How Films Save Your Life

moonlight room
photo: U-Sun Hu

Like with a book, I can tell a good film/TVseries/anythingmoving from a mediocre one within the first 2 minutes. The opening either captivates me or doesn’t. If it does, then there is nothing I need to do but let myself be immersed in what runs before my eyes. If it doesn’t, I either press STOP or leave the cinema as quickly as possible. I have sat through films that tore at my nerve ends, angry at the idiocy or wankiness of whatever it was I was watching. Bearing in mind that I am about to spend at least one and a half hours of my life, the thing I am spending this time on should be worth the while.

And this isn’t about being high-brow or lofty. Conan the Barbarian, for instance, is a great action film and also the beginning of Schwarzenegger’s political career. He did a great job of reminding the voters-to-be of just how competent he is in ridding the world of evil characters with nothing more than a sword and an oily body on which his enemies simply slipped off. Nowadays where wars are being fought with state-of-the-art technology and preferably long-distance, California’s ex-governor was right there in the midst of it, getting his hands bloody. Impressive.

But film/TV/everythingthatmoves is not only important for launching future political careers, there is the entertainment aspect too. Because, let’s admit it, life is dreadful. It sucks the very marrow from your bones. It takes some time to fully realise this but once you do, your longing for any kind of distraction from dwelling on this fact for too long increases. Of course, there are different kinds of distraction, like having kids, or collecting Russian-orthodox icons, but sooner or later it will hit you again and you are yearning for a different reality, a life you could lead if you were, for example, born in Little Rock or Düsseldorf. If you were a legal secretary or a guerilla fighter or making easy bucks selling drugs outside schools. That’s why I watch films. To be there with people in messy situations and find a way out of them, by killing or stealing or throwing china across cosy living rooms. Until now I have committed nothing of the previously mentioned problem-solving things, even though the urge has certainly been there.

Fortunately, we always have choices and different ways of dealing with whatever life throws at us. As a civilised and cowardly being I usually take the route of the least resistance, the one that,
seemingly, offers me the bargain price. But then I watch films and I see all the other things I could have done instead, the lives I could be living. This keeps my primal instincts at bay and also keeps me from going to Africa to do charity work.

And this brings me conveniently to the third aspect of why moving imagery is important. It keeps people’s minds occupied. It appeases our unruly selves. After a mindless day at work, what is better than coming home and switching on the TV/computer/microwave? If it wasn’t for the hypnotising moving imagery we would be wanting sex all the time, or rob the corner shop, or talk to our partner and find out that the relationship is non-existent. But instead film does it all for us, the revolutions, the arguments, the affairs, and, most importantly, calming down the infrequent amorous, murderous and making-the-world-a-better-place urges.



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