So I just reached the final leg of a three-day weekend. Remember that feeling of intense dread you got as a kid on a Sunday night? You knew the fun was nearly over as you had to wake up early and go back to school the next morning. As much as it pains me to say, nothing has changed. The sun will rise tomorrow morning and I will have to power through another week of work. However, I can take comfort in the fact that I spent the weekend wisely, as I have sat through nearly six movies. No lie. That’s an impressive stretch to say the least. Saturday night consisted of a double feature, with the exquisite Midnight In Paris and the loud but fun Thor. The following night featured The Help (excellent) and the first half of Hook (amusing) before I fell asleep. As for today, I had the joyous experience of seeing Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, in addition to the visceral Warrior. This sudden binge of movie watching lit a fuse in my brain, as I firmly believe that I would be content with watching movies all the damn time, every minute of everyday. I could do it, I’m not kidding. Naturally, this realization gave way to the question of why? I figured I’d take a moment and attempt to provide at least a thread of an answer to the previous question. So here goes nothing:
The idea of dreams was one that was present throughout Hugo. No, not on an Inception-like level (“Hey look! A dream within a dream within a dream! Confused yet?”) but prevalent nonetheless. To me, and I’m sure to others, cinema can serve as the outward expression of your dreams, the manifestation of your deepest thoughts and grandest adventures. I believe we often find solace and satisfaction in dreams because they can be unedited, direct channels to the creative part of our brains; the deep place inside ourselves that lives to tell stories. Storytelling, whether we realize it or not, is perhaps the most common way of communication and interaction we have with other people; it has been since the dawn of time and always will be. Think about it. Usually, when you want to share something with someone else, you tell them a story: “Oh you wouldn’t believe what that guy said to me!” or “Remember that time when we went streaking through the snow?” See? Storytelling is everywhere…it’s the essence of who we are.
The concept of sharing stories envelopes a large part of who we are as humans, which is why we often respond so strongly to different forms of expressing these stories. We use art (books, cinema, painting, music, etc.) to convey a story, to share that deepest part of ourselves with others. But here we are again…why? Why do we use stories as means to connect with others? I don’t think I have the answer to this behemoth of a question and if I did, I would be a very wealthy man. However, for yours truly, stories (more specifically, their manifestation through cinema) serve as a means of connecting to the raw, beautiful emotion inside. Just as we communicate with others via stories, stories communicate right back to us. They serve as a platform of safety, a haven and reprieve from the vast darkness inside that threatens to blanket everything in its path. As strange as it may sound, a film is often the only way I can truly connect with others, the only way I can feel emotions in their purest forms. In watching a powerful story unfold in front of my eyes and hearing a gorgeous cinematic melody support it, I receive nothing but unfiltered feeling. It is the greatest gift of all.
As humans, I believe we are constantly looking for ways to feel something. Think of a beautiful young child. He or she touches or plays with everything they do not understand. They are exploring what is right in front of them. But at its core, their exploration is a search for knowledge. After all, we were once in that same position. But what if we are still adorable babies searching for something? Instead of trying to find familiarity, we strive to feel emotion. There is place of transcendent feeling and sentiment inside all of us, whether we realize it or not. It’s a place where we can truly connect to others, to something that may be greater than us. Some people call it God, others call it sex, the hippies called it love; it has many different names and forms. As for me, I am beginning to discover that this Eden of true, gorgeous vulnerability and serene emotion exists within, not in the sky over my head, on a cloud, behind gleaming, pearly gates. It is buried deep inside me, beneath all the hurt, filth, fear and pain. It may not be easy to see, but it’s there. It is a vibrant garden of liberty, this place of emotion. It is free of all judgment and hurt. It took me awhile to figure it out, but storytelling is the easiest way for me to access this part of me. Cinema is the chariot in which I ride to this Shambhala, this paradise. This inner palace of emotion is as pure as anything you will ever experience. You see, emotion is the purest thing there is in this world. We all experience it in different ways, at different times. But everything we say, do or be is rooted in emotion and feeling. It’s the “end all, be all”, as they say.
So how do you reach your palace of divine feeling? I know how I do. It is by means of something so simple as projected light behind a thin piece of transparent celluloid coated in chemical emulsion. I can only hope that one day, I am able to provide to others what countless filmmakers have given me. I hope I can tell a story that resonates deeply within someone. Actually, I know I will. I’ll get there someday. For me, the emotions you can feel while exploring cinema are some of the best forms of therapy. It can be the lump you get in your throat during a heavy drama. It can be the smoldering fire of inspiration you feel from a rousing speech. It can be the uninhibited wonder you feel before a grand adventure. It can be the cathartic experience of belly laugh during a comedy. It can be the warm rush of discovery, the unearthing of a story so fresh that it just has to be shared. Whatever it is, the bottom line is that you actually felt something, which is the closest we can get to the true essence and purpose of being. It is the greatest moment you could ever share with someone else.
With that being said, it’s time for me to go watch another movie. Why don’t you take some time to access your own inner paradise of emotion? I urge you to go feel something. Trust me. It’s worth it.
(Copyright 2012 ~ Jason Natzke)