There was nothing about the film Primal Fear that I didn’t like when I first saw it. There is nothing about the film that I don’t like every time I see it. I like the story (love it, actually), the actors are great (it was where I first saw Edward Norton) and I adore the background music (CanÃ§Ã£o Do Mar performed by Dulce Pontes) while the credits are shown.
Primal Fear is the story of a lawyer who lives and breathes to win and the angelic-looking client accused of brutally murdering and mutilating the Archbishop who taught him and gave him shelter but who also sexually abused him along with other teenagers in the juvenile home that the Archbishop built. The evil nature of the Archbishop was not even limited to pedophilia — he was also a part of a syndicate and he used his charitable foundations to amass a fortune for himself and his partners which included prominent politicians.
The film is almost a faithful reproduction of the novel (by William Diehl of Sharky’s Machine fame) on which it was based except for a few things. The lawyer, Martin Vail (played by Richard Gere), was a sloppy dresser in the book while, in the film, he looked liked he just stepped out from the pages of GQ magazine. In the film, a video tape showing a pornographic mÃ©nage Ã trois directed by the Archbishop was shown during trial. In the book, the Archbishop’s true personality was never made public.
I like the story of the film version better — at least, insofar as the main plot goes. I like it that the Archbishop’s true colors were publicly exposed and his memory ruined rather than revered. He got what he deserved, in short. Still, the book is rich with trivia and details that could not have been easily translated into a visual medium. Like the part about the difference between a compromise and a negotiation.
Towards the beginning of the novel, Martin Vail won a case against the city and the county. His client was awarded millions because he got beaten up by a policeman. Representatives of the city and the county met with Vail to get him to agree to settle for a much lower price. In that meeting, Vail explained: “If you go in thinking compromise, you assume you’re going to give up something. If you go in thinking negotiation, you decide what you want and what you don’t give a damn about. That way, you get what you want and give up what doesn’t matter. Cuts through the bullshit.”
Now, Sam has never read that book. I don’t think she’s seen the film either. But something happened recently that made me think about the compromise-negotiation bit and it set me wondering how Sam was able to apply that principle instinctively.
For the past several months, Sam had been bugging me to buy her a HTC Tytn II, a super cool but very expensive gadget. She wanted it for her birthday, I told her it was too expensive and we gave her a puppy instead. She never gave up though. She begged, she bribed, she grumbled and threw tantrums… she did every trick she knew and my answer stayed the same — No, it was too expensive.
Then, a couple of days ago, she let me know that she wasn’t averse to buying a second-hand unit so long as it was in good condition. Speedy and I started asking around, then we scoured the web. The least expensive second hand unit was selling for P18,000.00. Still way too expensive.
Then, we found an earlier model of the Tytn II for much, much less. I didn’t think Sam would agree but she did.
The HTC Hermes. In mint condition. We were lucky to find it. And it’s hers and she’s playing with it right now.
So, what happened? Apparently, it was the features she was after more than the make and the model (well, so long as it wasn’t a Nokia). She wanted a phone with a QWERTY keyboard, Wifi capability, a decent camera, a decent browser that will allow her to surf at a good speed. She negotiated so that she could have all the features she wanted even if she couldn’t have the make and model that she originally preferred. More than two months after her birthday, she finally got the birthday gift she had been pining for.
The thing with my kids is that they don’t see the point in spending thousands for birthday parties. It’s been that way for years. Whenever we offered to throw a birthday party, they’d ask us to buy them things instead. I see the logic, of course. Why spend to please other people when it’s their birthday and it is their wish that should matter more? The few times they wanted to celebrate their birthdays with friends, they invited a few and the cost of food and drinks didn’t even reach a thousand pesos each time.
Come to think of it, all those instances involved negotiations too. They knew that like most parents, we find it natural to spend extra for their birthdays. But how that extra should be spent was not a done deal, apparently, as far as they were concerned. The “how” was subject to negotiation. And because the extra was meant to be spent on their behalf, they saw to it that they got the full benefit. It was always about what they wanted and what they didn’t give a damn about.
Looking back at the past few years, it appears that both Sam and Alex have been good negotiators. Very, very good negotiators. I didn’t get to read Primal Fear until years after they were born. Even the film was made two years after Alex was born. So, they couldn’t have learned about the compromise-negotiation thing indirectly from me. Perhaps, with some people, it’s instinctive. Me, I’m no negotiator. I’m too much of a hardliner to be a negotiator.