Last night I was involved in a conversation with family about how we all look at movies and then, in turn, how they affect us. The typical inaccurate stereotypes were thrown around "Men can't understand this...","Women aren't entertained by that..." and of course "You'll understand when you're older." All of which, of course, are wildly inaccurate blanket statements that simply are not true. Not about men, not about women, not about young people, and not about older people. But perhaps the more interesting part came when my mother-in-law said (and I'm paraphrasing a bit) "David looks at things from an artistic standpoint, direction, writing, angles...at least from what I have read on facebook."
At the moment the comment didnt really bother me. In the context of the conversation, she was saying that the way I percieve violence and language in film is from an artistic standpoint and not a parental one--which is certainly true. I am not a parent therefore I watch films for my own enjoyment and entertainment--not to screen them for children (although I do think I could do it if you asked me to). And while I may be more careful about what I bring into the house when a young David or a young Lia is in the house, I would like to think that my fundamental beliefs on movies and music will not be changed when that day (far off as it is) may come.
But it got me to thinking about how I, and in turn we as a people, look at movies. Do I look at films differently than other people? My first instinct was to say Yes, of course, I've taken film classes, I know more about the way a film is made than the average person on the street. But what exactly does that mean? Just because I know a little bit more about how a film is made than the average person doesn't mean that my film-going experience is different than other people (also, that was quite the conceited thought you just had there, self, cool your jets). Are cinephiles so caught up in the technical aspects of films that we can't look at films in any other way? Of course not. In fact, I think it is impossible for anyone to step foot in a theater and not watch a film from a personal, emotional, or cultural standpoint. It is impossible not to take a film and look at how aspects relate to us or affect us. Movies do this to us without us even knowing (at least good movies do this to us without even knowing).The basic question, and the reason why we as a people love going to movies is because in some way or another we have an emotional or cognitive response to what is happening on screen. We all feel movies.
For instance, last year Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan was released. It was a wonderfully made film, superbly acted, and impeccably written. However, and this is not necessarily a knock on the film as I think it was intentional by the filmmakers, it left me emotionally cold. I understood and could see why it was a well made movie based on what was happening on the screen, and I certainly went home and had long conversations about it with my wife and my friends--yet I cannot say that the film affected me emotionally. Black Swan was a much more cognitive film. It was a thinking film and really is meant to be a head-trip rather than an emotional journey--which it succeeds wildly in being.
Now, on the other end of the spectrum, Aronofky's film The Wrestler (an equally well made film) does not have the trippy psychological plot that Black Swan has. However, it is very similar. It is about a physical performer, who loves his craft so much he is willing to give anything to it. A rather basic premise, yet it is one that The Wrestler and Black Swan share, perhaps on purpose. What makes the films different is how we relate to what is on screen. The Wrestler is much more of an emotional journey than Black Swan is. Perhaps because while Black Swan was very much a journey into the head of it's main character, The Wrestler is very much a journey into the heart of it's protagonist.
We all bring our own baggage with us into the movie theater. However our baggage does not necessarily mean that we are able to comprehend a film more-so or less-so than others. Say a person does not come from a broken home and watches the film Kramer vs. Kramer. Is he or she still able to understand the emotional complications of the film? Of course they are. Of course they can see the hardships and feel the heartache. Why? Because it is a well-made effective movie. The only difference between a person watching the film who has come from a broken home and a person who hasn't is one will be able to say: yes, that is an accurate portrayal and that is how it feels. They both feel what is on the screen, one just might be able to say whether or not it was they way it was for them.
Movies are a part of our culture for good reason.They connect us. They bridge the gaps that are created by life and help us to understand each other better. This is not only true about film, but any kind of craft.So, I guess in a way, we all look at film from a technical and artistic standpoint--we just don't necessarily realize it.