I Believe in the Movies

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I believe in the movies.

I believe in silent films, in talkies, in grainy foreign documentaries. I believe in the Marx brothers, Doris Day, John Wayne, even Tom Cruise.

When I entered undergrad at Penn State three years ago, I was pursuing a major in journalism. To fulfill an international credit, I took a class in French cinema. What began as a string of mandatory viewings quickly became an obsession. I’d watch our weekly film and do a quick write up -- for most students in the introductory-level class, the work stopped there. For me, I’d hit the tip of an academic iceberg. I ventured to the library and took out five books at a time on every cinematic topic I could imagine. I read about silent film stars, Chilean cinema, and aesthetic theory.

The following semester, I was no longer a journalism student. I became a student of cinema. I took classes on any topic I could, from Hitchcock to film production. Writing twelve-page midterms on the color palette of a single scene was not a chore, but a pleasure. I was consumed by the excitement of finding my passion. I dedicated my academic career to the incredible and ever-expanding field of cinema study.

Whenever I tell people that I’m a student of film, I get bombarded with questions about my future – Will you be the next Speilberg? Are you moving to California to write a blockbuster? My answer seems foreign to many. I have no interest in forging a career in filmmaking. Instead, I want to pursue an academic degree in the theory behind films. I want to study films and their relationship to society, economics, culture, and self-identity. I want to study why certain visual cues, like bright lights or cold colors, mean something significant when you place them on a silver screen.

I believe in the movies, and the academic study of them, because I believe that cinema has a power that no other art form can utilize. Films entertain an audience while simultaneously showing them a representation of the world around them. In this situation, a filmmaker becomes a master manipulator. He can change visuals or narrative peaks to teach an audience something about themselves. Many people imagine films as little more than an entertaining hour or two, but I find that there is a broad world of philosophy involved in the movies, one that I am constantly drawn to.

One of my favorite films is The Truman Show by Peter Weir. In it, the title character’s entire life is filmed for a reality TV show, and he has no idea. I imagine that our experiences are similar, but less directly so. Movies imitate the world of the viewer. Studying cinema is like studying humanity. I believe in film as a meticulous representation of a worldview that can delight and inform anyone, from a seasoned viewer to someone trying to fill a general education credit.

I believe in the movies.


Michael Liebowitz
New York area
Sep 03, 2012

It sounds like you’ve found the difference between being a film student and being a student of film. Pursue your passion while you can!

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