When we see ourselves in a film
I was mistakenly put into a film class in college and haven't looked back since.
The anatomy of a film was dissected and analyzed for hours, where we would then spend time writing about the specific composition, underlying themes, and the evolution of gender roles.
In particular, I love the mise-en-scène, the scores, long rolling shots, or when a film doesn’t stick to a linear time frame. But most of all, I love the storytelling.
I don’t think we watch films to necessarily be entertained, but instead in hopes of seeing echoes of our own lives.
A couple of years ago I found a particular film that felt as is if it was mirroring my own current life. You immediately learn in The Beginners that the main character’s father just died and he is left alone to sort through his belongings and his own emotions. My mom had just died then too. It was difficult to express the strange and foreign feeling of having to continually gather and provide paperwork to this person or to that agency. At 24, I had no idea how much paperwork was necessary when somebody dies. I was so tired of it all. In the film, the main character wasn’t privy to this reality either. There is a very, very short but beautifully artistic shot regarding this and the character’s exhaustion and I just thought FINALLY, someone else knows that feeling too.
Fast forward almost 4 years, and I am in a much different place emotionally, but it was the first time I realized how meaningful a film could be when it falls into the hands of the right person. When I hear the same instrumental from that film, I always think back to that unique and raw time. And, with the Oscars approaching this weekend, I managed to find another wonderfully resonating film.
Failing miserably every year, I try to watch all the Oscar nominees before the ceremony. I love these films in particular because they are nominated not because they have fantastic writing, costume design, and camerawork, which they inevitably do, but they are there because they resonate immensely with someone. This year was not without valiant effort, but I again fell short in seeing all the films. But alas, I did see a few and Lady Bird was one of them.
I’m sure that the film undoubtedly checked a lot of boxes that deemed it Oscar-worthy, but again, I liked it because it struck a more personal chord. I, too, went to a private school that I should have been more grateful for at the time. I disagreed with my mom at every turn and always wanted more or wanted something different. I, too, had my hopes set on going to a liberal arts school in NY, where I held the same sentiments as Lady Bird,
"I want to go to the East Coast. I want to go where culture is, like New York."
Without spoiling the entire movie, the only sizable difference between Lady Bird and I was that Lady Bird got the opportunity to apologize and ultimately thank her mother.
I, naturally, was that person sobbing well after the film ended, who everyone likely thought was a lunatic. It stuck with me for a few days following, a bit of a gloomy low-hanging cloud - but it feels so good to feel something, doesn’t it?
Film is a medium that pulls at our hearts and awakens our vision, validates our deepest emotions, and it opens our eyes to realize all of us are far from perfect. Like the best of arts, they remind us what its like to feel alive. Everyone has a story, and films serve to remind us that they are not that different than our own.