One question I don’t think gets asked enough when discussing film is “how did it make you feel?” Along with, “was it effective in delivering its message? And did it inspire as it meant to?” After all, these are the reasons I got into film studies in the first place, because film is inspiring. I watch the critically acclaimed La La Land yesterday. A spontaneous meet up with a very good friend led to heading to the cinema to see the 9:45pm showing, and dear God was it amazing. I had been dying to see it since I watched the trailer, and even with an overly noisy (and dare I say drunk) group of people a row across from us, it was the most inspiring film I’ve seen this year. Being that we’re only seventeen days into 2017, I’m not sure how much that says, but it really is a beautiful film, and it reminded me of why I do what I do. It reminded me of why I study and strive to build myself up to do something (hopefully) world-changing. Films feed the soul, or at least they feed mine. Showing heartbreak and loss, defeat and destruction, love and hope, success and creation… Films show us the worlds outside the ones we live in, perspectives we’ve never even thought of, and we can even watch from the comfort of our very own homes.
I think about all the films that have meant something to me, how they have shaped who I am. The three main inspirations in my life have been my parents, my teachers, and films. Childhood movies like Anastasia and The Magic Sword: Quest for Camelot helped show me who I wanted to be, the heroin of my story who although independent can accept help from those wiser than herself. Moving on to films like Serenity and Dead Poets Society, they showed me what I wanted the world to be like, a world where you fight for what you believe in until your dying breath, and where good might not always win, but never gives up. These films and others like them riled me up, made me angry about every injustice, every person whose dreams were stepped on, and made me all the more passionate about inspiring others. Empathy is the best way to get through to people, and that’s what film does. We identify with characters or situations, we see parts of ourselves on the big screen, and in a big way or small they influence our lives, whether we know it or not. Films influence society more greatly than we realise, because we are moved by what we see, if only for a moment. A film doesn’t have to be unforgettable to make an impact, it just has to press one chord in your mind, ring one tiny bell, and it’s done its job.
Watching NCIS as a teen, I decided I desperately wanted to be a forensic scientist. I wanted to help solve crimes, help give families an answer to what happened to their loves ones, and stop whoever hurt them from doing it again. For about 3 years that’s what I wanted to do. That is until I realised how bad I was at chemistry, and that career path really just wasn’t feasible. So, sixteen year old me reevaluated. I thought about why I so desperately wanted to be a forensic scientist, and there was Abby Sciuto and her fictional crime solving world staring me in the face. Television and film has guided me my whole life, because of the way it made me feel. Creating sparks igniting the need to do something in life that made a difference. It is maybe a naive thought that I can, out of the seven billion people in the world, make a difference, but I believe it with my heart and soul, and if that makes me naive, so be it. I study film so I can understand how it works, how intricate camera movements, performance, style, makes us feel the way we do when we watch it. Transfixed by stories that make my heart race, I decided I wanted to create some of my own, but to do that I need to understand how it all pulls together. Each crucial layer, each department doing its part to make something magnificent. “But Megan, some films are plain crap!” You say. Well yeah, that’s true. Some don’t inspire, some fall flat on their face, and that can be for a myriad reasons. Some films don’t have enough love or money behind them to make them truly good, and some used to be good but get squeezed for all they are worth, making their message, their meaning, ultimately lost. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a dream behind them, it just means the dream isn’t complete quite yet.
Every good film has a moral, a message, a purpose. Films have them because we have them, we need them, and we need films to remind us of that. Through the emotions and hardships we see on screen we can be reminded to keep perspective, or be pulled from our misery with humour and fantasy. We make films because they keep us alive, like any art-form does. “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” (Dead Poets Society) A speech that has stuck with me for a very long time. Film makes us feel, it gives us hope. Analysing how that is, and why that is, are both very important things, but pulling back for a moment and asking what does it make you feel? And why does that mean so much to you? Are questions I still find just as important. If a film makes us feel, if it pulls us into its story immersing us effectively long enough to become connected with every person sharing that same experience. By giving in to the stories on screen we see what could be, we see what is, and we relate it back to our lives in a way that makes us question ourselves: is this what I want? Is what I’m doing right? Am I happy? Am I making others happy? Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? For a film to succeed in making us look at ourselves and change, it means we have seen something spectacular and been moved to alter our lives. And I just keep thinking, isn’t it amazing how a film, a tv show, can have such impact on a person’s life?
So I suppose what this rambling mess of a post is trying to say is that next time you watch a film, don’t just analyse the script, or the set, or how good the special effects are. Don’t make it some mathematical equation, good actors plus pretty cinematography equals a good film. Ask yourself how the film made you feel, and why. Ask yourself if it has made you feel enough to change you in some way, because if it has, I would count it as a pretty good film.