Films have a very unique ability to play with our emotions. As the barrier of disbelief becomes more and more porous, our emotions become tied to the ones on screen. Even the bad movies, or at least the mediocre ones, can do this. Some of the most memorably intense emotions I’ve felt have been caused, at least in part, by movies.
For example, tonight I saw Rocketman. An entirely adequate movie, a better version of Bohemian Rhapsody, but that’s not saying much. But watching a character (or at least the slightly fictionalized version of Elton) exercise their creative talent so well was truly inspiring. In the middle of the movie, I wanted to get up and go home and write something. My intention was to create something better than this column, but it’s certainly a start. It’s times like these that I wish I played instruments, or could sing at all, because it would be the time to pour my heart and soul into a creative expression. It can certainly be done with writing, but by people more talented and practiced than yours truly.
But movies can have the adverse effect too.
I watched Manchester by the Sea in theaters. After, I walked to my car in silence. I spent that night almost despondent. Not sad, just empty. I haven’t watched the movie since, so I don’t know if this experience was a one-off, or if the feeling mellows with repeat exposures, but something about the atmosphere of that movie was oppressive and suffocating to a degree I haven’t often encountered.
I had a similar experience with A Star Is Born, as you might be able to tell from my review. That review was one of the few times I’ve felt like I was truly inspired—I sat alone in the car in the cold writing on my notepad the first few paragraphs, just to get them out of my head. For a brief moment, I felt like the emotional gauntlet of that film helped to mold my own emotions into something I could see, understand, process, and then regurgitate through the thin lens of a Heights movie review.
How does something as simple as a movie do that? What is it about this medium that seems able to transform the ordinary into something a little more than? Films catalyze our feelings.
Christopher Robin was also one such movie, as unlikely as it seems. Walking out of that film, which is ostensibly a happy kids movie full of beloved CGI characters and charming accents, I felt that I had been unsuccessfully lied to. Christopher Robin tries to tell us that, even as boring and mean adults, we can still embrace our childhood again. But it lies. Christopher Robin traded away his childhood, his imagination, his joy, and his friends for what he believed were the right things—education, order, structure, careers. The movie tells us that we can get these things back, but that’s not true. Once gone, they are gone forever.
We cannot reclaim childhood whimsy and imagination. As we grow, we assign value to these immaterial and priceless pieces of ourselves and then we sell them to society for pittance. And we are upset with others, especially our children, for refusing to give in to the same as quickly as we did. The imagination of children throws the mistakes of our past back in our face, and we resent it. I’m not saying that everyone should have the same takeaway from this children’s movie, but it made me profoundly sad.
Writing this down has been a catharsis of sorts, successful at least as it has allowed me to satisfy the creative inspiration that Rocketman instilled within me.
I hope you watch a movie that makes you do something in a different way soon.
Featured Image by Paramount Pictures