Recently, I’ve been rediscovering the joy of watching film with others.
For years I’ve been watching film alone. Usually with my laptop and headphones and very rarely in a theatre. When I was young, watching a film alone seemed like a sad experience. Once I drove thirty minutes to catch a showing of Poltergeist… which made me nervous for the entire drive home. Usually I watched film with friends or family.
But over the last couple years as my desire to watch film was almost an obsession, I found that I was watching film by myself. After all, what normal (American) movie viewer wants to watch subtitled film, silent film or art film? My youngest daughter for a while got caught by film by looking over my shoulder, like, for instance, The Passion of Joan of Arc. By being captivated by foreign film, she learned to overcome her fear of subtitles. But more recently her interest in movies waned and she would rather be on the computer than even watching a film she’s interested in.
But my family loves family activities, maybe because we have them so rarely. We’ve tried to watch movies as a way to hang out together, and it’s been great. This is especially true for dumb action movies and comedies. We will laugh throughout the whole film, and poke fun at the dialogue. Thor was a mediocre movie at best, but with my two daughters it was a really enjoyable experience. The Secret of Arietty was more beautiful because my family saw its beauty together. My daughter and I tried and failed to poke fun at Taken, instead we were both just a little disturbed at this “whole season of 24 in 100 minutes.” But it was good to share our concern.
This last week I took my youngest daughter and my movie bud out to see The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX. It was their first experience in IMAX and the impact was great. But what was best that my daughter and I could comment to each other (quite a bit away from all other viewers, those concerned with the Code of Conduct) about inconsistencies and questions we had during the film. In the end, it was almost a perfect viewing of the film. A big movie on a big screen with big sound and a private conversation with my daughter reflecting on the experience.
It is my belief that a film ultimately is an alternative means of experiencing life. Both real life and unreal life. But in the end, film gives us tools and perspectives that we otherwise would never have, because we would never have the opportunity to experience what we might through film. But would an experience be complete without reflection, comment or analysis? What can we learn about an experience in our lives without others to bounce the experience off on?
I think that film is an experience that is intended to be shared. I think we get more out of film if we do share it. This isn’t always possible—I still have no one in my non-internet life who is willing to watch Seven Samurai with me. But I can reflect on my film experience with other film buffs on the internet. But I still hold precious the times I can share a film with my family and friends, where we can glory in or laugh at a film together.