Here’s why I love movies. I just finished watching “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and realized that, while watching it with the windows open, the traffic going by, people clicking in and out of the gate that opens onto the sidewalk, and conversation happening between those walking on the sidewalk, I hadn’t heard any of it. Or rather – I had heard the sounds of life happening outside my window but they hadn’t penetrated as usual.
Films transport. The good ones take us over while we are watching them. Films – even fictional films – show us another reality – not the one we experience usually - that we enter and live in – even if only for a couple of hours while we watch them. Films show us ways to BE that we haven’t considered.
Movies carry us along with them. They provide character and plot that we haven’t lived, but might – if we dare take a step outside of ourselves. Not recreating ourselves as if we were the character in a film, but perhaps locating some aspect of self, some buried desire or characteristic, that the character in that film awakens in us.
It’s not that we might be someone else – someone from a movie – but that we might become fully who we are. A movie can reach out to us and teach us who we might be if we will notice how we are affected by even the smallest image.
Watching Evelyn/Judi Dench walk alone along the streets of Jaipur, surrounded by its natives, who appear so different from her – watching her observe her surroundings and respond to them stirs up in me the excitement I often experience when I am in a crowd of strangers. I feel myself swept along – almost as if I’m outside of the milieu while yet inside of it – noticing how this person moves, the generous laugh of another, the sunlight on the face of a third. And to watch Evelyn move through her scene reminds me that I don’t seek out such scenes often enough.
When Norman/Bill Nighy finally explodes at his wife, Jean/Penelope Wilton, about who she has become and how little he receives from her, I experience again the pride and energy of having expressed myself honestly – balls-to-the-wall style – to others. A chord strikes in me also at the opportunities I’ve let slip by for sharing my truth.
I love movies for – and often in spite of – the ways they manipulate me; the sounds or the produced or source music combine with the camera angle, the choice of sharp or soft focus, the composition of the shot all combine to elicit an emotion. In life we get to choose what we attend to – and can, and do, make these (often unconscious) choices to avoid a feeling.
When I’m captured by a movie moment, or swept along in the movement of the film, someone else’s choices draw the emotion to the surface. Yet, in involvement in a well-composed film I don’t feel resentful of any of this. Instead – after viewing such a film I feel only thankful – that everyone involved in it did what they did. I feel grateful – as if I’ve received a gift – and one, that unlike cake, is something you can both have and take in – at the same time.