Secret motifs on the Screen: Part3: The Watering Hole
This is part three of my ‘secret motifs’ series. Let’s look at bars, restaurants, saloons and other watering holes. A very common motif.
A watering hole is where all animals gather in a sort of strained peace. The slightest friction can spark off a free-for-all. In the movies, it’s a place where the hero forges alliances, meets the villain’s men or at least learns about the power of the opposing forces. This has to happen early in any story and screenwriters and novelists use this device to advantage in almost every movie. The scene is usually one of apparent peace, but you can always smell the tension in the air. Sometimes fights happen.
Harry Potter meets people from both sides at The Leaky Cauldron.
In Desperado, as in many Westerns, all intros take place in the cantina.
Luke Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi enlist Han Solo and Chewbacca at the Cantina. Indiana Jones meets his ally and heroine in her tavern in Nepal. He also meets the villain and a fight ensues.
Neo meets Trinity at a party in The Matrix.
In Troy, Paris slips off from a party to see Helen, noticed by a frowning Hector.
The Terminator in Judgement Day acquires clothes, bike and a gun from a biker at a diner.
Many movies start off with a party; check out The Godfather and Fellowship of the Ring.
Sometimes the story requires a modification to this device. In The Sound of Music, Maria meets the children and the Captain in the hall, and dinner happens later. But the verbal duel is there for you to see. Maria loses a bit in the hall, but gains points at dinner.
Similar to what happens to Jack at the high-class dinner in the Titanic.
The watering hole symbolizes the major conflicts in the story, in a frozen capsule. It also serves as an intro and a point when the hero acquires weapons, tools and allies. Apart from the above, we come to understand the nature of friends and enemies, and enemies assess the hero.