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Does anyone else know the feeling I’m talking about? Where you absolutely must talk about a movie Right Now or go insane? That, to me, is a movie emergency.

I coined the phrase (or perhaps unconsciously stole the phrase, if it existed before) immediately after watching Antichrist by Lars von Trier. It wasn’t that I was excessively disturbed by the film, or even that I was shocked by it, just that I had to talk to someone about it, preferably immediately and in excruciating detail. I texted my movie friends and told them that I needed to talk about Antichrist right away. It was a film emergency.

Antichrist von trier

Who wouldn’t want to dissect this in excruciating detail?

There’s a sort of catharsis that has to ocurr after a Film Emergency. The well-up of opinions, tension, desire, fear and pure insane emotion during certain films has to come out somehow. I have so many thoughts rushing through my agonizingly-slow brain that I have to exorcise them or threaten submersion.

A lot has been written by people much smarter than me about film’s communal aspect. It’s something we experience collectively– whether literally (in a movie theater) or symbolically (in that we all see the same movie, largely regardless of time and space). It gives us a language and a set of symbols to be agonizingly decoded– a way of speaking to one another through memories. “Do you remember when . . . ?” “What about . . . ?” “What did you think of . . . ?”

Films inspire such deep, intense, and overall unfufilled emotions within us. It’s why people buy the t-shirts and the action figures, write the fan-fiction and the RPs, go to conventions and get tattoos. These are all expressions of the unfufilled emotions that film leaves in us, a reliving of the experience of being so excited, so enraptured. Everytime I talk about a movie with someone, it’s reliving the experience of seeing it for the first time, an adrenaline rush that can never be re-experienced in full.

Some people also (awesomely) force their children to relive movies.

Art has, more or less, always been a communal experience– it’s a pretty small leap from the Salons of France in the mid 16th century to a Sex Pistol’s concert in England in 1977. But film offers us something unique in its communal experience– it’s no more a purely-intellectual memory than it is a purely emotional rush. It hooks itself up directly to our brain, burrowing inside like an alien tentacle and rewiring our experience to feed our mind directly. We’re force fed images and sounds and phrases slightly faster than our brain can process and some of the exhiliration comes from just trying to keep up.

When you watch the film again, you don’t get that same experience. It’s a new experience, a completely different one, where we are not molested by images and sounds but are instead seeking them, uncovering the things we may have missed last time. We’re taking a walk through the move landscape and upturning tables and houseplants, trying to find new little morsels of food to munch on. The characters go on around us and restless eyes jump from faces to doors as we anticipate an action.

Eye-tracking study for There Will Be Blood

Eye-tracking study for There Will Be Blood that shows where audience’s restless attention is drawn

Film does not offer more information than other art forms, but instead intensely condenses information. Perhaps our Move Emergencies are ways of sifting through and pulling apart this information, volleying it off others and sparring for their dissections as well. It’s as if film dumps a great, tangled ball into our collective laps and we must pull it apart piece by piece afterwards.

This is ultimately the great joy and great frustration of film. We all have to play coroner and dissect it, analyzing what made us feel a certain way (good or bad). Was it the dramatic setting? Was it the well-known star with the personal baggage? Was it that one climactic moment we relive again and again?

Iron Man Jericho

All of the above?

Whatever the pleasure we derive from reliving film, in intense bursts or over the course of a lifetime, the greatest moment of realization for me is that I will be able to think about this film and find something new. Who knows where the element of Emergency comes in– maybe that’s just pure impatience– but when anything arouses that level of inspection and reflection, I thank the movie gods.

And on a very related note, I have so many things to say about Alien. Be on the lookout.