“I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime.”
– Christopher Nolan
My love of movies, and of the moviegoing experience, being more or less in the public domain, I’m aware that some among you may be waiting for my own comment about yesterday’s events.
In all honesty, I wasn’t planning on saying anything, not because I don’t care, but because I do. I don’t want to contribute to the noise that’s passing for dialogue right now. I don’t want to be a party to the rush to explain, to blame one or another facet of our society for what we can only know as the vile, heartless act of one man; the endless coverage that can serve only to make a media darling out of one more murderer. That frenzy’s not for me.
I can’t entirely fault the desire to speak, the need to fill the silence, for it’s through speech that we come to understand one another, and it’s through that understanding that we appreciate the true connections that exist between us, and it’s through that appreciation that, just maybe, we make the world a better place. But I didn’t plan to speak because I thought I had nothing to say.
That started to change when I read the statement Christopher Nolan released yesterday. Whatever you may think of the filmmaker, I thought that statement a heartfelt and eloquent gesture from the man, a moment of empathy that’s sorely needed right now.
And my mind working as it does, my train of thought found itself redirected, of all places, to Cicely, Alaska…
While I never watched it regularly, I was a fan of Northern Exposure. And there’s one episode that still stands out in my memory: “Rosebud”, a 1993 story centered on the character of Ed Chigliak (Darren E. Burrows). I always liked Ed – his love of film, which more or less informed his entire life, was something I could relate to. So of course this episode would involve him trying to put together a film festival in Cicely.
While he was working on that, Ed’s mentor, a medicine man named Leonard (played by the great character actor Graham Greene), arrived in town on a research trip. Believing that understanding the medical practices of other cultures could only improve his own, Leonard wanted to learn the stories of mainstream American culture, the tales we tell to heal.
These two threads, of course, were ultimately tied together at Ed’s film festival, at the episode’s end, when Leonard realized that the movies are our stories. They’re our mythology. We rely on them to escape, to learn, to heal, and yes, to connect with one another. In some small, strange way, the act of going to the theater becomes an affirmation of our common humanity. Which brings us back to today.
Because it’s that shared experience that Nolan sought to celebrate in his statement, and as we remember the victims, and all touched by what happened, it’s that shared experience that we need to save now.
In that same statement, Nolan said something I’ve really taken to heart in these hours: “The movie theatre is my home.”
It’s mine too.
And I still believe it’s worth fighting for.
Thank you for bearing with me…