Films have the ability to transform us. Tahlia Mckinnon looks at the films that have affected her life and, ultimately, shaped the person she is today.
Cinema is shaping our society. The glorification of gratuitous violence and the undeterred, overbearing presence of sex precipitates the problems that plague the century. The copycat killings, James Eagan Holmes, Fifty Shades of Grey – the influence is inescapable, oppressive, unnerving. But what about the positives?
Cinema is suffering, the beauty of the art form tainted and tarnished by social surveillance; battered and bruised underneath the pressure of societal expectations. Have we really forgotten the ingenuity of this medium? Cinema aids, educates, informs and heals, catalysing personal transformation and artistic inspiration. As an individual, I can pinpoint categorically the moments of my psychological, philosophical and emotional development, and each ‘turning point’ coincides with the consumption of a moving image. Film has literally defined and dictated the narrative of my own life, from spirituality, to sexuality, to self-acceptance.
Film has forced me to reassess and improve myself. With Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies I contemplated – retrospectively – the circumstances of my mother’s adoption, and consequently, never really knowing my own heritage. My nonchalant, somewhat flippant attitude towards pro-choice abortion was altered by Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days. Vera Chytilová’s Daisies allowed me to question my own femininity, and position as a woman within contemporary society. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, so far removed from my usual ventures, was coincidentally a ‘coming-of-age’ moment, which allowed me to revisit and re-exorcise my adolescent self.
Film has altered my perception of the world. Time, place and space have been mapped out before me, opening my eyes and mind to landscapes unvisited, unexplored and inaccessible. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Amores Perros inspired my obsession with Latin American Cinema, Mexican culture, and introduced me to the politics of regressive countries. Shane Meadows’ This is England was an uncomfortable watch, illustrating flaws within my own culture and socio-political setting. Andrea Arnold’s Fishtank not only parallels my own bleak experience of urban life, trapped, chained to one terrain, but partly explained the cynicism, stigmatism and hopelessness surrounding my generation. Into The Wild inspired an existential crisis, passion to travel and moment of meditative self-reflection.
Mine is not an isolated case. The palpable pleasures, the fervent emotions felt are not limited to the artists, creatives and aspiring auteurs. For the most passive of spectators, there is something to be discovered. From conceptual art-house to children’s animation, cinema is a visceral, all-encompassing experience, and while audience response may be subjective, the influence is universal. More often than we realise, the impact of cinema transcends the individual. Cinema may implement social issues, but also attempts to resolve them, from local to international dilemmas.
In Poland, A Short Film About Killing led to the revocation of the death penalty. Six weeks after the release of Super Size Me, McDonalds removed the option from their menu. For Antonia Lidder, Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie gave a voice to her young autistic son, whose lack of self-expression had left him alienated and alone. In 2003, the Pentagon screened The Battle of Algiers as an educational training tool to combat terrorist tactics. The success of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave has paved the way for ethnic minorities and addressed the lack of diversity within the industry. The tragic death of Robin Williams addressed and enforced worldwide recognition of the seriousness of depression. I guarantee that if Christiane F became a part of the curriculum, the recreational drug use of teenagers would plummet.
The detrimental impact of the media is an age-old argument, but personally or politically, socially or subjectively, film has the ability to enact change for the better. And it only takes one masterpiece to start a metamorphosis.