Many of you may know that I studied Film Production at Sunderland University. People ask me if that spoils the experience of watching a film, the answer is no. If anything, it allows me to have a deeper respect for films because the more you analyse a film, the more you have to talk about. Discussing the narrative and character developments can be exciting because people have a variety of opinions.
When analysing a film, I think about what the film is trying to say as well as how the characters are portrayed, not specifically what angles are used or what colour grading the scene is etc. I don’t sit watching The Railway Man with my notepad and writing down the details of the cinematography. That’s because when I was at University, I mainly sought after the Producer role where I didn’t need to hold a camera. My job was more practical in organising the filming schedule, finding actors and locations etc. As stated above, I mainly look at how much the actors are drawing us into the story. Is it convincing and is it pulled off with conviction?
A classic example of my thought process when watching film is by looking at The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. If you know me well, you’ll know it’s my all time favourite trilogy (specifically The Return of the King). Ten years plus and that opinion has never changed, and I’ll tell you why. Peter Jackson and co. delivered a huge blockbuster epic with such love for the source material and with such emotion. It’s a blending of the epic nature and the heart of the characters.
The overall development of the characters is so great to watch. You have a Hobbit who has seen very little of the world, Frodo has no sense of adventure and is good will natured. Yet as time progresses, the weight of bearing the One Ring effects him. You see his soul being eroded and losing a sense of innocence that we saw in him during The Fellowship of the Ring. But that moment in the first film in the Council of Lord Elrond, where Frodo heroically takes on the task to destroy the ring is courageous and admirable. Even Frodo is no angel and falls victim to the ring, but rises above. It’s not about the mistakes we make, we all make mistakes but it’s about how we pick ourselves up. These are some of the thoughts that go through my head when watching these films.
I could come up with many more examples of how my mind works whilst watching films, but I don’t want to spoil any films for you. But hopefully you understand my film watching process. There will be times where a certain shot will look great or the editing is clever (look at 127 Hours or Whiplash) but as mentioned before, character and story are vital. Without that as a strong foundation for a film, it loses it’s meaning.
However, due to my diverse taste in film, there are other ways I watch a film. Let’s look family films such as Cheaper By The Dozen, Daddy Daycare, Zathura Etc. those types of films that you love more than you should, I have to take a different approach. They are far from being highly regarded by critics, but they are a part of my growing up. When I watch them, I have to take my film critic hat off and enjoy the fun, embrace the film for what it is. I don’t watch Zathura thinking: “Wow, Josh Hutcherson’s character goes on such a journey!”. In all fairness, he kind of does, but it’s not what I look out for. Instead, I embrace the concept of going into space from a child’s perspective. I also think about when I saw it at the cinema as a child and how 10 years later I can still enjoy it.
Obviously there are more types of films that I watch, but hopefully you understand that each film has its own scoring sheet, if you know what I mean. I wouldn’t analyse Snow White and the Huntsman in the same way I would analyse The Imitation Game. It’s about understanding the type of film you’re watching and embracing its true nature.
This could be a very long blog post if I continued explaining how I watch films, but as said before, by going to University it hasn’t spoilt watching films for me. To be honest, I’ve tried to move on from University and enjoy films for what they are instead of worrying about every single shot of the film. I want to invest in a characters journey, not just whether the camera shot is revolutionary. That’s not to take away from the incredible hard work that goes into film production, but I want to watch a film and get lost in its own little world.