Newtopia staff writer Jane Alexander Stewart, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who writes essays about mythic themes in film, creates “Myth in Film; Myth in Your Life” seminars for self-exploration and travels a lot. Her film reviews have been published in the San Francisco C.G. Jung Library Journal, Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture and Los Angeles Journal of Psychological Perspectives. Jane’s popular essay on “The Feminine Hero in The Silence of the Lambs” appears in the anthology, The Soul of Popular Culture, and in The Presence of the Feminine in Film as one of its authors. She’s also presented myth in film programs at Los Angeles County Museum, University of Alabama and C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. A collection of her reviews and other writing can be found at www.CinemaShrink.com.
Her contribution to Newtopia will include Cinemashrink; her column that she describes below:
CinemaShrink Says “Let a film wake you up, prompt you to discover what lies behind every day realities and be part of imagining our culture into existence. That’s you, that’s me, that’s us –– up on the silver screen for all to grab, make personal and turn into tomorrow. This is it, folks. Newtopia’s Mission Statement for the Film Department.
Film is a magical cultural medium, giving us a visual peek into what drives us, lures us and transforms us as individuals and as a society. Think about it; film puts us on the spot. Like a direct conduit from the American collective unconscious, American films of the last one hundred years have been projecting our personal stories onto a big screen in public theatres for all to see — for better and for worse. How we react to a film is our responsibility. Film is not real. Like a hamburger advertised in a menu, it’s not the real thing. Film tells of love and fury, signifying and reflecting reality but not reality itself. Sometimes, we want to know the truth a film points to and sometimes we don’t. But there it is, in a theatre nearby, pointing if we choose to look. We can find out who we are, what we want and where we’re going — if we dare.
I invite you to take the dare, go a little deeper and see what you can find out about yourself in a film you love, a film you hate or a film you love to hate, hate to love.
Film has inherited the role of the ancient storyteller in our culture. Traditionally, a storyteller came into town at a significant moment — or to make a moment significant. The storyteller came in fine dress or shabby hand-me-downs, whatever it took to get people’s attention. The story told was like no other story because it told what couldn’t be told, what had to be told or what hadn’t yet been told. It carried a new message or an old one, one that had been heard so often it needed to be freshened up or one that could only be seen in a mirror. In other words, the ancient storyteller came into town to tell folks who they were, doing what and why, in the only way they could hear it – as a story about them. And they were energized, turned on and provoked to reflect. Film does that now. Film tells us who we are doing what now in the only way we can hear it – as our own story, the story of a culture in which everyone is making themselves up as they go along and longing to know what story they’re living. If we dare.
We gather in large congregations in dark cave-like spaces to be entertained, uplifted and enlightened by reflections of ourselves, revealing insights and penetrating the future. We hope to be surprised and, even though the truth often hurts, we go to the movies hoping to find it. Too often truth hides like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, masking itself with what is pretty to believe. We don’t mind. We walk out of theatres eager to share what we’ve seen, to ask another what they’ve seen and the wool is often stripped from our eyes. We like being stirred up, happily or unhappily.
We go to movies to further our feelings of belonging. We want to feel our emotions more deeply, to see ourselves in another light, to understand what is alien and remove all doubt that we are a part of a society that is familiar. We like being amused by movies that show our dirty linen, our perverse human needs and our small-minded human ways. We like being heroes, lovers and winners in our own stories. We laugh, cringe and are revolted by how close to the truth a film can come. And we like action. Smash it, bang it, throw it in the air. Blow us over. We’re fine as long as our feet stay on the ground. Of course, we should use common sense and not take the children to anything geared to adults. For a couple hours, we live in a dream showing us as the neighbors, critics and performers on the street where we live, the roads that we travel and the highways that we seek. We triumph over evil, find true love and feel fulfilled –– or not. Films are our dream stories; sometimes they’re nightmares.
We want the pictures on the big screen to match or inspire the pictures we carry of ourselves in our own minds. They can’t be too far behind us or too far ahead. We have to be able to identify. We have to see someone or something that puts us in a familiar context, struggling or thriving on what we feel to be true. We want stories and images that help us to push through what separates, limits or deadens us. We want comfort against uncertainty and existential angst of living in devastatingly challenging times. We don’t mind being exposed to other people’s truths, as long as ours are held in respect — regarded as viable and valuable.
We want to belong.
Sometimes, via film, we visit outer space, underground worlds and imaginary planets and we are reassured that it’s the entire place where we live. We are a people living in our imaginations as much as we live on the ground, flying high in our minds and hearts as well as walking flat-footed. When film came along, expounding upon the possibilities of imagination, it tapped the unconscious and hasn’t looked back. Every film has at least two levels, the individual and the symbolic. And then there’s the mythic – the story beneath the surface or beyond the edge, the larger story casting personal, individual and home-grown-in-America problems on the stage of everlasting, universal human drama. We never tire of seeing those old stories updated.
If we can find our story, we know who we are and can guess where we’re going. For a reassuring moment, we feel connected. And that’s the job of the ancient storyteller in his new costume, film. If we can find ourselves in a film, we can understand what’s happening around us and how to act into it.
At least that’s what I believe.”
Cinemashrink: Silver Linings Playbook, 2012
Cinemashrink: Promised Land, 2012
Cinemashrink: Zero Dark Thirty, 2013
Cinemashrink: Lincoln, 2012
Cinemashrink: Argo, 2012
Cinemashrink: The Master, 2012
Cinemashrink: The Wind Will Carry Us, 1999
Cinemashrink: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Cinemashrink: Summer DVD Treasure Chest
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 2012
Cinemashrink: Chimpanzee, 2012
Cinemashrink: Theater of War, 2008
Cinemashrink Capsules: 2011′s Most Memorable Films and Documentaries
Cinemashrink: Tree of Life, 2011
Cinemashrink, Talk to Her, 2002
Cinemashrink: Memorable Films, 2011
Cinemashrink: Queen to Play, 2011
Cinemashrink: Poetry, 2010
Cinemashrink: Catfish, 2010
Cinemashrink: Buck, 2011
Cinemashrink: The Hedgehog, 2011