For Better

For better or worse, film changes us. We enter the dark theatre and we put aside the clutter and activity of real life. A world opens for us…

Film has the uncanny ability to completely rewire one’s seemingly unshakeable perspective. It’s a universal transporter, a recharger, a motivator and inspirer. A good film captivates your soul, juices up your head, connects you with deep truths at the heart of our fallable humanity and often plants a charged rocket of inspiration up your date. (Be sure to ask her if she thinks this is cool before you buy the tickets)

The first time I saw the film Garden State I was 22, somewhat directionally challenged, yearning with ambition but a little lost. Garden State sang to me. It was a heartfelt, cockle-searing story of love, life, and the confusion that went with it. It sang for our bittersweet humanity – of life that might be simple were it not for those pesky insecurities, yearnings and irrational fears. It carved through life’s absurdity like a hot cheese knife. Like a motherly stroke of the head after a bad dream, it reminded me that we all feel vulnerable and we all get down. We all suffer our trials, our own little struggles, and that’s what it’s all about. The Hokey pokey relegated to a close second.

The other day I took in the film Control. In magically rich black and white, it told the story of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, the sad tale of a young man’s rise to rock n roll fame and eventual self-implosion. Curtis hung himself at the age of 23. The final scene showed his cremation, a black cloud of soot burning up from a chimney into the ether just as a solitary bird soars up over the horizon. Curtis’ ashes were reclaimed by the universe. All matter that once constituted this living, breathing, singing man had been annihilated into soot and dust, breathed in deep by the natural world that humanity seems hellbent on distancing itself from. If not from there, where else are we from? My welling eyes wouldn’t stop staring at that black cloud. Staring deep into my own fate and mortality. In a perpetual state of becoming, we live, we perish, the universe claims us back and carries the process on. No sense in arguin’.

Donnie Darko haunted me for years with its themes of time travel, destiny and the inevitable fate of us all. I resonated with it and it's emotive mid 80's soundtrack. Almost Famous threw me in love with free-lovin’ ‘70’s rock n roll at a time when my own band felt like it could be the vehicle to stardom. Around the same time, Still Crazy forced spine tingles up and down me each time I watched it's musical camaraderie with the same nostalgic heart-stir.

Today, again, I saw a film that knocked me to the floor. It prized its way through to the core of my soul and fondled around. It was consensual and all – hell, I happily paid the 12 buck admission for the pleasure. I got my money’s worth. It has left its mark. It’s riled something up deep inside. It’s kicked me around and forced me to confront deeply my own values; how I understand who I am at this indispensable moment in my life.

Into the Wild is about Chris MacCandless, a kid who leaves behind his middle class upbringing and future along the beaten path, choosing instead the Kerouac-esque ‘mad to live’ path of adventure. Under the name ‘Alexander Supertramp’ he removes his involvement from conventional society, that all engrossing hypocritical incongruity that conditions many a soul into a shallow void whilst obtusely shafting all higher truth. Into the Wild fuelled and widened a long-running duality within my soul. I think there exists a repressed revolutionary in most people that longs to break free, turn loose, head into the wild to path of challenge and self actualisation. The quest to discover the stuff that makes us real. This film put a rocket on that spot inside me.

Like so many cheesy Hollywood films, this world we live in can so often feel false, plastic and spirit crushing, it’s no wonder we feel like strangers in a strange, infinite land. But some films buck the trend. Today I felt one step closer to dropping all I ever knew and making something completely new of my life. All because of a two hour flick at Hoyts.

Precious films enter your life at the times you need them to - when you need something to give you a push, a tap on the shoulder and a benevolent pat in the right direction. Sometimes they just provide solace, reassurance that you’re not alone, that we’re all in the struggle together and we’re all the same. The precious ones help transport you from the rut you were in, vacuuming out the murkiness that swirled and clouded deep inside your mind. We’ve all got our few films – those golden reels that changed us along the way. We look back on them and smile. We laugh and let a tear drip down. We feel the warmth we felt that first time we saw them and get nostalgic about the era of our lives they represented and helped define. We long to feel the same revelatory experiences and buzz of excitement. They are the golden films; neon posts in the rear vision mirror that help us navigate a brighter route along the hazy shrapnel track of our life journey.
We confront the darkness and become illuminated. For better or worse, good films usually make it all better.

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