Friday, January 20, 2012
Crashing the Illusion
Posted by Courtney Small
I hate when real-life changes the film going experience. To clarify I do not mean that I dislike films that deal with real issues or real people. What I am talking about is when events in my own life alter the magical illusion that film creates. Normally it works the other way around. Even if the disturbance is only temporary, it ultimately keeps me away from watching particular films I usually enjoy. Such is currently the case with films that feature memorable car crashes.
Toward the end of December, a day before New Year’s Eve in fact, I was involved in a multi-car accident on the way to work. Though traffic was light due to the fact many were still on vacation, the roads were icy which made the trek to work take longer than usual. While traveling on the highway the car to left of me lost control and slammed into the front driver’s side of my vehicle. The impact of the collision, coupled with the icy roads, knocked my car into the next lane on my right where I was eventually hit by a second car. While the incident feels like it played out over a lengthy period of time in my mind, the truth is it all happened in the blink of an eye. Though my car received the most damage of all the cars involved, the fact that no one was injured is a blessing.
Besides still being a little shaken, which is to be expected, I have noticed that I do not enjoy the spectacular scenes of car destruction the way I use to. This is especially noticeable when watching action films, a genre I usually love to revel in. The best example of this came when trying to watch The Matrix Reloaded on television. While I have comfortably convinced myself that the sequels to The Matrix were all horrible figments of our collective imaginations, I will admit that the only thing I liked about Reloaded was the epic highway chase scene. Everything from the various fights to the numerous car collisions works wonderfully. However, viewing the sequence again the thrill was gone. I could not bring myself to take glee in the sensory overload.
I had the same reaction when I tried to watch Death Proof, a film I usually have no problems revisiting. The memorable collision at the end of the first half of the film, where Quentin Tarantino replays the event from each of the four women’s perspective, is one of the many highlights from the film. While still eye-popping from a technical standpoint, I actually had to stop the film at as I found myself not enjoying the experience. I know I will watch Death Proof again in a few months, hopefully sooner depending on how long it takes me to shake this, but for now the sight of cars colliding just takes me out of the film instead of drawing me in further. My mind cannot help but go back to that fateful icy morning.
If this is my reaction to the big budget action films, then I know there will be some “smaller” films that I will not be watching again for at least a few weeks. Crashes in independent films are often more visceral as they strive to be both realistic and unexpected. I always remember that shocking flashback scene in Adaptation where you learn more about Chris Cooper’s John Laroche character. One of my favourite images in Magnolia is that brief scene where an unconscious Linda Partridge (Julianne Moore) lies in an ambulance as it flips on his side during the films climax. Sadly these films, along with numerous others, will have to be shelved for the time being. While I am sure this phase will pass, I will admit that it has taken away my ability to truly immerse myself in a film the way I would like to.
Have you ever had a real-life experience that hindered the way you looked at particular films for a period of time? Feel free to add your experiences in the comment section.