What makes a “good” film? I believe the answer is subjective. Of course, there are obvious responses to be discussed: quality direction, acting, or cinematography, just to name a few. It cannot be denied that with any of these factors present, a film is bound to be well-received by critics and viewers. But the medium of film has a scope that extends far beyond any of these single attributes and that makes it one of the most unique and significant forms of art that we have access to as an audience.
Film is unparalleled in its ability to invoke any emotion. I believe this power lies in one word: empathy. To me, empathy starts with the characters. In comparison to other creative art, film has a distinctive ability to create opportunities for audiences to connect with its stories and the characters on screen. Throughout the range of genres, when engaging with a film, we are constantly able to find some semblance of familiarity in the settings, situations and conflicts that unfold. Often times, to some degree, we find our own lives reflected in the story being told.
The key to a well-developed character in filmmaking is one that audiences can relate to. When we meet a new character, we are offered the chance to live their life alongside them. During this brief period, we come to sympathize with the character. We begin to recognize aspects of ourselves: our triumphs, our mistakes. Depending on what we see, we sometimes anticipate their success and sometimes hope for their downfall. Sometimes even, we are conflicted on how to feel. Regardless of how dramatized they can be, the authentic emotions and circumstances that we as viewers find ourselves presented with can have a profound effect. As we accompany these characters through their trials and tribulations, the opportunity arises for us to reflect on our own lives, creating new perspectives and inspiring change.
Beyond the characters, music is another aspect that elevates the medium of film, which is especially unique in the way it can utilize sound or the lack thereof. A film’s score can tell its own respective story. When seamlessly woven together with the visual aspects, a powerful storytelling platform emerges.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there is a simple fact: films are just plain enjoyable. As an outlet of creative expression and as a form of media, the range of what film can encompass is infinite. The catharsis at the end of a fictitious journey; the swell of music behind an extreme wide shot of a landscape. These are experiences that are rarely found elsewhere. These moments have probably given you frisson in the past without you even realizing. Frisson is the scientific term for the phenomenon of pleasurable chills/goosebumps, and at the end of the day it is the one consistent metric I use to judge a “good’ movie.