We enter the dark theaters and witness a story told on screen. But do we only witness that story? Don’t we as an audience participate in that story and try to connect bit parts with our own life in that moment. Often we do that and it is what makes the experience of movies so heartfelt in our life that we remember them so fondly even years later.
Edvard Munch: The Scream
But these movies which have the capacity to touch lives don’t come out of nowhere. These are the stories which have something genuine speaking through them. This honesty touches the audience and invites them to enter the realm of a shared experience in cinema. And perhaps this is the biggest power of cinema which makes it a truly poignant and an independent art form. Right from the ascent of humanity, all art has emerged as a personal expression to decipher the myriad colours of life and artists (writers, painters, filmmakers and rest) have produced great works of art which time and again enters in our psyche and illuminates the mysteries of human life. As the age old adage often says “the root of every great work of art lies in pain”, so is the case with movies. Great movies are often the result of intense failures the artists go through in their lives and have the capability to bring that convincingly on screen.
That pain might or might not reflect directly in the movies, but it is certainly the foundation upon which an artist creates his work and aims to touch people’s lives through his craft. Although it is not necessary that the actor, writer or filmmaker has to go through the obvious failures which the world can recognize but certainly beneath the obvious, lies the undercurrent of episodes of crisis which propels his work to the deserving category of great movies. Film history is filled with such incidents and anecdotes from around the world where the individual has to cross the insurmountable bridge of failure to get the movie made. When those movies were released, they created a kind of stir in the society which even surprised the creator himself. Many film personalities have often looked back at their period of struggle and have cited those times as a single most important influence on their work. Some of the interesting stories of landmark classics are worth mentioning here and what better way than to start with the superstar of our own Hindi Cinema, Amitabh Bachchan.
Series of flops:
The megastar of Hindi Cinema has had a series of flops which almost led him to leave acting and go back home when finally Zanjeer(1973) happened and changed it all. Every iota of angst and frustration which was building inside him came out through a great performance and gave him the image of the Angry Young Man.
Hollywood Czar Steven Spielberg applied three times to film school:
Many won’t believe this, but Steven Spielberg applied to film school of USC (University of Southern California) three times and was rejected every time but he didn’t succumb to his failure. Instead of this, he used this experience as a motivation when he made films and successfully entertained the whole world. Incedible! He himself has often referenced failure as an important factor in his success.
Paul Schrader wrote Taxi Driver in his darkest times:
That time in the 70s, fresh out of film school and finding it hard to have a career in movies, Paul Schrader went through some really rough times in his life; he was getting increasingly disillusioned & his personal life was in mess (his girlfriend left him too) which made him feel as the loneliest man on the planet. Out of this experience came out a perfect metaphor for loneliness; a taxi driver. This compelled him to write the script in mere 18 days and when the movie was being made, cinema history was never the same.
Mughal-e-Azam was made amidst difficulties:
Everybody knows the kind of difficulties the makers of this film faced 50 years back. There were numerous problems K. Asif faced when he was trying to bring the legend of love on screen. It took him an arduous 11 years to complete the movie. But when it released, everything translated into success as it became one of the greatest movies of all time (truly an experience of its kind).
There are a number of anecdotes which time and again emphasize on the relationship between movies (read art) and failures. We as spectators, can do our best by looking back at those films and stories and try to find our personal inspiration from the ordeal of these people who were able to translate that pain on screen. They certainly didn’t quit, instead they saw them as important experiences in the context of their work and produced magic.
Perhaps it also suggests that we should also look back at our own lives too and try to see our personal failures in a new light. Who knows it might give us that spark of inspiration and will set us on the path to achieve what our hearts truly aspires for. Probably then passing through the dark tunnels of failures we can experience the importance of it and will truly make an effort to realize our own potential to live a really satisfying and meaningful life… Amen!