Sunday, November 26, 2006

What are films for? (A survey)

francois truffaut
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
In his interviews with Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut, one of the earliest, if not the original founder of the auteur theory, maintained that the fundamental purpose of any work of art is to help us understand ourselves better.

Here in Malaysia, audiences' opinions generally fall into two categories:

1. The main function of film is to entertain.

2. A film must carry moral messages.

If the box office takings of local films are anything to go by, then a vast majority of Malaysian movie-goers really don't give a toss about anything other than to be entertained.

This is not to say that it's a bad thing. People spend 10 ringgit of their hard-earned cash to be entertained, they have a right to expect entertainment.

Personally, I find more disturbing those who fall under category 2. A handful of our most vocal film reviewers are in this category.

For them, a film must be a sort of propaganda, where the filmmaker is given the right to impose the strongest of opinions on the audience. People who populate the story of the film must do the "right" thing all the time, and the ones that don't, must atone before the end credits, or suffer dire consequences.

People are expected to walk away from a film thinking, "Yes, I know how to behave now, thanks to the messages behind that film I just saw."

There is to be no room for simply relating a feeling you had when you observed a particular occurrence in your day-to-day living. No room for just comparing notes with your audience, on life and love and fear and hopes and despair and joy that you may have experienced or witnessed.

I shan't tell you here what I personally feel the purpose of a film is, but I'd just like to hear what you folks feel and think about it.