30 November 2007

Horror Movies, and Entering into the Story

David Taylor (of Diary of an Arts Pastor) has an excellent new post called Horror Movies Revisited, elaborating on his thoughts from an article he wrote a while back in Christianity Today (which he links to).

I think the art of film is under-represented on this blog, and I hope to remedy that at some point, with more reflections from the excellent courses on film & theology, taught by film director/producer and theologian Bruce Marchfelder, that I've been auditing at Regent. But for now a link to something someone else has written is all I have time for.

I'll just tag on quickly to David's post with my favorite horror movie (I don't like many and haven't watched any since beginning to think more specifically about film as it relates to faith, so I don't have a lot to compare this to): The Sixth Sense. In it a young boy (played by Haley Joel Osment) has a troubling gift of being able to communicate with spirits who don't know they are dead. "I see dead people," he tells the child psychologist (Bruce Willis). What I liked about it: It's very suspenseful without being too gruesome. It was very well acted, an especially brilliant performance by the young Osment (age 11), who was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor. It has a delightful surprise twist in the end. Now I'll have to see it again and watch for some of the things David talks about, and see if the way I watch it has changed now that I've been studying film theory and the theology of film.

OK, one other thing I thought of before I end this post. I've been thinking a lot lately about an idea that I've been introduced to relatively recently: Fiction and film are meant to be stories which we can enter into, identify with the protagonist, and participate in some way in the hero's journey, coming out the other end with new ability to face whatever challenges it was the main character faced in the story. I had never thought of the concept of story that way before, and in fact I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around that notion. It must be second nature to people who have read lots of fiction all their lives. But I've come from a math & computer background, was never really much into reading literature until the past 10-15 years, and most of the reading I do is non-fiction. Though I've watched movies all along, I probably don't see anywhere near as many as the average filmgoer. So I haven't learned to read stories or watch movies with an eye to entering into the narrative. I view it all objectively as something that is happening "out there" in the world of make-believe, or else something to educate me about some period in history (e.g., Schindler's List). I might grip my chair if the action gets intense or suspenseful, but I never imagine myself facing the same monsters or difficult parents or whatever challenges there are in the movie. The closest I've come to being transported into the world of a movie is the feeling I sometimes get when I come out of a cinema, that time in the outside world has stopped and doesn't matter anymore. I'm still running through all the open questions the movie left me wondering about, and I can be in a daze for several minutes. But I am not actually seeing myself in the shoes of one of the characters. Am I imaginationally handicapped? Do you enter into stories you are reading or watching? Is that something one can learn how to do, or does it just happen without you knowing how you do it? Is there any hope for me? Or is my more cognitive experience of movies perfectly valid and I should just not worry about it? Or is it possible that I do actually enter into stories without being aware that I'm doing it, and I just need to learn to be more self-aware while I'm reading/watching?

1 comment:

Darlin said...

For me, when I am reading I have almost always found myself becoming part of the to say.

I guess that is what helps me determine whther or not I like a book. If I cannot "get into it" I usually dont like it very much.

It seems you read fiction the way I read over my chemistry modules....there interesting but I definatly dont find myself becoming part of it!

That is kind of hard for me to grasp, because relating to a story in such a way has always just come natural to me. So I have trouble even imagining reading some books [that i love] and not actually enjoying them the same way.

But I do not think this makes you imaginationally challeneged or anything of the sort. This is just one of many characteristics/qualities that makes each person differnt. =]

Hmmmm you are definatly behind on horror movies! They are not all gory....
I hate pointless horror movies that rely on gore and things jumping out to surprise you to give you a fright! But I have foudn that there are plenty out there with a deeper plot and much more interesting.


Merry Christmas!