Saturday, November 6, 2010

I Didn't Read the Book; I Saw the Movie

I occasionally participate in a a film discussion group, and the film topic of one of the meetings was the movie "The Reader".  My response to this Academy award winning film, starring Kate Winslet & Ralph Fiennes?  I just hated it.  I found the stories and characters underdeveloped and unformed in any way that made the movie engaging for me.

When I voiced my opinion, another woman in the group said that if I had just read the book first, everything would have made sense.  If I had just read the book, I would have understood the characters' motivation, their emotional lives, the nuances of the story historically, and so on and so on, and then I would have liked the movie.  Or at least understood it.

But here's the thing.  In the film discussion group, what we do is watch movies and talk about them.  I didn't read the book; I saw the movie.  And from a critical perspective, the movie needs to be able to stand alone.  If it's a good movie, I don't need the book first to make it so.  The book is not the movie.  I didn't read the book; I saw the movie. 

And now this is my catch phrase for so many things in life that are incomprehensible on their own, and can only be understood if you get the back story.  All the ways that people and situations are confusing or unpleasant or difficult, and how we convince ourselves that if we just try harder to understand, everything will sort itself out.

And women especially work hard on understanding, supporting, accommodating, and trying again and again to make 'it' work.  We talk to our friends, consult experts, and think too hard and too long to get ourselves comfortable with what we know makes us uncomfortable.

We read books and magazines and watch talk shows, trying to figure out how to adjust ourselves just so to make the things that don't work work better, certain that if we can just get to a place of deeper knowledge, that the discomfort will disappear and the disappointment will ease and the anger will turn to love.

But in reality, what's in front of us is just exactly what's in front of us.  And knowledge and understanding can change how we feel, and can soothe the mind and heart, but we can't simply discount what's there.  No matter how good 'The Reader' might have been as a book, as a movie it didn't speak to me, it didn't touch me, and it took up a lot of time I could have spent better elsewhere.

And no matter how deeply we can love, how hooked into the drama of difficult people and situations we can get, how truly sincere we are in wanting to help, we also need the clarity to recognize when we are doing that to our own detriment, when we are sustaining the problem instead of solving it.

For me, the hardest part of change is breaking old habits.  Change takes place at the exact speed at which old habits are broken, and new ones created. The little things you stop doing ~ the small details you have sculpted your interior landscape around that no one else even knows exist ~ this is where real change starts.  Big dramatic flourishes aren't so hard.  Sustaining that change in the midst of ordinary, every day life is the real test.  

I don't think the right answer after seeing a movie I don't like is to go read the book to find out why.  And the right answer in the face of confusion, disappointment, chaos, and discomfort might be just that simple too.

1 comment:

MarianLibertarian said...

Intriguing post and good food for thought. I especially like the idea of not working overtime to become comfortable with a situation that makes us uncomfortable.

And right on about the movie and book being two separate entities. The book didn't need the movie to be successful, did it? Why should the film?