Exploring our love of film
Film has a unique power in human culture. In many ways it is the optimum in mass communication and probably the world’s most accessible art form. Across the developed world there are some 7 billion cinema admissions per year (the equivalent to a ticket for every person on the planet); but what is it about film that has turned it into such a ubiquitous art? What is it that film gives us…?
Film to escape
Jerry Seinfeld once said: “If I wanted a long, boring story with no point to it, I have my life.”
All film, to an extent, exists to take us somewhere outside of our reality. Whatever the genre, the emotional journey into the filmic world usually involves relaxation, anticipation, immersion, emotion and resolution. The suspension of disbelief theory, though originated before the birth of film, is believed to have a great deal to do with the rewards of watching. In breaking down the boundaries between ourselves and a work of fiction, we respond deeply – feeling the highs and lows, the fears and thrills of a narrative. Film encourages our hearts to beat faster and stimulates our nerve endings in a way that lures us back again and again.
Film for fantasy
Film is unlike any other medium in its ability to transport us visually and sonically to places we can never visit in real life… sometimes to places that don’t even exist. Without question some of the most successful film franchises of all time (from superheroes to Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings) connect us to ‘other worlds’. Witnessing a seemingly living alternate reality is an experience which can leave a permanent mark on our memories and create fans for life.
Film for spectacle
Cinema is the art world’s biggest show off. The size of the screen, the depth of the sound and the absolute demand of the theatre on people to focus, in silence, sets a scene before the opening titles even roll. The cinema is a place to be overwhelmed, to drop our jaws and feast our eyes. Many talk of certain films ‘deserving’ the full cinema experience and great cinematography empowers an audience to truly experience and feel with surprisingly little effort on their part.
Film for stories
Throughout cinema’s history, it has been the great narratives, the most compelling stories, that have been the most critically recognised. Storytelling is one of the factors that defines our humanity. Since drawings appeared on cave walls we have found ways to share tales. Be they light and entertaining or deep and emotional, we have an intrinsic need as a species to experience meaningful narratives.
Film for learning
Cinema has become a powerful vehicle for culture, education and even propaganda. It is instrumental in shaping opinion and influencing society. Through film we can develop an understanding of our history, or other cultures. We can feel as though we have come face to face with people and places we would otherwise not know about and not only understand them, but feel it as though we have been there, face to face.
Film for change
Many films set out with aim to change culture. At their most challenging, films make us stare at the problems and realities of the world in which we live. They can make us question our humanity, and lead to a greater understanding of ourselves. They can challenge our place in the world, our values and behaviour, they can deepen our morals, provoke a response and open our eyes to new possibilities.
From fleeting entertainment to challenging works of art, for as long as we are prepared to indulge in the peculiar experience of sitting in a dark space with a bunch of strangers, film will be part of our world. Seemingly the real reason we connect with film is the same reason we connect with any art – for the emotional response. We are intrigued by our own humanity, from what stirs and excites us to what makes us cry. With recording facilities now at the fingertips of the masses, there has never been more AV content in the world. Film, nowadays, is everywhere, it’s universal; but cinema, at its best still remains extraordinary.