There's a lot of reasons why we love film. We love the sense of escapism, we love rich stories and compelling characters, we love great performances, explosive action, to laugh, to cry or to scare ourselves silly. No matter where our preferences lie, here, one thing we all have in common is film.
As for me, among others types of film, I like films that reflect real life. Films with powerful performances that are relatable and human- films that remind us that sometimes life sucks. As blunt and harsh as that may sound, without that element of life, we wouldn't have the emotionally charged movies that I get a kick out of. Of course, there's plenty of happiness in life, and that too translates to the movies.
At the core of all this is emotions- it's feeling. We experience them every day, some of them we embrace and some of them we try to ignore, but they're all there. Without them, we simply wouldn't be human. Without them, all films would be like watching Kristen Stewart in the Twilight movies or Hayden Christensen in the Star Wars prequels (both of whom are capable actors and neither of which is necessarily their fault). Having said that, the Koulechov Effect is a really interesting look at how we perceive emotion on film without it actually seeing any. Check it out.
In any case, emotion is something that drives a lot of the stories that we know and love. Whether it's drama, action, or horror- a relatable situation, a desire for vengeance or fear. Joy, sadness, anger, disgust, or my admitting to totally watching Pixar's Inside Out right now, here are some of the most powerful examples of emotion and feeling in film:
The little yellow woman said:
"I think it's all beautiful."
And that's what pure joy can be. It can come at any time and in any form. Whether it's an unlikely friendship in The Intouchables, the light-hearted cultural relatability (for me at least) of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, efforts paying off in Pursuit of Happiness, true romance prevailing in, well- True Romance, the bittersweet discovery of happiness in Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter or the fulfilling of a dying wish in South Korea's Sunny.
There are so many feel-good moments in film. Some are a culmination of many that preceded it but some are far more unexpected and for me, none was more moving than a live-performance for an 8-year-old-girl of her favourite cartoon as she recovers in her hospital room following a terrible tragedy.
Multi-award winning South Korean film #Hope (소원), also known as Wish by director Lee Joon-ik, is based on the true story of the infamous Nayoung Case in 2008, in which an 8-year-old girl was raped and beaten by a drunk 57-year-old man. The film focuses mostly on the aftermath.
Now, I know what you're thinking. How in he heck could a story like that be my pick for 'joy'. Well it's exactly that lack of nearly any happiness that makes this one, tiny moment so special. Amidst all of the pain and the suffering, the heartbreak and the tears, we see the little girl, So-won, genuinely smile for the first time since the incident. It's such a heartwarming moment of pure happiness and bright colors in this otherwise grief-driven story, and that's why it's my pick for this list.
"I'm too sad to walk. Just give me a few…hours."
My first thought when thinking of sadness to a rather extreme degree was Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream, based on the novel of the same name by Hubert Selby, Jr., which is easily one of the most intense and emotionally draining films I've ever seen. The culmination of all the bad decisions and the heartbreak as Harry (Jared Leto) tells girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) that he's coming home, when they both know that he never will, as she spirals down her own dark road. We see Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) long for better times and Ellen Burstyn descend into madness in her Academy Award nominated performance as Sara Goldfarb.
However I'd like to go a step further with this one and look at not sadness, but depression. I mentioned before that I like films that reflect real life- unfortunately depression is something that is all-too real for a lot people. Affecting more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older any given year, the disorder is a very prominent part of life- whether experiencing it or simply being exposed to it.
In terms of film, depression has been represented in a variety of ways through the years. It's isolation and fear in Kotoko, it's grief in The Babadook and it's hopelessness in Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, but none had a lasting impression on me more than the aptly titled #Melancholia.
Louis Von Trier's second entry in his unofficial 'Depression' trilogy and starring Kristen Dunst is considered by many as a masterpiece. Making a career out of exploiting difficult and controversial subjects, Melancholia is Von Trier's visual representation of depression and is one of the most entrancing and deeply saddening movies I have ever seen.
The idea of depression is represented here by a rouge planet threatening to collide with Earth and destroy it. This acts as a back drop to the story of two sisters as they ultimately prepare for the apocalypse that this will cause.
Nothing could be more serious than the end of the world, and it is just that the makes this example so powerful. Justine (Dunst) is completely calm in the face of the potential apocalypse, certain that the two planets will in fact collide, and moreover that this is a good thing as she utters "the Earth is evil. We don't need to grieve for it."
"Can I say the cursed word now?"
