Writing a movie review: Falling Down

posted by Eivind on May 19, 2013, at 8:12 pm

This was supposed to be the weekend when two important things happened:

  1. I was to finish my movie review for Falling Down
  2. I was to finish my presentation of Masculinity-Movies for the Men’s symposium coming up in Frankfurt next weekend.

It didn’t turn out quite like that. This is a little story about the challenges of writing a movie review.

Finding the soul of a movie

falling-down-coverIt was earlier this week that I watched Falling Down with a friend in preparation for my movie review. When we watched it, we weren’t that taken by it. I remember having seen it long ago and enjoying it, but this time I struggled to get into it.

Based on my notes, I then spent hours and hours trying to write a movie review that worked. But I’ve struggled. A lot. I found an approach that seemed to work using integral theory, but in reading and re-reading it – an almost finished movie review – I was a big “no” to releasing it.

In tandem with writing this review, I’ve been developing a presentation on my movie work for a symposium in Frankfurt. This has forced me to zoom out and take a meta-perspective. How do I write my reviews? What is the process? Do I have any clue when I start out what the end result is going to be? Is it all just a big mystery?

In writing this review and asking those questions, I’ve realized one thing: When I read my own movie-reviews, they have to feel good in my body. There’s no other way to say it.  When the movie  review opens me – when I actually feel my heart open, my skin tingle and my soul deepen as I read – then and only then do I have a review I want to publish.

That is a high standard and many of my old reviews fail to meet it. I’m not going to delete them because of that. But I’m more excited about the ones which do meet that standard. The one I did for American Beauty is one of them. I’m fucking proud of that piece. And people love it. Some so much, in fact, that they say their lives changed because of it. I see how it can be better too, but that’s fine and just a reflection of my own growth.

So here I have this whole review of Falling Down on my hard-drive and I’m not going to publish it. Because while it is fascinating reading, it doesn’t feel good in my body. It doesn’t capture the soul of the movie.

Which leaves the question how do I find that soul? If I were to be dead honest, I don’t really know. The best answer I have is that I throw everything I have at it and see what sticks. I will look for answers in boxes labelled “mythology”, “history”, “integral theory”, “archetypes”, “spirituality”, “men’s work” etc. I will pour the contents of those boxes over the movie and see what happens. Sometimes sparks fly immediately. Sometimes it’s hard work. But in the end, it’s worth it. And intuition guides my hand all along.

The kaleidoscope of a movie

As I realized I couldn’t publish my movie review, I decided to watch the movie again in search for answers. And what resulted was a completely different experience. I realized that my friend had had a major influence on my experience watching it. She wasn’t at all into it and we had been in our own relational space for a while, which also completely altered my experience.

When I watched it on my own just now, William seemed more dangerous to me. I described him as an unlikely hero character of sorts in the review I was about to publish, a defender of traditional values in a world of selfish pricks. Now, I see him differently. But I can’t put words to that yet. But it certainly has to do with how dangerous a man can get when he represses his life force.

The movie was also way funnier to me this time. I laughed out loud when William died squirting his blue water pistol. Very dark humor.

It strikes me now that a movie is a gateway to a whole inner universe, way larger than the creators of it could ever imagine. Depending on what day I might watch it, I will see different things.

This insight opens me not only to the mystery of movies, but to the mystery of life itself. Because movies as I see them are but reflections of our soul. Every day, a different pattern might emerge from the kaleidoscope. A review will thus be an impulse or a thought frozen in time, one of a million possible reviews I could have written.

So really, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.

The more I grow, the less I know. I like that. Hopefully, you my readers will enjoy that too.

That said, I invite you to read an excerpt on applied spiral dynamics from my discarded review. You may enjoy it. I think it’s pretty good.