Perhaps the decade’s most inspiring “film” to date, Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not A Film insists that no matter how restrictive one’s situation has become, cinema possesses an insuppressible liberating power. My upbringing in northwest England has faced nothing like the same obstacles, but nevertheless, I’ve come to view the movie theatre as a hallowed place, where the grind of everyday life ceases and dreams can be realised. When the lights dim and the screen starts to glow, a small selection of people may share and explore a headspace alternative to their own, freed from the struggles, pressures and routines that otherwise constrain them.
This escapist allure was the springboard for my cinephilia, but the obsession was cemented when I realised that these fleeting adventures into other minds and stories were paradoxically bringing me closer to myself. When watching a film, I engage in a dialogue with its creator, embarking on a course of mutual discovery and growth that often continues long after the credits roll. The screen becomes a mirror, and watching even the most otherworldly flick comes to feel like rummaging around in my own head, illuminating its shadows, enabling what Terrence Malick once called “small changes of heart, changes that mean the same thing: to live better and to love more… …what else is there to ask for?”
As arguably the most liberal, populist art-form (blending many others together), and one that’s traditionally consumed socially, cinema is perfectly placed to serve this same function for a culture as a whole. In my own country at least, no other form has branded itself onto the collective consciousness of recent generations quite like the iconic images of cinema, nor had its finger so relentlessly on the pulse of the zeitgeist. We face each challenge hand-in-hand with our movies, informing their path even as they influence us in return.
This is a roundabout way of saying that I think movies are important, and discussing and analysing them is important. In an era fascinated with definitive star ratings and canonisation, it’s easy to forget the way art historically grows alongside us, its meaning and value shifting as the years pass. I think of film criticism as part of an ongoing conversation, and my intention as a newly-appointed critic for The Missing Slate is to assist in the evolution of that conversation, which reaches far beyond the pages of this wonderful magazine.