Some of my fondest childhood memories involve going out for movies. The auto ride on a Sunday morning to a single screen cinema, my brother who would be waiting with the tickets, a long walk to buy less expensive popcorn that saved us ten rupees, the upward trek to our balcony seats and voila! Shahrukh Khan in black and black running towards me on the 70mm! The whistles, cheering crowds, the smell of popcorn and the quintessential alaap made my days for a fortnight until Govinda stole the next with his killer moves.
Times have changed, but the fondness for cinema remains. Here I attempt to encapsulate the meaning of this experience and what cinema means to me in 5 points- Buzzfeed style.
Cinema has given me a broader worldview. It is my education.
Cinema has given me an insight into worlds that I would otherwise not see and characters that I would otherwise not relate to. Whether it is Schindler’s list where I learnt about the ghettoisation of the Polish Jews in Nazi-occupied Krakow or Blood Diamond where I was introduced to the dark underbelly of the diamond trade during the Sierra Leone Civil War, cinema has taught me history, geo-politics, culture and more. Through the insecure, invidious Jake Lamotta in Raging Bull or through the corrupt, greedy Jordan Belford in The Wolf of Wall street; I have learnt to study and understand human beings through empathy. Cinema has not just made me its own student, but also a student of the world and its people. Good cinema is equivalent to good literature, for it may or may not improve your vocabulary, but it will surely impress upon and instil the same result, or, maybe, a better one.
Cinema stays with me.
This impact is solely due to the power of this medium. Unlike in theatre, dance or other visual media; a filmmaker can dictate what he wants his spectator to see in the narrative. A live performer can use the aid of a spotlight, but that does not achieve the impact of a close up of the human face or an object of dramatic importance projected onto the massive screen, in a dark room.
Cinema is an integrated art form.
Though Cinema is projected on a controlled and elevated dramatic canvas, it feels more real than any other visual art form. Cinema lets us see a real train travelling in a real train station, as opposed to a cardboard train on a stage, making it easy for a lot of people to maintain their suspension of disbelief. This storytelling technique that feels closest to reality is further accentuated with the use of any/most other art forms. The movies use music, dance, drama, lighting, photography, crafts, fashion and so on. This makes it an art form for every artist, an art form of juxtaposition. This also gives movies the status of patron-ship to encourage and make use of an array of art forms to better their own.
Born to watch Cinema.
We understand that the sound of the train that we see passing through on screen is the diegetic sound of the train, and the poignant flute score is a non-diegetic cue for us to feel a particular emotion. Similarly, over a 100 years of film viewing has evolved us into natural film-viewers, who understand the language of cinema due to implicit conditioning and without training. We can understand the impact of a camera movement and recognise whether it is us moving closer to the character or whether the character is moving closer to us. We understand the impact of a close up versus a wide shot, without knowing the technicalities of the rules or the names of these shots. Just as the minimalism and references of memes are now comprehended by a whole generation of millennials, we understand the unspoken language of movies – it is like it has a superpower for communication!
Cinema is limitless.
Most people have the power to comprehend what is being communicated, a select few have the power to conceptualise it. When a beautiful abstract thought can be transformed into a tangible thing on screen, then it makes for a very liberating form of storytelling. Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Requiem for a Dream, Inception, Birdman, A Clockwork Orange and others have proven time and again, that if we can conceptualise, then we can create. There are no boundaries in what can be shown on a canvas and thus superheroes and wizards are now part of popular culture. Cinema is a form of expression for people from all ages and cultures, for it is an expression that encompasses all and bares all.