This time last year, I started an evening film course called Talking Film. The format was that we would watch a film during the week, and come along on a Wednesday and discuss it for two hours.
Then in September, I did another evening course called Introduction to Film Studies. The format for that course was that we looked at a different theme every week (Narrative, Ideology, Genre, etc.) and watched some clips for different movies to promote discussion.
Attending these courses has had a huge impact on the way I watch and analyse films. Having a tutor who genuinely knows his stuff, and is able to encourage discussion of key ideas in the class, has allowed me to gradually change my experience of watching a film.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but the way we watch films is pretty important. Some are made purely for entertainment, and as such that is the primary reason many people go to the cinema. I completely understand why, after a hard week’s work, people want to sit back, relax and switch off for a few hours. However, that is not why I watch films.
The best films, like the best art, do something to reflect the reality of our lives. As such the under riding question I will be asking myself during a film is “How does this reflect reality?”
Perhaps it is in the creation of a key character; perhaps it is in the relationships between its main players; perhaps it is the way it captures a specific space; or the way it conveys specific emotions.
This can happen in a completely entertaining film that had me hooked from start to finish. It can also happen in a film where the plot remains static for most of its runtime. Either way, it can often take a few days before I have made my final judgement on the film. I find I can only truly know how good a film after I have spent a good amount of time I spend thinking about their key ideas or the way they captured certain aspects of reality.
Of course, you may have your own reasons for liking certain films above others. Perhaps it is in their ability to connect with the main characters; their interest in the themes being explored; or maybe just its use of jaw-dropping effects.
Whatever these reasons are, it is good to identify them. It allows you to see why you enjoy more films than others, and may also allow you to open yourself up to pictures which do not meet these criteria. Since it is by broadening our scope we can allow our tastes to evolve.
The way I watch films has changed over the past year, and I am sure it will continue to change in the future. As I get older I’m sure different stories and themes will start to appeal to me that perhaps had not before. Whatever happens, films will continue to be important to me as they constantly force me to question my own views on the reality we live in. Perhaps one of the beauties of film is that they will continue to be important to you for entirely different reasons.