That's My Opinion: The Moment A Film Becomes Something More
When I was much younger, my first real romantic relationship ended, and as it is with most people, heartbreak and sadness followed. To distract myself, I watched a lot of movies, mostly without much thought. However, to this day I'll never forget the emotional resonance 500 Days of Summer had with me when I finally watched it. 500 Days of Summer is probably the first movie that I viewed that had a tangible impact on my outlook on life, and to this day, that moment stays with me. If you're not familiar with the film, it follows Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character as he deals with a blossoming relationship that ends and his sad state following the end of the relationship until the moment he begins a new chapter in his life. The details aren't particularly important but rather how the film impacted me, as a viewer, emotionally. I'm not trying to sell you on how great 500 Days of Summer is but rather how these small moments through film lead to something much bigger than we originally anticipated. Despite not necessarily being able to remember the specific details of the film, I was never able to forget how it made me feel by its completion.
The beauty of film as a medium is that it gives us something to connect with both visually and viscerally. For a film to have a single character, plot line, or even a singular moment that you can relate to leads to some of the most memorable movie watching experiences. Just because we can't wield lightsabers, it doesn't make Anakin Skywalker's fall from grace any less tragic (although some would argue his wooden dialogue does). For a brief 60 to 120 minute respite, we are able to escape into worlds where our problems are no longer our own. We can truly immerse ourselves in the world of another and see whole new experiences from a different point of view. The escape and wish fulfillment is the primary purpose of the cinema going experience. However, when you see fragments of yourself on the screen, that leads to something new entirely.
The dichotomy of these pathways of film viewing (pure escape vs. immersion into the source material) allows for a unique experience unlike any other. This isn't to say other mediums do not allow for an emotional connection of sorts (primarily music), but the visual aspect of movies allows for a projection from the viewer that actually exists in real life, even if it is being portrayed by complete strangers. Sometimes, movies will strike an emotional chord, one that really makes you feel something deep inside, even without a personal connection to the plot. One of my favorite films of last year, I, Origins had one of the most heartbreaking final scenes in recent memory and nearly brought me to tears. It was at that moment I realized that the hallmark of a great film doesn't have to be an engaging story, an A-list actor, or incredible special effects. All you need is a moment that stirs something deep within the audience. I'm not advocating that every single film needs to strive to achieve this personal reaction because many times, the pure escape is more than enough. However, in those rare moments where the film transcends the intended message, those special moments, the ones that stay with you years beyond the rolling of the credits, constantly remind me why I love movies and that it is an irreplaceable experience.
Those moments that provide the real human connection, and make fictional experiences into something relatable are the ones I relish when watching films. I don't expect most of the movies I watch to be able to hit me with something I'll carry with me, aside from the thought of, "oh, that movie was pretty good/bad", but when you get lucky enough to have that experience, it becomes something unforgettable.