Cinematic style and Socionics: a comparison between Beta and Delta

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Following our previous articles about core themes and narratives in Beta and Delta movies,  here we compare the main cinematic features found in their movies. As discussed on the previous piece,since these Quadras value opposite aspects, significant differences arise in terms of visual style and acting. As usual, we will be analysing films’ contents, so beware of spoilers!

The tone of Beta films involves intensified delivery (Fe + Ni). This is achieved by a theatrical, colourful and striking way of acting. An example can be Jack Sparrow (EIE) in the “Pirates of the Caribbean, the curse of the Black Pearl” (2003), who captures the attention with his striking manners. Everything he does is a performance, a way to transmit his personality, even when he is alone. Jack Sparrow’s entrance can be seen on the video below: 

In contrast to Beta, the style of Delta movies involves a Realistic* rendition of characters and situations (Te+Si). This is achieved through a careful choice of sceneries, costumes, sound effects, dialogues and acting style that are as close as possible to the common reality which the movie is portraying. In the below scene from Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” (2017), the style of direction, as well as lights and sounds, describe the situation without cinematic indulgences, helping the audience immerse in the experience of the characters.

Power dynamics (Se) play an important role in Beta films. They are expressed through the use of physical space and body language, such as characters’ stance and position in physical space and in relation to material objects and other characters. In this scene from the 1959’s movie “Warlock”, Blaisdell’s character shows his control over the situation by remaining where he was – at the bar counter when he is called by an opponent. He then moves slowly and positions himself directly in front of his opponent, literally and figuratively facing him. His response comprises self-assured mockery with an implied threat. The dialogue that happens between him and his opponent uses metaphors (Ni) that cleverly follow one another in a logically consistent way (Ti) – the “blinding” glow of the gold handles of his colts being used to describe his obtruding presence in town.  “What if someone painted the handles black for you?” – “That might do. [pause] But who’s to do it?”.

As opposed to Beta films’ interest and showcase of external conflict, Delta movies focus on exploring characters’ internal struggle and experiences. Such introspection is often delivered in a subdued way, refraining from explicitly stating characters’ feeling and intentions. Instead, the scene will slow down to emphasise small physical details (Si) as well as the subtext through the actors’ facial expressions (Fi), assigning meaning to silences. This is visible in the final scene of 2004’s film “Brokeback Mountain”, linked below. In the ending, the audience finds out that, 20 years before, the protagonist Ennis Del Mar (SLI) had stolen Jack Twist’s (IEE) shirt as a token of his presence. Along with a close-up on Ennis’ moved expression, the revelation about the shirt is a hint to love and desires which he had kept secret all those years.

Stepping into the ethical domain, Beta films wallow in a soul-stirring passion. Those are the scenes where the close-ups may come into play to transmit the intensified emotions (Fe + Ni) to the audience. Here is an example of emotional close-up where it intensifies rage – movie clip from the “Gunfight at the OK Corral” (1957) shows Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday mad with a repressed rage, as he makes an effort not to brace Johnny Ringo because Doc gave a word to his lawman friend that there won’t be any fighting (see scene below).

Depending on the film genre, it is not uncommon for Delta stories to include inspiring motivational dialogues or magical/absurd elements adding meaning to the real world. A very clear example of the former is this famous speech from “Dead poets society” (1989), where John Keating (IEE) encourages his students to make the most of their lives and to become the best versions of themselves, as shown on the video below.

The injection of supernatural elements into real-life situations can be noticed in all movies by director Guillermo del Toro, such as the below scene from “Pan’s labyrinth” (2006). In this movie, the protagonists Ofelia (EII) interacts with the magical beings populating her garden labyrinth, while important real-life events are affecting her family and the historical surrounding.

*in this context, this term refers to the connotation describing the literary/artistic movement

If you liked this article, check out our series around Socionics and movies!


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Beta Quadra on Screen

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Beta Quadra is heavily underrepresented on screen. Therefore for the sake of illustrating the Beta protagonist I will use some examples where Beta story is a subplot of films of other Quadras.

