Sometimes it seems as if my love of cinema is too much. Maybe unhealthy. Particularly for some of those that accompany me to the theatre. Why do I get so angry when a film is terrible? To the point where I actually get depressed. Why do I hit a level of ecstasy when I see a great film? As people say, “It’s just a movie. It’s not like it’s curing cancer.”
Maybe a film can’t cure cancer but it can save a life. It can show you a corner of the world you never knew existed. It can let you hear a voice that you’ve never heard before. It can let you live a life you never would have. It can show you worlds beyond our’s or the mystery and magic of our own. It can show you the horror and greatness of man. It can give you hope. It can let you know you are not alone. And the right film at the right time can define your life.
Nine years ago, when I was 13, I saw Memento. I didn’t know it then but that film would change my life. From that point on, I dug deeper. Not just in film. I looked harder at literature. From watching movies, I learned symbolism. I learned how to think more deeply and examine life in ways I hadn’t ever looked at it before. I began to concentrate on details more. Details are the defining things of our lives. A person’s favorite color matters. How someone grips a hot mug to drink out of it says something about them.
All of this came from seeing one film. This film sent me down a path I’m not sure I would have gone down without it. I am who I am because of Memento.
But what about the event movies? The big tent poles where things blow up? Or the visuals are so epic the only way to really see them is in 3D on IMAX. Perhaps I hate these because they aren’t intellectual enough? Nope.
There is nothing wrong with sitting in a movie to escape, to be entertained, to let a story wash over you and take you to a different world.
There is a reason why the movie industry doesn’t die. Why during the Great Depression people still went to movies. Why in the middle of this awful recession box offices records are being set and broken.
Movies give people hope. And they do it for the masses. Populism isn’t a weakness, it doesn’t make cinema less artful or powerful, it makes it more so. Because cinema can shine a light to everyone in the darkness. It can show you best things people can do, the happy ending you want when the world is anything but.
Films can save lives. They saved mine. I have felt apart for most of my life, different from everyone else. Sometimes to the point of complete and total alienation. But then I go sit in a theatre and I feel like I am home. I feel better. Because in the darkness, we are all united, sharing an experience together, connected to people we’ve never met or talked to.
And in the darkness, with these complete strangers, I find hope.
And I believe there are happy endings.