The Story Structure of “Body Heat”

The following  excerpt is taken from

The Dramatica Class Transcripts

William S1 : How about applying all this [Dramatica Structure] to a film… say Gump or The Client or The Piano?

Dramatica : Well, let’s apply it to oh, say, Body Heat for example…

Dramatica : Are you all familiar with that film?

RDCvr : Yes.

Dan Steele : Okay.

Phyll10837 : Yes.

JennyCrusi : Yes. And this is terrific by the way.

Dramatica : All right…Now the Main character is going to be one of the four classes, and each of the other points of view will be attached to the rest. First of all, if you had the Dramatica structure chart, you would see that under the Physics class, one of the types is “obtaining”. And sometimes looking at the types help choose the class, by getting into a bit more detail. The Objective story in Body Heat is what? Anyone want to paraphrase?

William S1 : Murder and sweaty lust.

Dramatica : That’s more thematic, WIlliam, but Objectively, the story is about Ned and Mattie trying to get her husband’s money. That’s one fourth of the story. The objective part. The analytical part. The efforts and activities they go through (the bomb, the break in, etc.) are all pretty much “physics” in nature, and the TYPE of physics is geared toward “obtaining”.

So Dramatica sees the Objective throughline (they) as being attached to the Physics class. Now, since Objective and subjective are dynamic pairs, we would expect to find the subjective story in the square diagonal to physics. And that would be Psychology. The subjective story is about the relationship between the main and obstacle characters. And I would say that Psychology pretty well describes the relationship between Ned and Mattie. As you’ll recall, one of the definitions of Psychology is “manipulations”.

Now, we have Mind and Universe left over, and one is going to be Main Character and the other Obstacle. Any guesses on who’s which? Look at the yearbook from Mattie’s high school, that we see at the end, it gives us a big clue. She is quoted as saying, “I want to be rich and live in an exotic place.” Now, she has kept that dream all these years, everything she has done has been driven by that fixed mind set. She is a mind character to the hilt. Whereas, Ned Racine, is in this because of his “situation” (the definition of Universe). He bungled a will in the past, as a result, he is the only one who can help Mattie accomplish her plan, which requires a bungled will.

As further “proof”, Under the Universe class, are the four Types: Past, Present, Future, and Progress. Even in the opening scene, Ned voice overs…”That’s my history burning up out there”. Which is Kasdan’s way of illustrating both past and progress in one symbol. Its quite a succinct story!

Keep in mind, that there are three levels below the class level, so each of the throughlines gets more and more detailed, as Dramatica asks you to make more refined choices about the nature of your story’s problem. Ultimately arriving at the character level(elements) where the source of the Dramatica potential truly resides.