How To Get More Out Of Movies

...and life

What questions and expectations are in your mind as you enter the theater to watch a movie? Are you asking if you’ll like the movie? Do you expect action or romance? Do you ever wonder what gift the movie has to offer you?

I get a lot out of movies and I love to talk about them with others. And when I say I get a lot out of them, I’m not messing around. I declared that Frozen literally changed my life and I’m not even being sarcastic. (Read about that here.)

Abstract ThoughtDespite my self-declared distinction as a “writer,” I prefer the movie over the book every time. It might have something to do with the fact that I think in shapes and vague images and have a difficult time imagining elaborate descriptions, so I skip to dialogue. The “Abstract Thought” room as depicted in Inside Out is a perfect example of what happens in my head.

But I love the movies. I don’t have to focus hard on imagining, so I can just think and feel. And that’s where the magic happens for me.

Open Curiosity

Let’s look back to Les Miserables which came out in December of 2012. I recorded my observations about why I got so much out of the movie at that time, but the concept of open curiosity applies to every movie…every life.

Considering the many criticisms I heard regarding the quality of singing and singers chosen for the Les Mis, I was surprised the noticable lack of musical precision did not bother me as it often does. Instead, I was lost in the moment, inspired with every note. This is why:

  • Curiosity.

    Rather than participating as a critic looking for certain elements, I came to the theater wondering what the experience would be like. Curiosity is an interest that doesn’t expect a certain answer. There’s no subtle demand to wondering…no agenda. Just the question.

  • Openness.

    In my curiosity I didn’t guard my emotions like I often do when I don’t know what to expect. Instead, I gave myself permission to trust the filmmakers to draw me deep into a story and experience that took me to the depths of despair and up to the power of grace and love and redemption.

I realize that other directors may have set a higher standard of musical excellence. Other actors may have interpreted the characters differently. Other cinematographers may have chosen different shots or angles or lenses… But in the middle of the film, I wasn’t thinking about what they should have done to give me a different experience. I was experiencing. I made a mental decision after the first imperfect note to trust the artistic choices of the filmmakers and enter into the experience they were offering.

In the end, I was overcome by hope and desire. I sensed God’s presence with me – His love for the world – the great need for His light – a desire to love another and “see the face of God”.

Criticism Is The Safe Path

Why is it so tempting to view to view our life, others’ lives and God’s interaction in our life with a critic’s eye? I wonder if it’s partly because we are afraid of the unknown. We want the security of knowing everything will work out for the best, so we try to figure out how to make life work out for our idea of best. Rather than being curious, we are critical.

I can’t believe he said that!
What was she thinking?

Viewing life as a critic allows us toLive Dangerously pull out of the experience (where it is quite dangerous since who KNOWS what might happen) and close off our emotional responsiveness. From this seat in the house, we do not have to feel vulnerable or sad because we can be angry that someone did something differently than we’d hoped. Maybe it was a friend. Maybe it was ourselves. Maybe it was God. But there must be someone to blame. Rather than being open, we are closed and cynical.

In The End

Granted, I knew the plot of the Les Miserables story. I knew it was going to be miserable. I knew the misery would be redeemed in some way. So perhaps the fact that I knew the end of the story made it easier for me to remain open in the middle of despair.

I don’t know how every story will end here and now. People will get hurt. Some will feel tortured. I will die, though I don’t know how or when. There is ugliness, despair, misery. It’s awfully hard to feel hopeful when I don’t know what might happen in the end.

Or don’t I?

The thing is, if I consider what the Bible says and believe there is a bigger story…
if the end is one where justice and love rule side by side…
if there is a greater goal than happiness here and now…
if the whole world is in the pains of childbirth as the New Creation is born…

If my story is not the end…

If my story contributes to the greater Story…

Revelation 21:4-5
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

If this is the end, can I trust God in the middle of the ups and downs of my story?

Open curiosity or closed cynicism?

What do you want to ask of the movies? What do you want to ask of life?