Being long term ill gives me a lot of time to watch films. Mainly because there are hours on end when I lack the energy to move. Sometimes I just stare into space and think, my blogs are often the result of that thinking. I know, you wouldn’t believe any thought went into them, but there is, really. After my last blog which seems to have caused a little controversy, I must be careful. Maybe I should start all my blogs with, “this is the authors opinion and does not have to be taken seriously.” or something like that.
I get quite bored watching films and its only boredom that leads me to watch so many. They all have similar patterns and I never really enjoyed doing nothing anyway. Thinking is at least doing something. Unfortunately, exhaustion often prevents even that. So, film watching it is. I do realise many of you must be extremely jealous of me having hours to watch films. I am jealous of you having hours to actually ‘do’ real stuff.
I am not writing this as a poor me blog. I have plenty to be thankful about and I do not spend my days feeling miserable. On the contrary, I am very positive and upbeat about life. You only have to read my blogs to see that.
In my latest musings I realised something. Well actually it reminded me of my Open University teaching in creative writing. There are many different genres of films. Earth shattering, eh? Hang on in there, there is a bit more to come. I want to simplify all the genres down. There are only really two types of fiction, ones where you get a happy ending and ones where you don’t. Think about that for a moment. All those gritty dramas you have watched where they end with uncertainty or sadness. All those rom coms, action adventures, detective stories etc. where things end with some kind of resolution. Of course, these days that resolution may come after a 3- or 4-part film or miniseries; but it still comes. You notice I said ‘resolution’ not ‘happy ending’. Because that is today’s currency for films. Happy endings are so yesterday, aren’t they?
Even in a rom com you rarely get a ‘happy ever after’ ending, unless it’s tongue in cheek. But you do get ‘resolution’. The two main characters come together and agree to ‘ignore each other’s faults’ or ‘not get married’ and yet in some way stay together and love each other. Presumably until they get bored, rather than until death do they part. In part 2 of such films, we see the reality of this played out. Some films don’t even bother with the two ‘love birds’ getting together as a ‘resolution’ instead the two of them end up, loving from afar, or married but forever apart. It’s still seen as a ‘good’ resolution. Everyone feels satisfied at the end of the film; well, most people.
But why do film makers feel the need to put any hope at all into films? Surely our experience of life has taught us that life is hard and full of disappointment? Is it just so that we can escape into a fictional world where the evil guys are foiled and the good guys win? Are films just a cathartic expression of our inner need to see good triumph? Is it just a way to sell more tissues?
When we watch a film, it isn’t about whether we agree or disagree with the main characters. We don’t have to go along with their life choices. We can actually see them as criminal, disreputable, wrong, unpleasant, unlovable. But clever scripting leads us to identify with them. It’s about how we as viewers feel watching them. The writers and director create situations in which we start to see good in the characters or at least understand why they act as they do. As we identify with them, we care what happens to them; pass the tissues. They become important to us in some way. It is really crazy, but any character good, bad or ugly can become one we root for. The days of white hatted heroes are long gone. The days of hero and heroine are gone. Now we have a real mix up. I don’t know who the main characters are going to be. In fact, often the writers mix it up part way through just to confuse me.
Has anyone seen Frozen? Of course, you have. That is so brilliantly written. They mess around with viewers expectation of ‘happily ever after’ so cleverly. First the princess meets an obvious prince, but he is a villain, then we all think Sven must be the love of her life. Then just as she is running to him at the end, we see that sisterly love is the main theme. What a great twist. Well, if you haven’t watched Frozen, there is no need now. Of course, there is, for all the great songs and the humour.
On the subject of songs; one of the most powerful things used in films is music. Themes for particular characters or events can stir our emotions. If that theme is given words and those words are put into the mouths of several of the characters the effect can be very powerful indeed. I don’t just mean in musicals like Frozen.
Music gets in under our defences. It connects to a part of our emotions that seems unrelated to logic. Which means that you can feel moved over something which, if described, sounds simple. A group of people running (Chariots of Fire, Vangelis), a boxer (Rocky, Gonna Fly Now), a young man walking through an airport (The Graduate, The Sound of Silence), a woman sat on a beach (Beaches, Wind Beneath My Wings) etc. Obviously the background story leading up to the point builds emotional response. But as the music plays with or without singing our innards almost move and we fight back tears. Those of us men brought up when, ‘men don’t cry’ certainly don’t cry at movies. If you believe that…
The reason I am highlighting this is that we want life to have a resolution. Somewhere inside, we believe in justice and ‘happy endings.’ Our emotional and mental makeup seems to point us towards a desire for right, truth, justice, no I am not going to say The American Way; I am British. You see where I am coming from though? I tend to share what I am thinking and leave you to process it. I don’t see myself as a teacher. I’m just a thinker who shares his thoughts. Take it or leave it.
Is it that we like neatness? I know that when I watch a film it winds me up if they walk out of a house without closing the front door; so maybe that’s just me. Perhaps there is a mathematical part of our make up? Now I can’t be talking about me; I failed maths. The point I am trying to make is this: do we just want things to add up? Is it that resolution or a neat and tidy outcome feels right? Life isn’t like that; it’s messy and unfinished. So, films and books give us an outlet for a more perfect outcome. That’s my theory anyway and you are welcome to disagree.
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