This post is from February 2008, a time at which I obviously didn't have any children as when do I get the chance to see movies now!?! "Unheard of" is a series while I'm on vacation where I dig up old posts few people have read.
Reality Check - The Truthfulness of Movies
Watching movies is by no means a formulaic experience, as I find myself engaging movies in a variety of different ways, particularly depending on the genre of the film. For example, certain films are primarily there to entertain, working as a sort of escape from the realities of everyday life, where I catch a glimpse into the often unrealistic, but nonetheless enjoyable experiences of various characters (e.g. Dumb & Dumber).
At other times movies encourage an artistic appreciation, as even while a little off track from the mainstream films, the level of creativity they display demands recognition. Or even other times, I find myself interested in films as a form of cultural engagement, especially if ‘everybody’s seeing it,’ ensuring I won’t be left out of the next conversation on the latest films.
More recently, however, I have found myself engaging films in a different manner, a way that applies to most movie genres if you ask me. I am calling this type of movie watching the ‘reality check’ approach. What I mean by this is that I think all movies give a window into some aspect of the human experience (good ones at least). While often over-exaggerated in portrayal, I find that at certain points in a good movie, I find myself in agreement, saying, “Yup, that’s the way the world is.”
This form of movie watching struck me most recently when I saw the highly acclaimed film, There Will Be Blood (not recommended for the faint of heart). Daniel Plainview is the main character, acted brilliantly by Daniel Day-Lewis, who is driven by an overwhelming desire for success in the oil boom of the early 20th century, a success to be achieved at all costs. At one point in the film, in a rare moment of vulnerable self-reflection, Daniel comments on how it is his pent-up hate for everyone around him that ‘protects’ him from weakness, allowing him the strength to literally succeed over and above everyone else. I was struck by the truthfulness of his statement, exposing the loneliness that accompanies, or even is required, for power-hungry individuals to achieve success. In this moment of honest vulnerability, Daniel reveals a sobering truth of the human experience. As I watched this scene, then, I encountered a ‘reality check,’ a glimpse into the truthfulness of our world. To the creators and actors of There Will Be Blood, I am grateful.
As a Christian, the idea of recognizing truthfulness in the stories being told around us, through film in this case, witnesses to the formative nature that truthful story-telling has in our lives. As we Christians claim the biblical narrative as the story that forms us, the smaller stories we encounter in our cultural experience compliment the story-forming nature of our faith. Therefore, anytime I am offered a ‘reality check’ through film, I take it as an opportunity to be impacted by the truthfulness that I hope will continue to form me as a person and the world I live in.