How many of us are relying on movie therapy to get us through the coronavirus lockdown? I know that now, more than ever, I'm looking to motion pictures to provide an escape from the reality of life in quarantine. Along the way, I'm discovering some great films and thinking about those which have been my favorites. I tend to favor wholesome films, though I do have some junky "guilty" pleasures as well. I'm planning here a series of blogs looking at my favorite films in categories that I've put them in with some ways to use their art and lessons to lift up your own life.
Let's start with the Fairy Tale Parable--I love films that have a bit of a fantastical touch to them that makes life a little magical and surreal. These films rely on unusual circumstances and unknown influences on characters and plot development.
- August Rush--this film about a young musical prodigy never fails to delight me with its unusual soundtrack, its great views of New York City and its excellent performances. Robin Williams did some of his best acting work here as a brutal handler of August as a busker. The conclusion draws you in and is uplifting as well.
- Chocolat--A terrific adaptation of the book by Joanne Harris (who's writing I generally love). The filming of the French river town perfectly captures the allure of European villages and their mixture of medieval and modern architecture and values. The chocolate making and food preparation is ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response--it's when we see tasks performed that are extremely satisfying to watch, like tempering creamy chocolate) and Judi Dench turns in a terrific performance as a crusty old curmudgeon.
- Groundhog Day--this fable relies on a novel plot line where the character keeps reliving the same day over and over again. He must learn how to navigate the limits of 24 hours so as to grow and work his way out of the time warp in which he is trapped. A magical performance by Bill Murray shows us why this actor has endured in his popularity over the decades.
- Pleasantville--Another of the "time warp genre, this movie follows two teenagers into a TV town which exists in black and white and is stuck in the mores of the 1950s. The characters must learn how to alter their behaviors while opening the minds of those of living in Pleasantville. I find this film features some of Reese Witherspoon's and Joan Allen's best work as a world-weary teen and a naive mother.
As for Chocolat, the story teaches us to appreciate the personalities of all those we encounter: young, old, freewheeling, uptight, shy, loud. Everyone has something to offer, especially in the microcosm of the village. Rethink your villages: that might metaphorically be your workplaces, spiritual organizations, clubs, teams or classes. Gather an appreciation for the richness of diverse personalities. And, of course, appreciate the magical quality that food prepared with knowledge and love can communicate. View your kitchen as a medicine chest, not just a place to grab gut fill. How can the herbs and spices you have on hand be used to create foods with healing qualities?
And finally, Groundhog Day and Pleasantville teach us about the art of being present. In both movies, the main characters are tossed into an alternate reality because of their frustration with their current circumstances. And, in both films, the characters must then work in new parameters to engineer change. In the case of Groundhog Day, the change is entirely incumbent on the main character played by Bill Murray. After he works through boredom and despair, he comes to use his unique situation as an opportunity for work on both his abilities and his attitudes--one day at a time. In Pleasantville, the main characters work to free their fellow citizens from limiting mindsets and habits. Knowledge becomes a metaphor for sex and is used to bring people alive with color and desire. The film reminded me of how thrilling it was as a teen to discover good literature and good music and to crave reading and hearing more.
Choose thoughtful films while sheltering at home and use them as a means for creating your own renaissance. Rediscover the thrill of a good movie and how alert and alive it can make you feel. My next film genre will be: Comedy, because laughter is good therapy too!
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay engaged--Lisabeth