Close-Up Of A Cinephile

Here follows a slightly coherent rambling as triggered by Curnblog’s The Cinephile.

Seeing the cinephile as someone who doesn’t embody all components that are usually associated with adulthood seems fairly fitting to me. I mean, it fits me, but I also believe it fits the cinephile in general. I myself don’t know many other cinephiles, and I am hesitant calling myself a cinephile (more about that later), but the few people I know who are as passionate about film as I am do seem to fit that description.

These extreme levels of emotional investment in a non-organic object/subject are the domain of a certain breed of human whose interests generate far more enthusiasm than most people might be capable of directing towards a single (non-organic) topic.

And people who do not possess the ability to be that emotionally invested in a non-organic object/subject absolutely do not understand how anyone could be. I am not just emotionally invested in film as a medium of storytelling, or in cinema as a way of telling the stories, or in just the stories themselves. I am also emotionally invested in certain brands (e.g. Disney), in certain characters (e.g. Jim Hawkins), in certain couples even (e.g. Drapple. Should be the only OTP for anyone). I know I’m not the only one when it comes to this. I am definitely familiar with some students around campus who feel similarly about similar subjects. Tumblr seems to collect this breed of people.

My Dad tells me that my obsession with Disney even stems from before film: I used to read wheelbarrow-sized supplies of the Donald Duck magazine. Even now, when visiting the dentist (who I am NOT scared of by the way), I will go for the Donald Duck rather than some travelling magazine. Does this mean that I am not an original cinephile? It means I didn’t start out as one, that’s for sure. Maybe it also shows that I love stories. To paraphrase August Rush: I believe in stories the way some people believe in fairy tales. Reading is all about stories (even more so when you’re that young), and film is all about stories as well. Film and text have always been linked very intricately. So in that aspect my shift from the one to the other seems very natural.

You might even say I have not actually shifted, but rather that I have added a new dimension to my obsession. I still read a lot. My reading time is in bed, to dull my brain and get to sleep. It’s gotten to such a point that I almost can’t fall asleep without reading a little. In that sense, I believe that reading is more essential to me than film, and even now I feel very strange writing that down. Because film has become a bigger part of my outward identity than reading (or books). I love discovering new stories though, and in some sense I find that easier than discovering new films.Film requires steps. You have to turn on a TV or computer. You have to find a certain DVD or file. You have to insert that DVD, choose languages, sit through the trailers (which I usually do voluntarily). A book, you just pick and open and start. Last summer I was in Spain, where I met someone who had an attic full of books. A house full of books even. In English. I was in heaven. I managed to live without film better than without books (TV series are a completely different matter. Problem being that they keep releasing new episodes while you’re away. Film can’t pull that trick.) But let’s return to the cinephile and the why behind it:

They [i.e. psychologists] might argue that the characters within a film cannot reject, criticise or attack the individual.

I don’t agree with that. I don’t agree with most things psychologists say. I believe psychologists look for problems that aren’t there, just in order to show the world that they know all the labels that can be stuck on a problem. I believe we all have our psychological issues, but this doesn’t mean we all need psychological help. Anyways, I do believe that characters can criticize. They can comment on another character’s actions, with whom the viewer might have identified. They can comment on contemporary issues. Problems. And they might address the viewer as being negligent in not having tried to do something about that. Film can be very confrontational.

Whether that confrontation has an effect, whether it lingers in the mind and may pop up in a random conversation and maybe even cause some sort of action, may depend on the consistency of the film’s universe. Each film is a story, a universe on its own.

Each universe functions according to its own laws, and when those laws are perfect and perfectly adhered to, a crisp slice of unfettered expression floats faultlessly within a four dimensional space.

This is not any physical space. It’s a space the film creates in the human mind, in the mind of each single viewer. This description reminded me a lot of a presentation I once gave for my English class in high school (on the history of fantasy in literature). In order to define fantasy, I found this explanation (by Ed Bryant, a writer for the Locus magazine): “If it tries to restrict itself to the rational, to the likelihood of what might be explained according to the rules as we know them, then that’s essentially science fiction. But if they go for explanations that are innately irrational, contradicting the way things work as we understand the rules – that’s what is thought of as fantasy.”

Fantasy and science fiction are two completely different universes. They both have laws to abide to, but these laws are inherently different. In fantasy, magic just is. It doesn’t have to be explained. It’s a part of that universe, not to be questioned, it existed before the story came to be, because it just is. Which is how film works. I believe that a good film shouldn’t have to explain its inherent laws of its particular universe. These laws should be so much a part of the film’s story, its universe, that they should be clear. Without question. They just are. They are what makes a film in the beginning, and they are what finishes it at the ending. They are the story. And who doesn’t love a good story?

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