What shows straight-up in your face raw emotion like a good ol' fashioned moment of rage? Whether Channing Tatum smashing a mirror with his bare skull in Foxcatcher, Jake Gyllenhall screaming into one in Nightcrawler, Nicholas Cage teaching us the alphabet in Vampire's Kiss or Adolf Hitler ranting about anything imaginable thanks to the internet in Downfall (Der Untergang).
One of my favourite moments of rage comes from two sources: 2004's Danish #Brothers (Brødre) by Susanne Bier and Jim Sheridan's American remake of the same name from 2009.
The story is of a man who's soldier brother is presumed dead in Afganistan, and he promises to take care of his wife after her loss. The two become close and the situation develops. When his brother unexpectedly returns, things get a little complicated.
After the paranoia of what has happened is confirmed, needless to say- it isn't taken too well. The resulting rage destroys the house's kitchen and most of whats in it. Both scenes are just as good as each other. The Danish version seems a little more raw and realistic and while Hollywood's version isn't without it's realism, it's just naturally a little more, well- Hollywood.
Focusing on the remake that also stars Jake Gyllenhall and Natalie Portman, what may be most effective about this version of the scene isn't just the scene itself, but who it came from. Tobey Maguire is not a name that comes to mind when you think of a character like this. Most synonymous with his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the 3 subsequent movies, Maguire shocked the world with his portrayal of a broken, PTSD suffering soldier. Maguire screams until he's red in the face and causes destruction of the newly built kitchen and an attempted suicide seemingly without any sense of direction- just pure rage cursing through to his fingertips. The former Spidey earned several nominations, including a Golden Globe for best actor for his troubles.
How does one define fear?
"Oh, I'm so jumpy, my nerves are shot!"
Other such related emotions could be dread or terror. These feelings are common in a lot of stories and if like me, you enjoy a bit of the scary stuff- then it's something you expose yourself to fairly often.
Fear is being chased down by Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th, it's fearing the worst about your child in The Exorcist or The Omen. It's the fear of being found out in The Conversation, it's being trapped in Saw. It's loneliness in The Shawnshank Redemption, fear of drawing attention in Han Gong-ju, of gossip in In the Mood for Love and it spirals into a prom massacre in Carrie.
There's one film that incorporates most of these, and it is in my opinion perhaps the finest horror movie ever made.
Jack Nicholson was the Joker before he was the Joker, and Stanley Kubrick's 1980 adaptation of Stephen King's novel #TheShining is widely considered to be the greatest adaptation of a King novel and also as one of the greatest horror movies ever made. The Shining packs a lot into it's time, and does so so flawlessly that it would be near impossible to isolate just a single scene or moment.
From the sense of isolation in the empty Overlook Hotel, to the haunting visions, the hallucinations, the supernatural and Shelley Duvall's screams of sheer dread and terror as the big bad wolf blows the house in (a scene which Kubrick famously shot 127 times- which is a world record, and caused Duvall real-life extreme stress). It is the most truly suspenseful atmosphere that you'll find outside of a Hitchcock movie, keeping you on etching forward to the very edge of your seat before jumping back again. The unsettling beauty of it all put together makes Stanley Kubrick's The Shining a masterclass not only in horror, but in film-making in general.
Disgust is a little trickier as it perhaps is not as obvious as joy, sadness, anger or fear. Disgust is not expressed in the same way. The smiles and cheers of joy, the tears of sadness, the abuse of anger and the screams of fear are all there and in your face. But where do you plant disgust?
If there's one film that perhaps managed to answer that question- it's one that involves a 14 year old girl and an alleged sexual predator:
#HardCandy- David Slade's 2005 feature-film debut has an initial premise that is not necessarily a new one. It starts with a flirtatious chat between Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson)- a 32-year-old photographer and a 14-year-old girl in Hayley Stark (Ellen Page). Another reminder that the internet is a dangerous place and you can't always be sure of who you're talking to, except this time they are- and the similarities end.
Flipping the general idea on it's side, the danger here is not the apparent sexual predator, but the teenage girl dishing out her idea of justice. That drive to do so is all fueled by that one emotion: disgust. She is disgusted by what she believes to be true and what he continues to deny: that he is pedophile, rapist, and murderer. Essentially trapping him in his own home after drugging and bounding him to a chair until she gets a confession and what she perceives as justice. In this context, Hard Candy spirals to some pretty sinister and unexpected lengths.
Emotions are as much a part of life as breathing air. They create drama in the real world and do so as well in film, creating something on screen that we can become totally lost in, and perhaps be thankful that we aren't on the receiving end.
Do you agree with these opinions? What are some of your favourite displays of emotion in film? Let us know!