By Dr Craig
Taste in films is quite personal and subjective. Harold finds this movie touching while Maude finds it to be sappy and emotionally manipulative. Hillary feels that another movie is cleverly humorous yet Jackie feels it is pretentious and too intellectual with no heart. Kate experiences a third film as tortuously slow moving with characters simply talking about life for two hours; in contrast, Leopold experiences it as psychologically fascinating as he enters in to the rich character development.
My preferences in films are undoubtedly influenced by my being a psychologist and by my intensive healing journey. In regards to my healing journey, I currently tend to favor movies that stimulate within me an emotionally charged experience. I particularly enjoy the experience of healing tears and uplifting feelings of communion in response to characters who find meaning in response to trauma, who heal grievances and find forgiveness, who gain wisdom regarding how to best live and die, and who come to realize the oneness of ‘giving and receiving are one in Truth.’ Some films touch me deeply simply by the beauty with which they are crafted.
In addition, it is wonderful to laugh uncontrollably at a humorous film. You may be familiar with the book by Norman Cousins titled “Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient.” In response to being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Cousins decided to spend hours watching his favorite comedies. He believes that all of his joyous laughter contributed to his remarkable recovery. I believe that research has shown physiological benefits of both laughter and tears.
More generally, in “Persuasion and Healing: A Comparative Study of Psychotherapy” psychologist Jerome Frank reports his cross-cultural finding that healings often have one thing in common: a powerful emotionally charged experience. This was true for shamanistic rituals, psychoanalysis, self-help and so forth. Review your life and ask whether the defining moments of transformation involved emotionally charged experiences, especially ones associated with hopeful expectations of new possibilities.
Movies, in addition to music, theater, books, art and nature can provide aesthetic experiences that touch us deeply, even resonating with and awakening unconscious feelings. These experiences taken together with daily living and personal healing/growth work can be part of personal transformation.
Here are four films of transformation that offered me heartwarming and occasionally heart wrenching emotional experiences: one French film and three Iranian films by director Majid Majidi.
Ponette (1996), French with subtitles.
Ponette is a 4 year-old child whose mother just died. This girl is heroic in her unwavering quest to learn to communicate with God so that she may speak with her mother. I was brought to tears by Ponette’s determination to know God. Humorous moments occur as adults and children share a variety of ideas with Ponette about God and Jesus. This incredibly moving story takes place in beautiful ruralFrance. The girl received the Best Actress Award at the Venice Film Festival.
Children of Heaven (1999), Persian with subtitles, Academy Award nominee.
A boy from a poor family loses his younger sister’s shoes and must share his sneakers with her as he searches for the lost shoes. Each must race home so that the other can get to school on time. With twists and turns, this simple tale of integrity and deep love had me fully engaged until the very end.
The Color of Paradise (1999), Farsi with subtitles.
Mohammed, a bright, sensitive, spirited and playful boy who lost his mother five years ago, lives at a Terhan school for blind children nine months each year. His father, full of self-centered fear, wishes to send the boy away from his rural home permanently. Granny and his sisters feel differently. Mohammed experiences despair about feeling unwanted but seeks to know God through his hands and ears. Mostly shot in ruralIran, we are treated to magnificently beautiful and lush landscapes full of color and sound.
Baran (2001), Farsi with subtitles.
Witness the transformation of a ‘rough neck’ 17-year-old Iranian construction worker after he secretly falls in love with the illegally hired Afghan refugee to whom he lost his job. Like the other two movies by this director, this one is lyrical and poetic.
Please share your impressions of these films and/or to recommend films that touched your spirit with joyous laughter, healing tears, sheer beauty and so on. Until we meet again may you enjoy the movie that is your life and perhaps a movie or two within the movie!
With love and gratitude,
Craig Oster, PhD