Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What I want from a film

People often comment how unusual they find my love for such a wide range of films. You see, I will say, "I love Transformers" just as readily as I will note Life Is Beautiful as my favourite film to date.

People more often criticise my refusal to view films which I confidently predict will fail to satisfy me. Among fellow film students I was dubbed naive to avoid what were considered "essential" features of the New Zealand film canon. Too often I heard, "But it's so well done" or, "It's true to life" or the ultimate, "It's something you just have to see".

My response is, "Ah...no, I don't, 'just have to see' it".

It's all about what you want from a film. If you want to be shocked, to be induced to feel guilt for society, to be discouraged, to be afraid, or to become acquainted with someone's spin on "reality", watch the news. These are not things I want from a film. I skipped each and every Once Were Warriors screening not because I'm in denial, or because I "live in a box"; I skipped them, because it is my choice where I get my dose of "reality", and what I want to feel after being exposed to a film. I don't just "have to" - this is my leisure time, and I know what I want from it.

This has led me to consider what the films I enjoy have in common - because there is plenty they do not.

Be it Bollywood, a small art-house production, foreign, or a product of Hollywood...

At the end of a good film, I will feel...
  • inspired or uplifted. When the credits roll, I like to sigh - either for a feeling of wholesome "goodness", for having a desire to change for the better, or for feeling like I was part of something spectacular; and/or
  • eager to study. Alternatively, as the final songs are played, have me rush to search up on world history, literature, or art - if a film spreads an excited zest for learning, it is worth viewing. I guess you could classify this as another type of "inspiration", but I'm giving it its own bullet.
During a film, I want you, film-maker, to...
  • evoke emotion through an excellent musical score. This is how Cloverfield failed me - I cannot become engrossed in the action of your tale without music, and your PoV personal camera style quite rightly doesn't allow for non-diegetic sound. I can even become fond of extraterrestrial robotic organisms if you'll play a good tune.
  • create suspense by withholding information. Dear Director, If you show me the thing I fear too soon, I am disappointed in you and your storytelling. For example, when I saw the little green men in Signs, dear M. Night, all suspense dissolved. And Mr Lawrence, did you not know the darkness within the bowels of the abandoned buildings of I Am Legend's NYC was terrifying - before I saw a close-up of a creature? Show me less so soon. Make me wait. Similarly, a good romance is made up of ambiguous looks and potential feelings - the less you lay out, the more I care. That final kiss in Emma is so grand because feelings are so long kept quiet (thank you Austen, foremost).
  • avoid offending me. Be tactful, be subtle, be kind. You appreciate that I don't need to see everything to understand a story, and you don't want to insult my intelligence by including everything.
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