Mood elevators

ENTERTAINING? Yes, but movies do a lot more than just tell a good story

ENTERTAINING? Yes, but movies do a lot more than just tell a good story   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: N. SRIDHARAN

Feeling down in the dumps? Watch a movie that will lift your spirits

No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight of the soul.” – Ingrid Bergman, actorAnyone who has ever been moved to tears, laughter, anger or amazement by a movie will know what Bergman meant in that famous quote. Anyone who has ever watched their favourite movie a 100th time, mouthing every dialogue and anticipating every cherished scene, understands the power of cinema. And increasingly, mental health professionals around the world have begun to use that power to help their patients deal with emotional and behavioural problems, relationship issues and more.

For example, when counselling parents on their relationship with their children, Saras Bhaskar recommends they watch a movie that focusses on the relationship between parents and children.

When working with bickering couples, psychotherapist Ravi Samuel often screens the dark comedy “War of the Roses” starring Michael Douglas. “Watching the movie can help them understand how two people can get into severe behavioural conflicts when marriages go wrong,” he says. When people see films that mirror their own life experiences, it can help them understand how they feel, say the therapists. “People identify strongly with movie characters and get emotionally involved,” says Samuel. “A single powerful scene in a movie can provide insights that are hard to come by otherwise.”

At other times, movies help put people in the observer’s seat and make them think critically about personal issues. When working with adoptive parents on how they should talk to their child about being adopted, Bhaskar asks them to watch Amrutha (Telugu version of Kannathil Muthamittal). “The way the child is told she’s adopted in the film is a big no-no,” comments Bhaskar. “But watching it helps parents think about what the consequences of doing it that way were, and how they would have handled it differently had it been them.”

But one doesn’t have to see a counsellor or a psychotherapist to indulge in some movie therapy. Sometimes, all you need to do is relax on your favourite couch and put on a good DVD for emotional catharsis or simply to de-stress at the end of a long day.

Anuradha, a software professional, remembers the day she watched Naa Autograph. “I just had a huge fight with my mother,” she says. “I cried throughout the movie and then just went and hugged her after it ended. Sometimes, I think you just need a good cry.”

Sometimes you need a good laugh too. That’s what advertising executive Sridhar’s collection of Steve Martin comedies is for. “‘Sgt. Bilko’, ‘The Out-of-Towners’, ‘Bowfinger’ — watching them is like laughter therapy for me,” he says. “When I’m feeling down and out or I’ve had a bad day at work, there’s nothing better.”

Then there are movies that inspire. “The unselfish love of the father for his son in “John Q” always moves me,” says Sridhar. “And that speech by Al Pacino on standing by your principles at all costs at the end of “Scent of a Woman” is just outstanding.”

Providing insight, inspiration, motivation, education, catharsis — movies do a whole lot more for you than just tell a good story.


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