Some would consider me a film buff, but I realized some time ago that I no longer spend much time watching movies. Yet I am quite interested in what films represent, and in some of the talented individuals that make those films.

The whole process of sitting down and watching a screen for 2 hours, in search of distraction and cathartic entertainment, has come to symbolize something I am slightly uncomfortable with. In short, these days, I see movies as epitomizing several things: (1) the human compulsion toward individualized narrative and romanticized musings, (2) modern technological production and the nature of compromised group artistic endeavors, (3) the exploitation of others to satisfy egos, and (4) propaganda — whether it be to commercial, social or political ends.

Movies and film are largely a product of the 20th century, but romanticized visual narratives have existed as long as humans have told stories. The visual medium is just another medium. But movies transcend this medium to become a production, a group-endorsed product. By crossing the various mediums, movies seek to create a virtual world — a hypnosis — which forces us to interact with it by receiving it. This is true of all art and possibly human experiences — we behold it and so at least interact with it on that level of mental cognition and influence. But movies (and the stage, no doubt, though movies have a different production which facilitates the specific audience) function under the premise of an audience which is held captive for its duration (particularly in the modern age of $10+ movie tickets). At the very least, this is the most easily understood message from Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange.

Movies change our perceptions of life, by increasing our tendency to romanticize and idealize our lives, whether in the past, present or future. This is not new, or anything specific to movies, but we can be fairly certain that in recent decades industrial civilization has exposed its populace — through movies — to far more romantic narratives on a daily basis than any other group in history. The romantic depiction of a specific narrative leads the film to storytelling. Storytelling is literally a romantic narrative; it is an experience of individuality, projected upon others. As a result, everywhere one looks, one perceives an idealized narrative — a falsehood, created to sustain the illusion of a pristine, pleasurable or controllable existence — a fate with purpose — a destiny of sorts.

The most concise portrayal of narratives today are advertisements. Advertisements portray so much in such a short amount of time, that to the untrained eye, the only recognizable feature of the advertisement is the idealized narrative. The product itself, the subtle details or environmental context, the gimmicks and tricks, the flashing imagery and symbolism — by portraying this in such a short span of time on such a wide scale, advertisements simultaneously avoid both the public’s conscious attention and it’s active discernment. Advertisements then, are perhaps a commercialized consolidation of individualized narrative and propaganda (of course, the real aim of the advertisement is to create an emotional engagement with the viewer, and subconsciously link that feeling with the product of the advertisement).

Is a good story, effective art, merely propaganda? Perhaps the will of another imposed upon our perceptions? Although we may not find a “cosmic purpose” in discussing movies here, we may find out a little bit more about how illusions are constructed.

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