A few days ago, my two daughters Hannah and Bekah and I had an interesting conversation about how we watch movies.
First, Bekah and I analyze movies as we watch. Hannah analyzes movies and her reaction to them after seeing them, but as she is actually watching it is very important to her not to analyze.
Second, Hannah evaluates a movie almost entirely on the basis of how intensely it makes her experience the story. She doesn’t mean that a good movie has to explore grand themes. Some movies are about routine, about the ordinariness of life. That’s fine. Other movies end in emotional ambivalence or even confusion. That’s OK with Hannah too. What she wants, though, is for the movie to allow her to live through the story in the movie as though she had experienced it in her own life. She wants to have really felt the happiness or the tragedy or the sense of routine or the emotional ambivalence.
Bekah and I are more concerned with enjoying or appreciating the various things the movie does well. We have fun when it makes us laugh and enjoy the tingle when it makes us scared, but I think we don’t live through it the way Hannah does. I think it’s a little more distant from us than Hannah experiences.
The reason Hannah can’t analyze a movie as she watches is because she doesn’t want to put any wall between her and the story the movie is telling. She doesn’t want to hold it out at arms’ length and inspect it. She wants to get inside it and then enjoy the ride.
It’s also important to her not to know anything about a movie before hand. She doesn’t even like to know whether other people liked the movie or not. She wants to experience it naively, without expectations or preconceptions about where it will lead.
This is a pretty accurate summing up of what I do with movies. Not that I can't appreciate the technical elements of a film (and frequently on a second or third viewing, I pick up on that more) but I need to have an overall good experience with the movie first. It feels weird to me to admit that because I respond to most of my life in a much more objective, analytical way, and then, with movies... it's almost entirely about the emotional experience. I don't quite know yet how to mesh that with the rest of my life, but maybe it's keeping me balanced in some way.
How about you guys? Are you more analytic or intuitive in your response to movies - or art in general?