Escapism is such a useful tool, whether it's through movies, music, podcasts, books, or something else. Lately, I have looked for things that transport me to another time and place and that has mostly been through film. On an average week in normal life, I usually read on my way to and from work, typically an hour each way. With the current circumstances, I’m not commuting, so I'm able to repurpose that time for writing and drawing. Unfortunately, with less time accounted for in my commute, writing and drawing fall higher on my list of priorities than reading so I haven't read in quite some time.
Reading is also a more active form of entertainment in that it requires conscious engagement. I feel like it activates the same imaginative part of the brain that is accessed while writing and illustrating, which also require conscious engagement, so in a way replacing reading with writing and drawing is an equal swap - at least as far as engagement levels go. But I still feel there is an escapism void that can't be filled by my own work, so movies have been filling that instead.
Comics are an interesting blend of movies and novels; they are stationary moments in time but the reader must fill in the blanks between each panel. The visually represented moments are similar to film, and the reliance on the reader to imagine what's happening in the blank space mirrors the need to conjure up a mental visual when reading. It's fun to think about how movies insert ways to show and not tell, and how books find ways to tell without ever showing. For comics, the impulse I often run up against is to tell everything, so seeing how movies do the opposite is really helpful. For instance, a character may say they are doing one thing, but the next scene juxtaposes them doing the opposite. It creates tension and says something about how the character wants to be seen versus how they actually are.
Lately I've been looking for movies that are highly driven by memory and character development, high ranges of emotion, creative explorations of the passing of time, and introspection. Here are a couple that I've been thinking a lot about over the last couple weeks:
Call Me By Your Name: I read a review of this movie that compared it to the book, in which they suggest “The book is a mature and thoughtful vintage; in the film, we’re still picking the grapes.” I’ve yet to read the book (it’s on my shelf!), but the film exudes a nostalgia for a summery world that is at a total standstill, and so much of the characters’ motivations are shown almost imperceptibly through body language and double-edged comments. I love how subdued every moment is, but with a heightened sensitivity at the same time. The movie shows a past teenage romance being felt as if it's still in the present, as opposed to reflecting on it years later, and this causes it to feel more immediate. On top of this, Call Me By Your Name shows a world that is fairly isolated because it takes place in the summer when most people in town are on holiday, so there's a parallel of spending most of one's day at home with family and finding ways to fill the time. There are very few gatherings of more than a handful of people at a time, mirroring the contained world that we are living in right now. It is still magical and exquisitely rich despite the small-scale interactions.
Interstellar: While this is a fairly sensational sci-fi box office hit and it really speaks to my interest in any kind of space movie, what I love most about Interstellar is the cross-generational storytelling; the message is that heartbreak, longing, inspiration, and wistfulness can span any distance and any stakes. I also relate to the hurt the characters feel as their family is rendered inaccessible, causing thoughts and reflections that they had longed to share to be lost in the ether. In ways it's also about letting go of longing for a person's physical presence and focusing instead on their emotional impact, which I think we all experience when we suffer a loss. It makes me think about my grandmother’s dementia, and how there were so many parts of her that were lost before she was really gone. And how I wish that I had started writing about my grandparents earlier so I could share with them how deeply they impacted me, just so they knew. The most painful scene for me is when Coop - frozen in middle-age - leaves his elderly daughter on her deathbed, surrounded by her descendants, because she feels that no parent should experience the death of their child. I love the reversal of roles, of a child giving permission to their parent to feel release and forgiveness, when usually the parent takes the lead. Coop's son also loses a child due to illness, both of his children lose their father due to his mission, and his colleague loses her father due to time. There is a lot of loss across generations and experienced at extremely varied distances.
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Brookline, MA.