Beta Protagonist

Beta presents their protagonists as larger-than-life characters, who don’t surrender in the face of overwhelming obstacles and defy the reality or die trying. Beta protagonists are strong-willed, passionate and single-minded individuals with an absolute focus on what they want.

In the course of the film they might be:

1. Fighting for a goal The protagonist has a certain goal and goes after it despite the hardships on the way. An example of this kind of protagonist is Jack Sparrow (EIE) from the Pirates of Caribbean. It’s an Alpha film in the sense that it is story driven (Aztec gold curse and plot twists and turns are at the heart of it), but Jack Sparrow’s storyline is very Beta. He has one goal – to get back the Black Pearl.

2. Finding a driving force This is normally an unexpected epiphany,  “being-hit-by-something” that drives the protagonist, puts the hero in danger and paves the way for the final conflict. This is usually the case for a love story – when the hero endangers himself for the sake of love.

This can be seen in the romantic storyline of the Music Man (1962). It’s another Alpha film with Beta subplot and even a Beta protagonist – Harold Hill ( SLE ). He achieves what seemed to be his goal – successfully conning the people of River City, but surrenders it all when he realises he is in love. What is important here is that there is no change to his character – he doesn’t surrender because he sees the err of his ways, but purely because of his emotions towards the girl. 

3. Losing the vision of themselves The obstacles try to sway or force the protagonist and trick him in betraying who he believes he is. The ‘vision’ here has a holistic meaning (Ni) and is also Fe (I am this cause I like this) and should not be confused with Fi social identity.

In Warlock (1959) the protagonist Clay Blaisdell ( LSI ) is swayed from his image of being the shootist and starts thinking he should settle down and effectively surrender his personality.

Antagonistic force in Beta films

Obstacles in beta films are hostile agents that are to be overpowered in order to preserve one’s character intact, because change equals defeat.

Antagonistic force in Beta films will be often ‘faceless’ – represented by a crowd, gang, community or society rather than by an individual. This is the case for the Fighting for a goal narrative as in this narrative the antagonistic force is there purely to provide obstacles preventing the protagonist from reaching their goal. In the Pirates of Caribbean both other pirates and the British navy are the antagonistic force.

In the Finding a driving force narrative the antagonistic force is again usually ‘faceless’, but in this case to create a danger that the protagonist chooses to confront or accept as inevitable rather to avoid. In the Music Man (1962) the protagonist chooses to stay on and face the mob of people he has conned rather than skip the town while he still can.  

In the case of Losing the vision of themselves narrative the antagonistic force will be more often represented by a particular individual who is a carrier of the idea of what the protagonist should become. Since change of an admirable character (and the protagonist in Beta films has to be one to be admired – Ni, Fe) equals defeat, it is in itself harmful – regardless of whether the antagonist’s agenda is indeed to hurt the protagonist, or the antagonist has the best intentions at heart. The antagonist is often able to sway the protagonist because the protagonist falls for the antagonist. In “Warlock” 1959 Blaisdell (LSI) believes he is in love with Jessy (EII). Jessy wants him to change by settling down and abandoning his life as a gun for hire. Protagonist’s ally Tom Morgan (IEI) braces her trying to show Blaisdell that this life is not for him. In a Beta dramatical way Tom Morgan sacrifices himself to prove his point. The death of his friend opens Blaisdell’s eyes to who he himself is and he realises ‘he is nothing’ without the life he had with Tom Morgan.

There are also ‘false’ antagonists. This case can be seen in Justified TV series where the protagonist Raylan Givens (LII) has a sort of brothers-in-arms relationships with the seemingly antagonistic character Boyd Crowder (EIE). Both of their stories are equally important and not in direct conflict. They are literally on the different sides of the law, but they have an obvious respect for each other. In the course of the series they join forces more than once, even though there is also a lot of tension between them that wouldn’t exist between two Beta characters.

Beta Tragic Narrative

Beta tragic narrative follows the same three options as above, but results in the protagonist’s death. However despite the fact that protagonist parishes, his death is invariably shown as noble and never equals defeat. The example of it is Sundowners (1950) where Kid Wichita (SLE) is not killed in a fair fight, but rather is shot in the back.

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