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Secret motifs on the Screen: Part3: The Watering Hole

Updated on March 17, 2011

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.


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    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      You are right, Thor! Thank you.

    • First Eagle profile image

      First Eagle 

      10 years ago

      Great written

      Water is the symbol of life, and in the life it is a lot of conflict. You describe it so well.

      First Eagle, Thor Einar

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, my friends, Funne and Michelle!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      I never thought about this before. Hmmm, interesting. Ah I remember Sound of Music, it is one of my favorite movies. Yes, I can still remember Maria and the Captain fighting and the dinner after that. hahaha Thanks Kenny.

    • funnebone profile image


      10 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

      You change how I watch movies..thanks

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Isabella, and hope it's of some use to you as a writer. :)

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 

      10 years ago

      Love it!! :))

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thanks and have fun, Zsuzsy! And remember me to the sidekicks! :)

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Kenny! I've never put much thought into what the meetings at a watering hole could symbolizes. But now that you've pointed it out I will keep looking for them.

      Fun hub, regards Zsuzsy

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, dear friends, Frank and G-Ma. My first visitors, welcome!

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      10 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      yup.... this is right on Kenny and you put it so well as always..I along with Mr.M. have a much better appreciation of the Watering Hole. Even as in Bambi or the Christmas Story these points are the same. They gathered for many reason's . Love your new pic also. My blessing to the family, G-Ma :o) hugs

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      10 years ago from Sydney

      I have never appreciated all this areas previously, now i will make myself more observant. If I can.


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