REFLECTIONS ON MOVIES: Getting to Know You


I only recently finished reading the great book Oblomov, by the Russian writer Ivan Goncharov, a sprawling novel about a particularly type of Russian character. It was one of those books that when I laid it down I was extremely sad that I would never be visiting with these people again. I felt sort of like I was saying goodbye to someone I had really come to know and become emotionally involved with. It’s the same sort of feeling I have when I read novels by Dickens (and other Victorians), Proust, Thomas Mann, Tolstoy, etc., stories that are large in concept. It struck me after thinking about this, that this is one of the main differences between movies and novels. I love movies and they can have a great emotional impact on me, but I almost never, if ever, come away feeling like I’m saying goodbye to a good friend, to someone I have really come to know and become deeply and emotionally involved with. This is not the fault of movies. Every art form has its advantages and disadvantages and this perhaps is just one of the inherent limitations in film. It’s the same for plays as well; there just isn’t enough time to really get to know the people a writer presents to you in the same way one comes to know them in novels. In fact, about the only other art form where this happens for me is in TV where one can get to know characters over a longer period of time, even a number of years, characters like Mary Richards, Archie Bunker, the servants of Upstairs, Downstairs, or even in mini-series like Bridesheard Revisited or Queer as Folk, so that one feels a great loss in leaving them (or more accurately, in their leaving you). It’s one of the reasons why I read novels and watch TV, to get that feeling that is almost impossible to get in movies. In fact, the only exception one might find in films is The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which takes place over almost nine hours (like a TV mini-series) or something like watching all the Thin Man movies in one sitting.
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