the characters and the story believable for the audience to create a bridge between the real and fictional worlds.

In addition to these, good music will enhance the emotional tempo of the movie. A well-crafted character growth will compel the audience to invest in their journey. And most importantly if the theme of your movie is relatable and can resonate with the audience’s personal experience and emotions that will create a connection between their personal lives and the fictional world they are seeing on screen.

Before we wrap up this video, let’s just look at two different examples, one in which a carefully crafted story has allowed us to accept the fictional world and its characters and the other example where the filmmaker has failed to establish a believable world by not abiding by the rules.

In “Avatar,” the audience is asked to believe in the existence of a lush and alien moon called Pandora, which is inhabited by a humanoid species known as the Na’vi.

While watching the movie, you might find yourself captivated by the mesmerizing visuals and immersed in the richly imagined world. Despite knowing it’s a fictional creation with human actors portraying different species, you may find yourself believing in the reality of Pandora.

In Avatar, the suspension of disbelief lies in its ability to evoke emotions and connect with the audience on a deeper level. The characters are well-developed and relatable, with clear motivations and struggles that resonate with universal human experiences. You might find yourself emotionally invested in their journey, rooting for their triumphs and feeling their losses.

On the flip side, we have a movie that is often regarded as one of the worst films ever made, The Room. It is known for its poor acting, bad dialogue, and unrealistic character motivations. The film’s lack of logic and genuine emotion made it difficult for the audience to engage with the story and characters.

So the next time when you are out making film, make sure all these elements are well taken care of, and you should be able to give your audience an emotional experience and authenticity to your world and characters thereby creating a suspension of disbelief.