For the Love of Film

Robert S. Hummel ’16

From the April 2015 Issue

It was only after seeing There Will Be Blood that I really started believing in cinema. I was able to catch it during its original theatrical run—the Oscar season expansion brought it to the twelve-screen in the heart of the run-down Harrisburg Mall. My mom had to come with me since it had an R rating: I was newly fourteen, still a kid with limited artistic exposure and only vague dreams of writing strange stories.

It was an imperfect 35mm print—January 2008 was mere years away from the digitization of theatre projection—with lines and cracks that lent the thing a guise of breath, as if it were living, drawing the same stale air of the small theatre. The hot beige of the California desert warmed my face and stung my eyes as I watched. Fears were realized. Blood was drawn.

By the end, with that horrific Brahms piece screaming over the credits, I was shocked in the purest of ways, affected to the point of speechlessness. Even on the car ride back, even that night at dinner, I was unable to speak, too busy processing the magnanimity of that film, that vision. A mere movie. Never before had a movie—that thing they made us watch at summer day camp, that thing you put on while you ate lunch on weekends, that thing you went to see with your friends when you had nothing else to do—made such a colossal emotional impact. This, I slowly realized, was art: a cacophony of strange emotions, a unified force of vision, a dangerous exploration of human nature.

More than anything, though, There Will Be Blood was the first time that a work of art had ever made real intrinsic sense to me. It hit me on some deep, dormant level and awoke a creative compulsion that has continued thereon. It was an innocuous thought, but it has changed everything: I want to make people feel this way.

Soon enough, it became an addictive compound, a high: finding films that approached that level of catharsis was a quest for meaning, for self-expansion, and thanks to Netflix and a handful of small independent theatres within my driving radius, I have since discovered heretofore unknown concepts, ideas, thoughts, emotions, and approaches, things that have influenced my worldview and my way of life as much as they have my individual creative voice.

Cinema certainly isn’t perfect: no medium of art is so expensive, so subject to the needs of entertainment, so elitist and prohibitive. Yet when it is approached with a certain cocktail of sincerity, daring, and perception, film resembles human life more than anything else in fiction. Those films are blessings, prayers for greater wisdom, and they have guided me through my own trials and tribulations for years. I will continue to absorb the voices of filmmakers past and present. I will continue to look to film as the highest of arts, the grandest form of worship. I will continue to raise my eyes to the screen until the end of my last reel.

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