What We Believe In Films Is More Important Than What’s Real?

 

S
uspension of disbelief is a crucial element in the film viewing experience. It is the willingness to ignore logic and rational truth for the sake of enjoyment. And audiences have been doing this since the beginning of human existence. Whether it’s sitting around a campfire listening to an oratory story or watching a magic trick, we’ll accept any slightly plausible idea if we believe it will engage us. But why does this work? And why has it gone on for so long?

 

We all know on a subconscious level when going into a film that we are watching actors memorize lines and perform in front of a camera. But it’s always a wonder how we still jump out of our seats during a scary moment or cry during an emotional dramatic scene. But what’s even more fascinating is when we continue to go back and re-watch these moments over and over again. How many car chases and shootouts have we’ve seen? How many heartbreaks and deaths have we experienced? We’re very sophisticated at this point to the storytelling process, how it works and even know what to expect. But I think the reason we continue to go back and watch goes deeper into what we actually value as humans. You see when we watch a film, there’s an exchange with the audience and storyteller that’s going on. We give up our time and money ultimately for a human experience. That’s what we’re signing up for and is ultimately why we’re even on this spinning rock. We as humans want to connect with each other, learn from each other and believe. That’s the tradeoff. All those intangible things we can’t see or touch but are as real as life itself. But no matter what the experience, the burden of belief is always on the audience. And the extent to what the audience believes is endless. As long as it is logical, has some infused human interest, and is emotionally true.

In fact, how it makes us feel emotionally is all that matters in the end. This is something I discovered in my journey as a writer. The story was finally breaking through not when I figured out how a character got from point A to point B or if a location really exists, but when the actions and emotions of the characters derived from a true place. Then later would I worry about the logistics of how the villain escaped the elevator in handcuffs? We’ve seen many films where filmmakers are very cavalier about the plot or when really bad CGI is used. But I’ve learned that in the end it just doesn’t matter. I give the example of watching a stage play where all that is needed is a table and a couch to represent a living room. Because through dramatic convention, we put the rest of the pieces together. We as an audience are very perceptive this way and have seen enough films to get it. In the end, we just want to get to the emotions and feel something. And as filmmakers, if it moves us emotionally when we created it chances are it will move someone else when watching it.

So to conclude, just remember it doesn’t have to be real just believable. As long as it transforms us into new places and connects with us emotionally. Because ultimately that’s what the goal of art is, to communicate emotion. Whether that be love or fear. What are your thoughts?

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