Can watching movies like The Departed help you cope with your own betrayals? Has The Pursuit of Happiness reinstated your belief in humanity? And can a movie like Saving Private Ryan teach you anything about war and conflict?
Proponents of cinema therapy suggest that in addition to raking it in at the box office and sweeping awards, movies can also change the way we think, feel and, ultimately, deal with life's ups and downs. Cinema therapy has been defined by Segen's Medical Dictionary as: a form of therapy or self-help that uses movies, particularly videos, as therapeutic tools. Cinema therapy can be a catalyst for healing and growth for those who are open to learning how movies affect people. The process involves watching certain films with conscious awareness, and using the effect of imagery, plot, music, etc. in films on the psyche for insight, inspiration, emotional release or relief and natural change. Used as part of psychotherapy, cinema therapy is an innovative method based on traditional therapeutic principles.
An increasing number of therapists prescribe movies to help their patients explore their psyches. Books with such titles as, ‘Rent Two Films and Let's Talk in the Morning’ and ‘Cinematherapy for Lovers: The Girl's Guide to Finding True Love One Movie at a Time’ are finding their own niche in the self-help sections of many bookstores.
There are several types of cinema therapy, with varying degrees of entertainment and therapeutic value. According to a WebMD feature, “popcorn cinema therapy is primarily cinema entertainment that may result in an emotional release. Evocative cinema therapy helps individuals connect with story lines and the movie characters. In the process they learn about themselves in more profound ways. Cathartic cinema therapy helps a person access their emotions, for instance, if they are in a depression, and may be used in the early stages of psychotherapy.”
The effect on most people is typically positive. The idea is to choose movies with themes that mirror your current problem or situation. For example, if you or a loved is an alcoholic, then try watching movies like “28 Days or Leaving Las Vegas”. Or check out “When a Man Loves a Woman” if you think a drinking problem is impacting your marriage.
There are many other themes to explore, including: coping with prejudice, childhood trauma, eating disorders, suicide, family issues and relationships, loss, and gay and lesbian relationships.
“Beyond the entertainment value of leaving isolated hospital wards to view films, it is increasingly believed that a patient's recovery is improved by viewing "feel-good" films, or ones that make them laugh. Laughter is the best medicine and we intend to administer it through cinema. This is a superb initiative which I'm sure will do a great deal to boost patients' motivation to get well," said Dr. Alan Maryon-Davis, a health consultant, while talking to the Sunday Mirror in an article titled ‘Coming Soon To A Hospital Near You...’.
From life goals to motivation, Quora users have a list of films with something for everyone to benefit from cinema therapy. Selections include:
• Negotiation: If it is not "win-win" it is not negotiation. If you wish to learn the art of convincing, watch “12 Angry Men”.
• Illusion: If you are spiritual and believe in the essence of Bhagavad Gita, “The Matrix” is for you.
• Fight: People survive the most difficult of times, provided they have the right attitude. Learn it from “Life is Beautiful”.
• Live your life: Life happens in the present when you follow your heart. Watch “Amélie” and realise it.
• Chase excellence, not success: “3 Idiots” is your movie. The moment you think about money, you can't become a pro at your skill.
• There are no shortcuts to success: Work hard and earn your bread. There are no shortcuts. You can realise this while laughing to “Hera Pheri” in a loop.
When you’re sitting in a theatre with your friends, munching on popcorn, watching your favourite actors in a larger-than-life frame, you often feel excited, scared, emotional and happy. During those two and a half hours, you are transferred to a world away from reality, and you enjoy every moment of it. As you walk out of the theatre, you’ll be rejuvenated, de-stressed and realise that you had, even if just for a few hours, forgotten about the troubles of day-to-day life. Watch, learn and live; this is the secret ingredient.