I Lost It at the Movies

These days, movies can be thought of as the product of the Dream Factory – but when the Lumiere Brothers pioneered moving images as a work of cinema more than a century ago, I wonder what journeys and places they imagined their invention would take audiences? Did they think those moving images would allow the world to experience: Chaplin’s iconic Tramp; the singing and dancing hijinks of the Berkeley musicals; Satyajit Ray’s transforming Apu Trilogy; the groundbreaking French New Wave; the revolutionary visions of 1970s masters Scorsese, Coppola, Malick, Kubrick et al; the interior worlds Bergman, Scott, Lynch; Hong Kong’s dementedly entertaining martial arts epics; South Korea’s deeply disturbing thrillers; the independent spirits of Campion, Vardas, Almodovar, Holofcener, Baumbach, Canet, Wong; the 3D and IMAX developments that aim to bring audiences ever more vivid experiences….

From the early days of talking pictures through the global expansion of film as entertainment and art form (and very lucrative business), cinema plays its part as reflector, conjurer, and influencer of the world. Filmmakers across time strive to present their visions of humanity, and in today’s multicultural world, it is possible for even a casual cinema-goer to learn about people and places they might otherwise never have a chance to encounter – and in so doing, they are also afforded the opportunity to recognize the commonality of the human condition, and the universality of the human heart.

I have always loved going to the movies – across continents and cultures, cinema has been a constant in my life. I have found that sitting in the dark while stories unfold – like magic! – is a transporting experience that allows you to experience a multitude of lives without ever leaving your own. In the process, you gain an understanding of what it means to be alive, to struggle, to triumph, to be. At their core, films are expressions of thought and feeling – filmmakers create works they hope will move audiences: gripping hearts, filling with dread, inspiring song, jerking tears, sparking joy, plucking heartstrings, sending shivers, setting trends, tickling funny bones – and sometimes, without quite meaning to, creating change.

In my work with clients, I often use examples from films to highlight or illustrate insights and ideas that might otherwise appear remote or a-step-too-far for my clients at that moment in their lives. Sometimes a movie can have a transformative effect on a client’s individual process of understanding and awareness of self. Given my affinity for films and as a result of the medium’s power in therapeutic work, I developed a series of workshops designed to cultivate individual self-awareness using the medium of cinema, entitled REEL TO REAL (forgive me for not resisting the pun). 

I will be guiding workshop participants through different paths toward discovering and developing self-awareness in a relaxing and enjoyable way. The workshops are meant for everyone (not just therapy clients or practitioners), and each stand-alone module combines watching a movie with experiential exploration of psychological concepts to help participants immediately develop greater self-awareness, understand aspects of who they are, and discover what they might want. The different approaches I have developed can be applied to any film – my aim is to equip participants with the means to independently and continuously learn and discover more about themselves every time they are the movies.

In support of the REEL TO REAL series, I will be posting entries to a series of film reviews in the coming weeks and months, offering my own views on films – some popular, others overlooked or forgotten. I hope they inspire you to engage with the films, and consider coming along to one of the workshops.

The next REEL TO REAL workshop will take place IN 2019 IN LONDON.