How do you like your MacGuffin?

Holiday reading about the new Indiana Jones, I was intrigued by George Lucas mentioning many times that he had found the perfect MacGuffin for his new movie. And that what the reason why he never did another Indiana Jones for 15 years, because he never thought he’d found such an interesting MacGuffin that he’d thought he would want to make another movie.

A MacGuffin had been initially introduced by Alfred Hitchcock:

“It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is always the necklace and in spy stories it is always the papers. We just try to be a little more original.”

Hitchcock used the MacGuffin as a curiosity hook, a way to set the whole movie and give it a context and purpose. But ultimately thought that what the MacGuffin was had little importance and that the audience didn’t care.

However, George Lucas believes that the MacGuffin is the driving force behind a movie and that the audience should care about it as much as the hero. From the Vanity Fair interview with the film expert:

The first building block of any Indiana Jones movie, according to Lucas, is something called the MacGuffin. The term, popularized by Alfred Hitchcock, refers to an object or goal that kicks the story into action and drives it to the third act. Hitchcock held that the less specific the MacGuffin the better. In his 1959 suspense classic, North by Northwest, the men chasing Cary Grant are after microfilm containing “government secrets”—that’s all the audience learns about why the film’s villains cause the hero so much trouble—and Hitchcock considered that to be a perfect MacGuffin, because it was so wonderfully vague. While Lucas agrees with his predecessor on the importance of the MacGuffin, his conception of the device differs significantly from Hitchcock’s. Rather than seeing it as a gimmick with the function of getting things rolling, Lucas believes that the MacGuffin should be powerful and that the audience should care about it almost as much as the dueling heroes and villains on-screen.

It’s a concept that has got a lot of potential for advertising.

In the Key to reserva, Scoresese’s hommage to Hitchkock by JWT, the MacGuffin in ths story is clearly the product (a cheap sparlking wine from barcelona I’m being told), following the Hitchcock definition of it.

But a MacGuffin could be used to broader and stronger purposes, as the driving force behind a brand, like George Lucas uses it in his movies, as a way to make people care about it. But it surely helps managing the curiosity gap that viral experts Campfire talk about (click here for the Fastcompany’s article) or understand the mystery box JJ Abrams talks about:

Not sure where I’m going with that, too fresh from holiday!

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