I’ve been in love with the movies ever since I can remember. When I was little, I’d memorize my favorite films and act them out in my living room. Even at that young age, I understood that film transported me from my little world in the suburbs of Long Island to somewhere new and exciting. I relished seeing into different worlds, meeting different kinds of characters and pretending to be someone I wasn’t. It was a fun and welcome distraction from being bullied at school or struggling to find my place among my siblings. But it was also something else: the precursor to self-realization.
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the movies. I enjoy sitting alone in the darkness of the theater and being overwhelmed by the images and sounds on the screen. What I’m finding, though, is that every film makes me cry. Whether it’s a comedy or a serious historical drama, I am moved beyond words by what I see up there on that big screen.
Part of it is that film helps me confront certain real-world issues that I don’t have to face in my day-to-day. Because cinema is universal, it has the power to make us see beyond our own circumstances and recognize how small our individual worlds really are. I’m often moved by stories that seem far removed from my own and inspired by characters imbued with sheer strength and iron will.
More than that, though, I’m moved by how I see myself in these films regardless of their subject matter. Tears flow from my eyes when I encounter characters whose bravery trumps my own, whose love for people goes beyond anything I feel I’m capable of giving and whose inner beauty I fear could never be my own. In so many movie characters, I find what I know I am not or have yet to become. I see hints of the person I used to be and wonder how I strayed so far from what I know I can be. But, sometimes, I see the people I know and love in these characters.
To put it more simply: as I’ve gotten older, movies have become less a distraction from real life and more a reflection of what life actually is. Film, like life itself, is short and ever-changing. It’s a call to arms for those of us who sometimes don’t understand our own strength or value as human beings; it provides a way to see ourselves for all the good and bad we’re capable of harboring deep within us.
On a grander scale, film has always been a reflection of the time and setting in which it was made. For example, you can look back at Depression-era pictures and see that American audiences preferred the glitz and glamor of the silver screen to the austerity of their everyday lives. And Film Noirs of the 40s offered audiences an outlet for wartime anxiety. In total, film is a mirror image of the people sitting in the theater. The images projected onto those big screens are all of us. We look at them, they look at us and, for a brief moment in time, we are one and the same.
I feel this on a deeply emotional level whenever I watch a film, especially if that film happens to be a favorite of mine. If you’ve never thought about how your favorite film reflects your inner self, I urge you to consider what truths you might find there.