Recommending movies is a bit like recommending lovers – you have to know the person you’re recommending for to give them a good suggestion.
90% of the time someone says “you have to see that movie!” I have zero interest. This is because when most people recommend a film, they are recommending the film based on the experience it gave them, not the experience it will give you.
We all process the world differently. Two can people can watch the same film and have different experiences. They might also be looking different experiences. Whether or not you’ll like a film often depends more on you and what you’re looking for, then the film itself.
For example, the film Requiem for Dream (2000) is an undeniably powerful film. However, it is a brutal work of art about addiction that pushes the artform of editing to a style that borders on experimental. The ending is absolutely devastating and most people I know cry – heck, sob uncontrollably – at climax of the film. If you want to experience what is possible with cinema, or feel a deep sense of sadness and release, this is your film. If you’re on a first date, or looking for a fun night in with the family, not so much.
When recommending a film, you have to consider two:
- How does the person I’m suggesting a film for process the world?
- What sort of experience is this person looking to have?
Films are a bit like hypnosis – imaginary events that produce real results. While the film may be fake, your feelings about it and experience of it is real. Studies have shown that if a character you identify with wins, you experience that win as if it was your own, even on a biological level, with testosterone levels rising as a result.
So if films change us, the real question is – how would you like to change? What would you like to experience?
Since I’m considering starting a weekly movie recommendation series, my goal isn’t just to note the usual stuff – the cinematography, the acting, the editing, the blah blah blah – but the experience you might have from a film. Of course, everyone processes the world differently, so if I suspect different types may react differently to a film, I’ll note that.
Often a persons reaction to a film says more about them then the film itself. For example, the first time I saw Taxi Driver (1976), I didn’t like it. Taxi Driver is a film about loneliness, and at the time I saw it, I felt lonely. I didn’t want to confront those feelings, so to have them reflected back to me was difficult. However, upon reflection, the film helped me deal with those feelings. Now it’s one of my favorites, in part because it helped reveal something to me that I didn’t know I was feeling. The art allowed me to go deeper into myself.
Films can also allow us to understand each other on a deeper level. When someone recommends a film, they often do so because they want you to understand an experience they had. In understanding that experience, you better understand something about them. (Sometimes people even make films because they want you to understand their experience of the experience of others, but that’s a different story.)
Most film reviewers pretend movies as if they are objective critics, but we do not experience film – or anything – objectively. We experience it from our perspective. And wanting someone to understand your perspective is a totally valid reason to recommend a film. If film can further intimacy and understanding, great. I fully admit that some of the films I’ll write about will be because I want to expose people to new perspective.
That said – what experiences are you looking to have? Let me know – @bdmarotta on all social media.
P.S. If you know someone who is having a baby or might have one, you might want to recommend they get on the email list for my upcoming documentary.