I’ve known several people over the years who will discover something new and make the mistake of thinking they’re the first person in the world to do so. They latch on to it as if it is uniquely theirs and get very defensive when they hear others talk about liking the same thing. I’ve seen it done with bands, songs, television shows, and especially with film. I’ve always been annoyed by this behavior, but recently I experienced it from the other perspective. For probably the first time in my life, I felt protective over a film and had an adverse reaction to someone speaking positively about it.
Now to my credit (or maybe I’m just trying to justify it) I haven’t truly become what i’ve hated. What I really get annoyed at is individuals who’s only true rationale for being protective of a film is that they saw it before who ever they’re trying to protect it from. In my situation it has less to do with who saw it first, and everything to do with what the film meant to me.
Sometimes, a film isn’t just a film. Sometimes, a it represents the mirror image of an event or a situation you’ve gone through. Sometimes you identify with a character so much that you feel like you’re watching a film made about yourself. Sometimes you can feel exactly what the writer and the director were feeling in every single scene and every single shot. When this happens, you’re no longer just passively watching the story take place. Instead, you’re sharing an experience. An experience that, if you haven’t lived it, you can’t completely appreciate.
Earlier this year I saw a film (the name having been left off to protect the innocent) exactly of this type. It wasn’t just a film that I walked out loving, but one that I walked out living. The only difference between myself and the main character at the end of the film was that he had reached a greater level of understanding about his situation than I had.
Now I watched the film with two other people in a little theater with a pretty packed house. One of them really liked it, the other one hated it. The mood of the audience as we exited the theater led me to believe a majority of the audience felt pretty positively about the film. Maybe it was just because I was still processing it myself, or maybe it was just that I was confident in level of experience in my party. Either way, I didn’t feel protective of the film as we headed out to dinner and discussed what the three of us had watched.
Recently though, I decided to revisit this film that I hold so dear. I pulled out my copy, slapped it in my computer, and proceeded to love it just as much as I had the first couple times. A few days later I was talking to a friend and the film came up during the conversation. This friend seemed excitedly pleased with the film and for some reason this fact was off-putting to me. I originally saw the film in a theater full of other people. I even recommended it to several other of my friends. Yet for some reason my initial reaction to my friend’s praise of the film was a feeling that they didn’t ‘deserve’ to feel that way.
It was a strange feeling. I guess I hadn’t really felt that way before. I mean sure, I know some people who don’t really like to look past the surface and I might question their ability to catch the deeper meaning of a film, but this was different. It’s almost like I felt, at least on some level, that I thought this friend’s life experience (or lack their of) made them ill-equipped to really appreciate the film on the level that I connected with it. They were telling me they loved it, but I knew they hadn’t lived it. They couldn’t possibly love the film the way that I did.
It was in that moment that I had an epiphany. Because of the subjective nature of film, I can never know the effect or emotion a film will bring out in a viewer. To me a film could be just a fun little ride, yet to someone else it could mean the entire world. Because of this, I can’t just assume that someone being protective over a film is doing so just because they saw it first. Maybe there’s something a little more to it. Maybe there’s something there worth protecting.
posted by Christopher Schnese