Why Suspension of Disbelief in Movies Work

This post is really aimed at my girlfriend…you’ll see why. Yesterday I went to see Jurassic World with her. She’s the most unimpressed person when it comes to movies. She actually hates movies. Don’t know why. Don’t know where her childhood went wrong that made her hate movies. WHO HATES MOVIES???? Anyway, every 30 minutes I would ask her how she’s liking the movie, knowing her distaste for movies. She would answer, “It’s okay.” I would proceed to ask her after something epic would happen. She was still unimpressed. Well, I found out she doesn’t really care for action or unrealistic movies. Which, if you think about it, most movies are somewhat unrealistic.

After the movie we went out to eat. Most of the meal consisted of her going on about what she hated about the movie. (There were a lot of things). One thing she focused on was how unrealistic Jurassic World was. So I tried explaining to her that obviously in real life most of the movies out there would never happen, or could never happen, and that’s why they’re called movies. Although not all movies are works of fiction, some are based on true stories. Nevertheless, in order to make a movie work, you must have imagination. You have to exaggerate things or stretch the truth to make it more entertaining for your audience. You think biopics would be entertaining if movies stuck to the facts? Not everybody lives an interesting life, so of course you must create content for the purpose of a successful film. What makes a successful film you ask? Conflict.

You must throw obstacle after obstacle at your protagonist to overcome, whether it’s as extreme as fighting off dinosaurs or as mild as not fitting in. Whether it’s an external or internal conflict, your film needs conflict. Although too much conflict and too much going on causes chaos and the film fails. So you have to have a good balance of things. Okay, back to what I was actually talking about. Oh yeah, realism and movies.

Do we actually believe that Claire ran the entire movie in heels? No. Do we actually believe that Jurassic World theme park would ever happen? (Perhaps in the future, but for now, of course not.) Do we believe that people would genetically modify a dinosaur? Actually, I believe this one because humans are crazy, but you guys know what I’m saying. It’s the idea of suspension of disbelief.

In actuality we don’t believe any of Jurassic World to be true, but in the world they’ve created, we believe it. In the universe where these characters live, we completely buy it. Is The Hunger Games real? No, but the world that Suzanne Collins brings us into, feels real.

To further explain why fantastical movies work, I’m going to quote Syf Field and this will put the whole thing to rest.

“It was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the 19th century poet and literary critic who coined the concept known as the willing suspension of disbelief. What he says is basically this: when we, the viewer, reader or audience, approach a work of art, we must leave our own personal beliefs, our own personal perception of reality, behind so we can approach the work on its own merits, on its own level. In other words, we must willingly suspend our disbelief no matter how distant the story line strays from what we believe to be true. All thoughts of what we believe to be true have to be suspended; our “reality” has to be left behind to “the work.”

Amen to that, Syd. Amen. So now you realize that no matter how unrealistic your concept is, there’s always room for an audience. (Unless it’s batshit crazy stupid). But in that case I’m sure the SYFY channel will pick it up.

SMC

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