On a fresh viewing...

April 21, 2024

On a fresh viewing...


egendary Hollywood filmmaker Stanley Kubrick is quoted as saying, “The idea that a movie should be seen only once is an extension of our traditional conception of film as entertainment rather than art.” It is implied that he believes that films can be watched multiple times.

When I was younger, some people would be completely opposed to watching films even a second time. Others, like myself, could easily enjoy watching some films multiple times. It is safe to assume that I think of films as art.

Usually, people agree to a second viewing if the time investment is not too great. This, of course, varies from people to people. Avid fans will watch their favourite TV shows over and over. Other types of people can never understand such indulgence.

A lot of people I know have a comfort sitcom — 90s’ show, Friends, is a top contender in this; and so is the American variant of The Office. Some of my friends can mouth the lines and still watch the shows they watched decades ago. I assume that these types have fun in being able to relive an experience through these shows. Yet another type of people can have shows wiped out of their memory and only remember some bits that are revived on a fresh viewing.

I am sure most of the people reading this column have had the experience of being hyped-up about re-watching a film they enjoyed in their childhood. But when you watch it as adults, it’s not always what you were expecting or what you remembered it to be.

This may be a strange experience but there is something oddly mystical about it. It makes you realise a couple things. First, that the memory does not match the film; and second, you discover that how you expected to feel did not quite ‘happen.’ The reason is that you are an active participant in the viewing experience. So, even as the film is the same, the viewer interacting with it has changed. And, hence, nothing watched a second time over is the same.

Allow me to say that art has no life of its own but that which is given to it by its participants. This is only possible because we have life. What we call life is not our ability to change but the inevitability of it. We are constantly changing and, as a consequence, experience art differently each time, regardless of whether it’s different enough to register or not.

In this regard, I find that the more abstract the art is, the more dynamic it is in terms of being open to multiple interpretations. However, I understand that abstract art is not for everybody.

Some people might argue that they like things to be the same forever. This includes, I’m sure, the people who remember dialogues from their favourite sitcoms. They might say that they like to be comfortable in what they know. They are also usually the kind of people who have issues with life and are frustrated with its uncertainty. But here I am making the case that uncertainty is a certainty.

It’s strange that uncertainty is something everyone dreads but they’re constantly dealing with it. Nothing in our day-to-day existence is certain if you look at it in the minutest detail. Everything is constantly surprising us. The certainty we think we’ve got is not really there.

If we can relax our preferences, we can see this as the gift that it is. Life is constantly welcoming you with new experiences, even with old things. This ‘newness’ gives life its vitality. And it gives us vitality. One can extend this to life, just as you can extend it to art.

So, the next time you’re re-watching a movie you saw ages ago, try not to miss that mystical experience.

Uneeb Nasir writes on culture and identity in Pakistan. He can be reached at uneeb.nas@gmail.com

On a fresh viewing...