From the April 2015 Issue
My name is Eli Hayes, and if I’m going to be honest with you, there are so many reasons why I love film that I don’t even know where to begin. I love that it allows for a group of people to come together and construct a reality of their choice in which they have complete control over the outcome. I love that it feels to me like the most multifaceted form of art, combining characteristics of theater, writing, photography, and even two-dimensional drawing. I love that it can allow for full immersion, escape into potentially life-affirming worlds that tell us stories we’ll never forget. And I love the communities that it inspires and the relationships that it creates, both on screen and off.
I have a complicated relationship with film, because I’m most certainly what many would describe as a cinephile, in the sense that I watch at least one, sometimes two movies every day. But although I write about many of these movies, I don’t want to become a film critic. I want to become a filmmaker. This is why I tend to maintain a biased optimism toward most of the films that I watch. When I’m watching a movie, I always try to put myself in the shoes of the director in order to discover exactly what it is that they’re going for. This is probably why I tend to love the majority of films that I watch, and dislike so few. In my eyes, cinema is all about trying your best to understand another person’s point-of-view. If you put more effort into picking out things to love about the films that you see, rather than things to hate, you just might find yourself learning more and more about life from each new cinematic experience.
There’s a branch of psychology that exists called positive psychology, and it’s essentially the branch that focuses on bettering people’s lives and increasing societal happiness. If I had to compare my reason for writing about films and what I see cinema as being useful for with anything out there, it would probably be positive psychology. I think that cinema is an extremely useful tool with which human beings can provide themselves with therapeutic and emotionally beneficial experiences, but it all depends on whether or not the most “valuable” films to each individual are being watched. I have come to notice through personal experience that it’s the stories I can most relate to, the ones most reflective of my own existence, that are the most cathartic.
For me, it’s because it helps to know that I’m not alone in some of the personal struggles that I went through during in my teenage years, and I’ve spoken to others who have benefited from this perception of “shared experience” as well, even if it’s only being shared with a fictional character. I imagine this is because, if you think about it, every fictional character is being played by a real person, has been written by a real writer, and may have been inspired by some of their own personal experiences. I’m sure that this registers with viewers subconsciously and probably has a lot to do with Western culture’s adoration with renowned creators and celebrities, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Ultimately, I believe that, in the hands of the right writers or critics or scholars, important and overlooked films can be introduced to the people who need them most – people who may feel alone in their struggles, as I once did, and are in need of a reminder that the same hope which supplements the endings of most fictional narratives can be found at the conclusion of their own life stories as well.