The Cinema

by Peg Coleman

How many of you enjoy going to see movies? I certainly do as my friends would testify! If you do like to go, what do you like to see? Drama, comedy, mysteries, science fiction, horror, psycholgical thrillers?

The Cinema. A place where one can find new things to dream about. A place where unfilled desires, hopes and dreams can play out right before our very eyes. Where, for a few moments, we can be the hero, we can be the “beautiful person” everyone wants to know, we can suddenly be living in an exotic place far removed from the mortage and leaky roof worries. A place where there seems to be no daily routines, where there are no grinding chores to do or jobs to be done. In other words, a place where we can turn our back for a few moments on what appears to be the reality of our own lives with their routines and sameness and perhaps with their emptiness.

Though I tend to prefer “good drama” I have enjoyed movies such as Runaway Bride, Lord of the Rings and , I confess, even the first Rocky movie (yo Adrian!). Looking at the diverse subject matter of each of these movies they would not seem to have a noticeable common thread. But if you look a bit closer I believe you will find one or two connecting threads, not necessarily in the movies themselves, but in the reasons for going to them in the first place.

One of those threads might be escapism. Would it be so hard to believe that we might use the cinema as a complete change from the routine we have been facing day after day? Have you ever gone for that reason? It is as though we recognize the fact that something is missing in our lives but rather than trying to find out what that may be, we divert our attention by going to the Cinema. Once there we let ourselves be drawn into the drama on the screen. As the plot unfolds and we are drawn into the story we find, if the truth be told, that we are not urging the star of the film on to success but rather ourselves. Through the person on the screen we are recognizing the agonies, the heartaches, the disappointments we face in our own lives and through their action are cheering ourselves on to victory. We are encouraging ourselves not to give up. We are telling ourselves not to feel hopeless or helpless. We are affirming that we are able to make the decisions that can change the situations we are facing. Does that make sense? Have you ever gone into a movie theater discouraged and perhaps a bit down and left feeling encouraged and optimistic?

What does this say about us? Several possibilities come to mind. One is that we sense in ourselves unmet needs. These needs may be things we do not even “name” to ourselves as the admission of them might seem too fearful to face. We sense that we are not able to meet those needs or fulfill that dream on our own, therefore we reach out to the closest thing at hand—celluloid. The interesting thing about celluloid is that it is impersonal. It cannot make demands on us and does not require any response on our part. On the other hand if the writer of the movie intended to communicate something thoughtful and if it was well done, it might be the very thing that challenges us to think about those unnamed fears.

Another common thread could be companionship. Companionship even if you go alone? Yes, even if you go alone. Perhaps more especially if you go alone. As a society we are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that our technological age, while enabling us to work independently from the traditional work setting, may also be the cause of increasing isolation from one another. Couple that with the fact that people are marrying at a later age and therefore living alone for longer periods and you find there seem to be more lonely people in our society today.

Going to the movies has some unique aspects to it. It is generally quite a safe thing to do on your own. You will normally be with people who have at least some similar interests to yours or they would not be at the particular movie. You can sit quite comfortably among a large group of strangers without having to make conversation. Yet you are able to laugh at similar things, gasp with horror at the same time, and know the same sense of relief at the end when it all works out (if you’ve chosen the right film!). At the same time you can be involved in the first common thread of escapism as you become involved in the film itself.

Perhaps a third common thread is that, generally, while not demanding this, movies can present us with challenges that we are perhaps more open to examining when presented to us in this non-threatening context. For who is to say for any of us what will “speak” some truth or challenge some deep held belief of ours. "The Philadelphia Story" was like that for me. It seemed to be challenging us to examine the issue of basic human rights regardless of what our thoughts might be about each others chosen style of life. The movie caught me off guard. I had not gone with the intent of having my thinking challenged in such a personal way and surprise perhaps enabled me to be more open to examine truthfully what was being presented.

So movies, the cinema, can attempt to fulfill many functions in our lives, from pure escapism to companionship to challenging deeply held beliefs. The final common thread I can see running through them all is that they do not satisfy. Whatever reason we go to them for and whatever we come out of them thinking about -- at the end of the movie it is never enough. In a few days, perhaps a few weeks, we are right back at it again. Looking, searching, hoping to find….what?

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