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The Column icon The Column: Issue 24

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The Column is a monthly feature that explores the world of creativity and aesthetics.

Sharing Movies
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

At its heart, art is a social phenomenon. That is, someone makes something and it is shared, either remotely by the 'author' and a 'reader', or with others, like a trip to the movies. The products of our creativity might be perceived of as luxuries by some, yet they are what defines us as a species.

Movie audience

From an early age

Like many parents I've had the great pleasure of reading with my son before bedtime most every night since he was an infant. He's now seven, and it continues to be an activity we enjoy each evening. We don't dress this time up in fancy language, we simply share a story, or two, or three.

As I read out loud, so he reads quietly to himself or makes pictures from the words, or laughs, or holds his breath. I've heard others say many times that reading is a private, insular experience, but not always. Not when you find yourself having fun as the narrative unfolds. Whether the discovery is exactly the same as those with you is not so important, it's the act of discovery and journeying along the path of a shared imaginative experience that we intuitively recognize and value.

As we grow older we don't like to admit the pleasure reading with another can bring. It's too close, a little embarrassing, too, private. We prefer to think of ourselves as self contained, independent adults. We've grown up and gown out of needing stories. We pretend listening to stories is for kids, yet so very many of us enjoy a trip to the movies, and no more so than with the company of others. Stories help us make sense of the world, they allow us to loose ourselves in pretense and imagination, they represent our hopes, our dreams, our nightmares.

Moving Movies

One of two aunts I was brought up by could not watch a movie without crying. She loved films, and she lost herself in them. Whenever a moment of sadness or happiness occurred, she felt for the characters. She would sit on the sofa, the tears streaming down her cheeks,
her eyes bloodshot red. Every now and then she would look over to me, wipe her tears, and smile. You could tell in some ways she felt silly for being so caught up in the stories she became involved in, yet at the same time, I knew as a small boy, as everyone does in their heart, such people have a warm and generous spirit. She was the most loved person I've ever met. Some 25 years after her death she continues to evoke strong feelings in the memory of the many her life touched upon.

Shared experience

Occasionally, and often despite our resistance, there are powerful spontaneous moments when watching a movie with others, especially on a big screen. Sure there are times when you want to strangle the person two rows down who's munching so hard on the popcorn the ground shakes, but there are also moments that only occur in a large gathering of people.

The combined chuckle of the audience feeds upon itself confirming you're not the only one who enjoys the joke, and the chuckle is often as pleasurable as the joke itself. Hearing a hundred people catch their breath from an onscreen surprise is fun, and somehow comforting as we experience a common spike of emotion. More rare, and far more affecting moments can also sometimes occur. I remember as the credits rolled for Saving Private Ryan, the cinema spontaneously erupted in applause. After the applause died down, and instead of a mass exodus, the audience just sat there, completely silent, watching the credits, dazed. Slowly they got up and quietly left the cinema. This was a regular cinema, not an art house movie audience. It was the cinema experience at its best.

The dreams of daytime

When video players and DVDs first appeared there were many who said the days of the cinema were numbered. With the advent of streaming movies over the Internet the false prophesies are set to continue. The truth however is that watching a movie is a shared experience, even when watching on our own. We are always in two places at once: the isolated island that is our self, and the constant thirst to connect with others. This duality of being results in our need for stories which either observe the world, or present a vision, an idea of another alternative reality, that we can safely, for two short hours, place ourselves within.

Movies, in common with the products of all creative activity, are all about connectivity. They are what opera aspired to be, they are the dreams of daytime...


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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author. Mike is also a Director of 2BrightSparks [opens new window], a software company producing award winning backup solutions.

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