Wednesday, 18 January 2012

How To Study Film: Part Seven


This advice does not apply to Film students only; far from it in fact. There is nothing worse than someone who doesn't know when to keep their opinions to themselves during a film. I'm not saying that you should take a vow of silence from the second the titles come up, but you have to let a film do what it was made to do - films are made so that you can watch them, not talk through them.

However, I would say that it's the film buffs who need to work on this far more than the unknowing babblers. The only thing more annoying than someone who doesn't know when to shut up during a movie is some bastard who thinks he knows it all contsantly attempting to explain things to everybody else. Nobody needs to hear about complex camera techniques when they're trying to watch Jimmy Stewart chase Kim Novak up a bell tower. You might think that what you've got to say is interesting - and, truth told, it probably is - but that doesn't mean you have to shoot your mouth off about it to everybody in the room. Just imagine something for me here; you are watching Hitchcock's Psycho for the first time. You probably already know what happens; the shower scene seems to have been ingrained into our species memory. Even so, you're watching the film, getting carried along by the plot, getting distracted by the MacGuffins, cowering back in your seat watching the famous scene, and the idiot next to you turns around and says:

"You know, the shower scene is really very well edited. You think you see Janet Leigh get stabbed loads of times, but if you watch carefully, actually you don't see anything at all. It's just a trick of the editing; you only think you see it. They used chocolate sauce for the blood."

I mean, Jesus. You may as well just stand up in the middle of a cinema and start yelling "it's only a movie!" over and over again. You don't break down someone's suspension of disbelief just so that you can sound like a clever son of a bitch. You think Hitchcock would have wanted you to sit in front of his film and unpick all of his work out loud? When Psycho was first released he even went as far as barring anyone from entering the theatre even a few minutes late because it would have ruined the illusion.

Sometimes it can be quite difficult to keep your mouth shut during a film; not because you particularly want to say anything, but because other people want you to. This is an issue which is quite unique to Film students it seems, especially if you're watching something with a group of people who are not, never were and never will be Film students. Being a Film student immediately makes you the authority on all things cinematic in the eyes of some, almost to the point of Godlike omniscience.

If you're planning on enjoying a film, I suggest you never sit down to watch it with a known Question Asker. I've been asked all manner of questions during films, ranging from the relatively harmless: "What did he say?" to the slightly more annoying: "what did he say just then when I said what did he say?" to the vaguely infuriating: "is he going to die?" to the show stopper of them all: "what's going to happen next?"

Studying Film can help you in predicting the plot of movies, sometimes with startling accuracy, but it still doesn't make you an oracle. If you've never seen a film before, then at any given point during it you only know as much as the person sitting next to you. You cannot tell your friend what will happen to their new favourite character, or what turn the plot will take for sure, unless the film you're watching is particularly derivative and therefore easy to predict.

I have yet to find a polite way of dealing with Question Askers, because there really is no polite way of telling somebody to shut the fuck up because you're far more interested in watching the film than what they have to say about it. And what's more, you've never seen this film before either, so you have absolutely no idea which one of the teenagers will be found murdered next. However, there is one piece of advice I can give you. It's surprising just how many people don't think of this idea: why not try watching a film on your own for a change? There's nothing scary about going to the cinema alone, and definitely nothing scary about watching a DVD alone. Of course, films were made to be enjoyed with others - that's the beauty of them, in a way - but you can still save the conversation until you're sitting around a sticky table with half a bottle of wine in your hand somewhere it's acceptable to yell over the background noise.

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