On the surface ‘What’s your favourite movie?’ is a simple question.
It is a common question, often used to break the ice, and as a way to get to know someone better. It can inform you if a person shares some of your interests. It can reveal a little bit or a lot about the other person, depending on how much added information and details they give when they answer. Dig a little deeper and this question becomes the means to access hidden parts of the psyche. Particularly if the favourite movie hits a chord which nothing else in life hits. If it speaks of wishes, yearnings, thoughts, feelings, and actions which are not expressed in daily life.
Most of us have several favourite movies. Ones that appeal to different sides of our personalities. Comedies which make us laugh so hard we cry. Horror films which make every hair on our body stand on end, which terrify and exhilarate us at the same time, which help us to fight those monsters that hide under our beds,in our closets, or in our minds. Romantic comedies which disclose our softer side, our desire to find love, to be loved, to be desired and pursued, even if the pursuit has elements of stalking. Let’s face it, most romantic comedies are very stalky. They teach us to never give up on the object of our affection, even if they are married, engaged, in love with someone else, have told us to eff off repeatedly, because love will find a way through even the most adamant resistance, and win every time. Not all romantic comedies are like that, but a lot of them are. Then there are thrillers which allow us to explore worlds we might never otherwise encounter. We can pretend we are spies, double agents, assassins, caught in the intricate web of a conspiracy, outclassed by evil geniuses, until the very last minute, when we triumph, or fall heroically. Action movies which leave us breathless, and exhausted because heroes never sleep, eat, pee, die, or get hurt badly enough to say they need a long time out. And so on.
Movies allow us to explore all sorts of people and places, past, present, futuristic. They give us access to sides of ourselves which may be dormant, switched off, repressed by the drudgery of the day to day. They make us aspire to greatness, they inspire ideas, they force us to pause and consider the consequences of actions, of inaction, they transport us and transform us, sometimes in large ways and sometimes in ways which are imperceptible. And so on.
Sometimes we love the entire movie, and sometimes we just like small parts of it, perhaps one character. We are that person, or want to be them, or want them to be with us. They can teach us to be better than we are, or worse, they encourage us to explore things we had never before considered, and often push our boundaries, our comfort zone, our belief of who we are, what we are, what we are capable of, and so on.
Some movies are just mindless dross for entertainment purposes only. Great fun to watch, to not have to think, to escape reality for an hour or so. Some are very deep, intense, meaningful, designed to make us think. If they succeed in making us think, we often do so for years after. Sometimes a movie will hit a spot nothing else can hit. A psychological sweet spot. That movie becomes our voice, the flag of our personally created country, an emblem, a symbol to us which only we understand, so deeply that no words can possibly explain it, for us, to us, or to others. They suck us so far inside of them that we never truly get out of them again. We don’t necessarily want to. We live them, breathe them, are them. They were written for us, about us, because of us. They belong to us.
Sometimes a new movie comes along and knocks an old one down a place or two, or right off the favourite list. That’s life, we live, we learn, we evolve, change, grow, and move on, whether we like it or not.
I have several movies which I consider to be my favourites. For varying reasons. A couple are dreadful, but I love them anyway. Those are ones which spoke to me at a particular time in my life, and gave me something which I needed to keep going. I would probably never watch them again, I don’t think I could. It was a moment, a precious moment, but one which belongs in the past, at a different time with a different me. I don’t need them anymore, but I am grateful that they were there for me when I did need them.
I have a slightly photographic memory. It’s not good enough to make me a spy, or a savant, but it does make watching a movie more than once difficult. Any movie which I can watch more than once becomes a favourite.
High Plains Drifter is one of those movies. I adore Clint Eastwood, both as an actor and director. His style is cool, fascinating, mysterious, yet very inaccessibly accessible. I saw this movie for the first time on television as a child. I’ve watched it many times since. It just touches all the right places within me. It is a western with a supernatural vibe. Nothing is ever certain. Its main theme is vengeance. I have a penchant for revenge movies. My favourite book is The Count of Monte Cristo. Stunning story, amazing in its depth and breadth, a vengeance tour de force. Unfortunately none of the film adaptations have been able to capture the intricacy of the book. It is too complicated and conflicted for that.
I am not a vengeful person. Not in my real life. But in my fantasy life, I like to occasionally imagine what it would be like if I had the patience, the intelligence, and the power to get back at those who have hurt me. I know that I would never act upon it, even if circumstances gave me the perfect opportunity to get some payback. I hesitate to do so in my fantasy life, even when I know I am free to do so without consequences. I prefer to leave revenge to karma. Karma has always paid me back for my crimes, so it seems plausible that it will pay others back for theirs too. And I find it very hard to stay angry, even when I am completely justified in my anger. Mostly because in real life the lines are very blurred. Sometimes people hurt you because you hurt them first, whether deliberately or by accident. Sometimes they suffer so much, hurting you is the only way they know to relieve their own suffering, vengeance would make no difference to the amount of pain these people already feel, and it is often what they want, to be punished for all the evil they feel they have living inside of them. Sometimes it would be a complete waste of time, some people just never learn, don’t care, and aren’t worth the effort, no matter how satisfying it would be, they would find a way of robbing you of your vengeance, your satisfaction, as well as everything else they could take. There are so many nuances, that vengeance fades upon thinking about them. Still, I love a really good revenge movie.
So, What is your favourite movie, and what does it reveal about you?