"He who has never failed somewhere, that man cannot be great."
- Herman Melville
TRUE CHARACTER is revealed in the choices a human being makes under
pressure - the greater the pressure the deeper the revelation, the truer
the choice to the character's essential nature. Beneath the surface of
characterisation, regardless of appearances, who is a person? The only
way to know the truth is to witness him making choices under pressure to
take one action or another in the pursuit of his desire. As he chooses,
The revelation of true character in contrast or contradiction to characterisation
is fundamental to all storytelling. People are not what they appear to
be. A hidden nature waits concealed behind a facade of traits. No matter
what they say, no matter how they comport themselves, the only way we ever
come to know characters in depth is through their choices under pressure.
"Man is only truly great when he acts from his passions."
- Benjamin Disraeli
It is said that the greatness of a man is the measure of his surrender.
The greatness of Toshiaki Kawada has always been the strength, will and
passion he has shown in expressing something inside him he cannot get out.
To have a winner there must be a loser.
Thus, the elation of winning exists only because there is pain in losing.
The fact that Kawada puts himself in a position where he must be prepared
to suffer, so someone else might experience the joy of winning, says something
about the sacrifice he is willing to make. What happens when the effort
to win is in vain? Surely it is easier to be a person who has neither enjoyed
much nor suffered much than to have known defeat at all. What is it that
makes Kawada fight even when he is sure to lose, if through losing we discover
that which we do not know, nor want to know, about our essential nature?
Kawada's perseverance, where giving up would save him from knowing defeat,
tells us that courage is at the core of his nature. His efforts have been
long, laborious and sometimes apparently hopeless, but the difficulties
he's encountered have been triumphantly overcome. Kawada has accomplished
his object through exercising the greatest skill, patience and persistence
and his story is one of undaunted perseverance crowned by eventual success.
There is a far greater pathos in people who have the courage to bear
defeat without losing heart. That is true character, expressed through
choice in dilemma.
But to say it's in Kawada's nature to persevere doesn't explain his
desire or his dramatic need. What he wants to win, gain, get or achieve.
Kawada perseveres and wins this match, but he knows winning is merely
a relief. What does the winner fight for if the moment of victory is too
short to live for? When the person who has always trailed demands answers
from the winner, we find out the truth about both men. When one man finds
it within him to answer the other's will, it is then, and only then, that
he can truly say: "This is what I am about." Self-expression: "I
am what I am, and what I am, needs no excuses."
When Kawada, who has always trailed, demands answers from Misawa, what
is it that he questions?
Misawa is unmoved by joy or grief. He is a person of great control.
One who is indifferent to pleasure or pain and who suffers the endurance
of pain, hardship, etc. without complaint. He is a man of great fortitude
and impassivity and we imagine that he submits without complaint to the
unavoidable necessity governing all things. But to Kawada, Misawa is the
GREAT PRETENDER. We consider Misawa to be Stoic, because of the sum of
all his observable qualities: style of speech and gesture, personality,
values and attitudes, etc., but this singular assemblage of traits is characterisation,
not character. Kawada doesn't believe that Misawa's true, essential character
is Stoicism. What seems is not what is.
Kawada progressively builds pressures that force Misawa into increasingly
difficult dilemmas, where he must make even more difficult, risk-taking
choices and actions, revealing his true nature. It isn't that Kawada
is trying to show us that the person who we thought would act heroically
is a coward. He knows Misawa isn't a coward and that he has great mental
toughness. But as William F. Halsey once wrote: "There are no great men,
only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to
What drives Kawada is his desire to force Misawa to express, through
his choices and actions, that there is pleasure in winning and pain in
losing. Kawada wants to expose Misawa as an "ordinary man," who feels both
joy and grief like the rest of us.
Watch the match; and see for yourself the way Kawada builds pressure
to force Misawa into expressing his true character through choice in dilemma.
What's great about the revelation of Misawa's deep character is that when
characterisation and character are matched, the contradiction between them
suggests unfilled dreams or hidden passions within his inner life that
are never shown in his outer appearance. Misawa loses himself to
Story is metaphor for life; make a connection with this match and lose
yourself to find yourself!
Credit: Robert McKee's "STORY," and Syd Field's "The Screenwriter's