1. Emotion is not produced by a character reacting emotionally, as is often misleadingly thought. The crucial prerequisite to evoke the audience’s emotions are an empathic bond between character and audience.
2. The carriers of human emotion are the most basic human needs for
– harmony, balance and justice
– development and realisation
– overcoming loneliness and isolation, belonging to a community
– meaning and significance
These comply with the needs of the characters.
3. Archetypical needs are expressed as values. While the denial of values creates a strong development of desires among members of the audience, the prevailing and passing on of values creates a desired fulfilment of wishes. Both effects create emotion.
The denial of a value is executed through injustice, imbalance, undeserved suffering, harm through no fault of one’s own or unrequited love. The audience’s emotional participation is the longing for a restoration of a value.
The prevailing of a value is executed by characters with a clear disposition who won’t be discouraged. Their attitude exudes emotional values like courage, commitment, honesty and absolute will-power. They touch the audience because they are true to themselves in every situation and speak uncomfortable truths.
The passing on of values happens through interpersonal relationships. The exposition of loyalty, solidarity and compassion evokes emotional longings among the audience. By letting the characters experience intimacy and enter interpersonal relationships which intensify in the course of the film, the audience is emphatically bonded with them. The audience feels involved. Similarities between the characters, especially on an ideational level, make their bond perceptible for the audience. The mutual exchange of material and immaterial attention is based on the most basic human need for a civilisation of togetherness and mutual support: help, assistance, giving and receiving, endowment and acceptance of gifts are expressions of integration. Associated character features are generosity, engagement, selflessness and caring for others. The desire to belong exists on different levels: in the partner relationship, the family, among friends, as a member of a social, ethic or national group. The more complex the social integration of the character is, the bigger is her emotional potential in a story. An interesting phenomenon in this context is the principle of social charging: a scene becomes more emotionally intense when it is ‘witnessed’ by other people. A couple’s confession of love appears to be more intense when it happens in front of other empathetic people because here the emotion is carried over to many others and therewith multiplied. The passing on of values to one or several people evokes emotions.
Emotions manifest as beats on a scenic level. When a beat hits a character’s vulnerable spot her emotional amplitude is the strongest: it makes her reveal her weakest, most vulnerable and sensitive side. The greatest emotional effect though occurs when a character is not attacked at her vulnerable spot but is loved despite or even because of it, because at this moment her need is fulfilled. The more beats – negative, as well as positive – are experienced by the character and are in return dealt out, the stronger is the emotional bond between her and the audience. To have the greatest possible emotional effect beats need emotional resonance space. This is made possible by creating after-effect / aftermath scenes as these allow the characters to emotionally digest the just received beats.
Catharsis is the discharge of built-up emotions. It constitutes the emotional peak of the film and usually follows the climax. The catharsis is a physical reaction to the revelation / recognition as well as self-awareness of the protagonist. During the outbreak of his feelings the protagonist experiences healing or comfort, redemption or relief. The catharsis doesn’t just affect the protagonist but also the audience. Therefore the two need to be empathically linked. The cathartic’s intentioned effect is therefore to connect the protagonist and audience in a shared-affect bond in order for them to experience the emotional salvation and purification together. At this moment of emotional truth the protagonist and audience are as close as never before – ideally they are one. Psychologically speaking the catharsis is the release of fear and trauma by surfacing the unconscious.