The Therapy of Cinema

I sat in the silence of my dark living room this morning after reading the news of the day. Right now it feels like every day there is something else that would seem chaotic in another time.

Nowadays, crazy seems casual.

Instead of ranting in anger or questioning why, I turned on my television. I decided to watch a movie. After some time, I landed on a movie I had never heard of.

The movie was called Network.

Produced in 1976, this two-hour movie captured my attention by the first frames. Not only was I interested by the story, I was inspired by the message.

Photo by Canva.
Photo by Canva.

Peter Finch’s character, who is a deranged anchor of a news station, gets on camera and says one of the most telling speeches in cinematic history.

It begins with the lines, “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad.”

He continues, “We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t turn my television off. It was as though the character of Howard Beale was speaking directly towards us.

By the end of speech, I wanted to stand with my fists in the air and scream, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Instead, I’d like to speak one-on-one with you as a friend.

I don’t want to preach nor persecute anyone for their beliefs; however, I think we can all agree that the state of the world is in one that many find troubling.

Why I chose to turn to the movies this morning is something that I’ve always done when I’m struggling to process something.

The early years of school when I was bullied, I would find myself sitting in front of the television watching cartoons and old black and white movies that I never understood.

Before big tests in high school, I would play one of the movies I could quote to put me at ease.

And here I am this morning wishing for a brighter tomorrow.

Throughout my life I’ve heard people tell me, “Why waste your time with movies? They’re just things to escape by.”

To that, I’d say you’re damn right, but you missed part of the solution.

I can think back to the times where I was troubled, or I struggled with confidence in a situation, and it always leads back to the movies.

Any of my favorite films have come from specific moments in my life, and they represent milestones as to where I’ve been. Where I’m going will determine the movies I’ll see next.

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was around when I thought being different meant being an outsider. It showed me that you didn’t need to do anything other than be yourself, and the rest would work itself out.

“The Breakfast Club” and “Dead Poets Society” were two of the movies that inspired me to take my hobby of writing seriously. I had been told that my writing would do nothing but waste my time. Yet here I sit on the edge of my seat writing words my mouth could never say. These movies showed me the battle which we all face: a fight for control over the heart and the mind.

One can only hope the heart lives on.

It was “Across the Universe” and “La La Land” which romanced me into believing in love truer than the love showcased on a Hallmark card. These movies mixed passion and rhythm in a way that only music could do. In life it all has a rhythm; there is no tempo harder than love and agony.

At the end of the day there are only three things we want: to be loved, to be heard, and to feel like we belong.

“Rebel Without A Cause” taught me the lesson of dealing with each of these concepts. Being from a town in which you feel as though you don’t think as everyone else does, I immediately felt a connection to James Dean’s character as he struggled to be heard.

These, and many more movies, will hold a special place in my heart. As times continues, we must learn the lessons of those who have passed.

As I finish this piece, I can remember a part of one of my favorite movies. It’s Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 movie “The Great Dictator.” Chaplin steps to the podium and he stands on the edge of a troubled world.

“To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is upon us is but the passing of greed,” Chaplin said. “The bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass and dictators die. And the power they took from the power will return to the people. So long as men die, liberty will never perish.”

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