Movies: A New Lens

By: Shaina Bakhshi  |  January 22, 2018

It’s common knowledge that movies bring people together, helping everyone take a small break from reality. In the span of two hours, movies allow us to step foot in a new world, experience a rollercoaster of emotions, and learn a moral from the experience too. Yet, compared to books, movies have always seemed too short, and at times frivolous. Usually, an hour after having watched a movie, I have forgotten all about it and moved on to whatever else would capture my attention. Furthermore, I barely ever have time to watch movies. Anyone who tried to talk to me about movies quickly became shocked at how few I’ve seen. The Godfather? Nope. Forrest Gump? Never watched it. Casablanca? Fight Club? Schindler’s List? Or more recently Girls Trip? The Big Sick? Star Wars: The Last Jedi? No, no, and no. Haven’t watched any of them, but at least I recognized that I had a problem— I needed to open up to movies.

Looking through the classes offered for the Fall 2017 semester, I found the perfect class— a Writing on Film Honors course taught by Dr. Linda Shires. This would force me to watch movies and think about them for longer than the few minutes before something else captures my attention . I was also excited to be introduced to variety of genres through the course. Among the twelve movies on the syllabus were Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Fruitvale Station, and Rear Window. With each movie, I began to understand movie fanatics more and more. Through riveting class discussions and thought-provoking writing assignments, Dr. Shires introduced me to a new lens through which I could look  at films. It may sound silly, but I never realized just how much thought (besides just the script and location) goes into making a movie and developing the director’s message. For example, each cut or the positioning of objects on the screen (which I now learned is eloquently called mise en scène) aids in conveying the director’s message. Furthermore, many times the director’s message transcends a moral to take home and imparts a commentary on the human condition; For example, the superficial moral of a film may be the importance of staying true to oneself, but the director more deeply conveys his belief on what individuality may mean in a conventional society. Prior to this course, I had always viewed film elements as highlighters of the emotions we should feel, whether adding comedic effect or instilling fear into the viewer. I never thought about what scene symmetry or a color choice may mean beyond the movie experience, and how it can impact the world as a whole.

This course also showed me that there are multiple ways to critically analyze a movie other than the standard movie review. While movie reviews allow viewers to quickly decide if a movie is worth seeing, critical and theoretical essays take a deeper approach to the film, delving into what the film means through many different lenses. One can view a film through the culture or nation it’s affecting and representing, or one can view a film in terms of where it stands in the director’s repertoire. Through writing assignments that explored these ideas, I uncovered layers and layers of depth in films that I had always taken for granted.

Deserving five out of five stars, this class is a must for everyone from movie buffs to novices, like me.