The most important part of every movie is also the most ignored
I once sat down at my computer with a close relative to show her a short clip I had just finished editing. She watched intently, seemed to genuinely enjoy it, and when it was over, she said:
“Cool! Now… What did you do?”
"I was the editor," I replied.
"Okay... And what does that mean?"
“You know all the images you just saw on the screen?” I asked as she nodded. “Well, the screen was blank, so I put all those images on there so you could see them.”
I tend to think modern society would function a lot better if everyone's educational experience involved working on a film set. For a culture so deeply affected by movies, we tend to understand very little about what we're looking at when we see one. Personally, the experience of making them has completely changed the way I am able to watch them.
There’s a lot of buzz right now about a particular movie called Me Before You. I’ve seen articles like this one and this one that speak out against the ethics of the film. I haven’t watched it yet, but apparently the movie misrepresents the modern day experiences of individuals with disabilities, and glorifies assisted suicide as a viable option. So these writers are essentially concerned that viewers will see this movie, and decide that assisted suicide is a good option for those who suffer.
The most disturbing thing about their concern is the fact that they’re probably right. People will probably watch the movie, and let it shape their opinions on this controversial issue. Which would be fine, except for one major problem:
Movies are not real. We make them up.
Movies and other media seem to have a profound impact on public opinion, and while films can be based on reality to varying degrees, the reverse is not true. Reality is not based on movies.
Take Me Before You as an example. The main characters are Will and Louisa—two individuals who do not exist in real life. Will and Louisa were formed in the imagination of Jojo Moyes, the person who wrote the book and the movie. Then, actors Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke (who also goes by Khaleesi in another made-up universe) pretended to be these characters under the guidance of Thea Shark who directed the film. And that is barely the beginning of the effort it took to tell this story. If you actually sit and watch the credits at the end of the film, you will see a list of names that belong to actual people who contributed a significant amount of time and energy—perhaps years of their lives—to making this movie. To getting the lighting just right, and the hair, and the make-up, and making sure the score stirs our emotions just the right way, and that each sound effect seems to come from the same part of the screen as the movement that apparently makes the sound. (True story: I once participated in the process of mixing the sound effects for a guy vomiting, and a toilet flushing. It took a lot of hours.)
And that's just the artistry. Let's not forget that each major film is also a business.
So all of these artists and executives get together to create a simplified version of the universe that makes their story more believable. But these simplified universes often do not follow the same rules as the actual universe we live in. That's why the credits are the most important part of every movie you've ever seen, and ever will see. All of those names are the truest stories that will ever appear on a movie screen.
The more names that show up, the more people it took to create this “reality” you just saw.
What we see in movies can be a good starting point for asking questions about real life. Maybe as a result of Me Before You, we can ask questions about assisted suicide. We can speculate at how closely the world created by these filmmakers resembles the actual world we live in. What was realistic about it? What was pure fantasy? But we shouldn't stop there anymore than we should try to write a Doctoral Thesis by citing Wikipedia as the main source of our research.
If we think about assisted suicide in the real universe, the complexities of the issue have more of a chance to come into focus. We have to answer questions like: If a person didn’t will himself into existence, is it truly within his right to will himself out if it? Or does he belong to someone greater who did will him into existence? Is the difference between mercy and murder simply the difference between a person wanting to die and not wanting to die? Or is any decision to take an innocent person's life still murder?
We have to consider the origin and purpose of life in order to rightly consider truths about it’s finality.
But that is only in real life. Movies have other rules.
While some are calling for a boycott of the film, I am instead suggesting we boycott this idea that we can base our understanding of real issues on a movie we once saw. If you do see Me Before You, I recommend staying for the credits. Do this for every movie you see, in fact. Let that long list of names bring real people to your mind, with their real stories, and issues, and souls. Let the names escort you back into the actual universe where fleshy humans live. Then, get up, go out, and find truthful, fleshy answers in the world that none of us created—the story that we all play a part in, but none of us are directing or producing or starring in. It's the story that, in the end, will have One Name listed over all the rest.
The Name Above All Names, if you will.