I love cinema. I always have, and I believe I always will.
At a very young age, I fell under the spell of a rather particular brand of cinema: the movie musical. My heart would pound furiously when the von Trapp family hid in the depths of the abbey, hiding from the terrifying Nazis. I would cry rivers at the death of the dear King of Siam, but in turn would be consoled by the happiness Dorothy found upon returning home. Even then, the limitless potential of cinema was known to me. Wherever I wanted to go; whatever I wanted to feel – cinema had the power to take me further than I could possibly imagine. I believe it was this inherent escapism common to all great that first endeared me to the world of film.
While escapism – a certain detachment from one’s reality – is arguably an intrinsic element of all art forms, nowhere is it more apparent than in film. If music is the art of the ears, and painting of the eyes, then cinema is undoubtedly that of the mind. Cinema, in so many ways, is an instrument of illusion. This can be interpreted as the mere projection of images in quick succession creating the semblance of motion.
On a deeper level however, the narrative film is the complete immersion into an altogether different world. There are only two kinds of characters which a viewer will respond well to: that which he is; and that which he hopes to become. The reason for this is simple: we must, if we wish for an effective and engaging experience, have someone whom we can slide into the shoes of; we need to be able to walk around in his world, and understand the life he leads as if it were our own.
Great cinema gives us this rare and wonderfully intimate gift: the ability of seeing the world through another’s eyes. We realise also that we are not alone, but that others share our same fears and trials. Because cinema mirrors so well the workings of the mind, we often unconsciously superimpose ourselves onto these characters. The heroes of the movies do not merely teach us to be the best we can possibly be, but actually allow us to live extraordinary lives for an hour or two.
Movies can pack such an emotional punch because they are so inextricably linked to the real world. Almost all other art forms require the artist to create “from scratch”. The raw material of cinema however, is the very world in which we live. There is little difference between an object’s representation on film, and the object itself which is being filmed.
And yet the art of film is obviously not the exact imitation of the world. Rather, I like to think of cinema as the precise and rigorous dissection of our chaotic and contradictory realities, and then, with the filmmaker’s dual tools of montage and mise-en-scène, its careful reassembly into an artistic and universal truth. It is this that distinguishes film and makes it absolutely unique.
Through the eternal battle between reality and illusion, as well as the twin components of the artist and the real world, we gravitate towards a greater understanding of the human condition. Using the likeness of the world we know, film illuminates our paths and teaches us who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going to go.