July 20, 2024

Examining how religion and belief have evolved into ostensibly secular pursuits in the modern world is enlightening. Identifying our rituals and considering what individuals do in the dark, after work and in the home, are some ways to tackle this. Thus, we are guided to the areas we designate for group activities distinct from everyday existence. These hallowed areas are distinct from the commonplace and the unholy. Sacred spaces are places where people as members of a group experience profound, transformational occurrences, as described by Émile Durkheim more than a century ago.

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Similar to a sacrifice, a ritual takes place in the ritual arena, which is a confined area. Different regulations apply in various areas. They provide new perspectives on time, the community, ancestors, and basic ideas of value and meaning. In this essay, I argue that movies are such a hallowed place and go into the reasons behind their remarkable efficacy.

The power of ritual and movies

Every community gathers, produces, and transmits the essence of its meanings, values, ambitions, beginnings, objectives, and ethical lineaments primarily through myth and ritual. In the past eight decades, movies have developed into a dependable and potent storytelling tool. Put differently, film serves as a primary medium for the creation of involvement in contemporary myths. What gives the ritual and its interaction with mythology their emotional resonance and significance is their emotional impact.

The scope of human behavior assumes legendary proportions in films. not just in terms of scale but also in terms of the significance of the narrative, characters, locations, emotions, and gestures. Scripts that exhibit moral thoughts, aspirational storytelling, and the reenactment of historical events are brought to life by archetypal figures. The well chosen conversation in films is so important that it is comparable to the manifest substance of dream discourse. Since dreams are visual, Freud naturally maintained that every word said in a dream is extremely important, and any words that manage to get past the censor must be extremely important.

Filmmaking is an incredibly challenging art form; a cursory glance at the credits will reveal that hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of people have gone into each film. Each situation is extremely unlikely due of the several censors involved, ranging from financiers to editors to distribution firms, and so forth. The production required to produce a film shows that it works at a greater degree of proportionality when compared to the tales of everyone in the theater and the individuals who made the film. While not every film is good and deserving of the kind of attention I outline here, many are, and they are the films to which I apply these observations.

Another factor that produces a ritual space is the movie theater atmosphere. The movie theater is a windowless space that is only lit by light coming through translucent celluloid. We sit among strangers and share our emotional responses to similar experiences with them. We communicate and reinforce a cultural lens through our shared emotions.

The ritual arena of theater itself is elevated by its social context. It strengthens our sense of oneness as a group and expands upon our common past and understanding of reality. The screen, which measures 45 to 65 feet in width and up to 30 feet in height, flickers with light. Because cinema is greater than life, it may portray life to us through a mimetic dramatization of events. By being other, by getting absorbed into the narrative and emerging on the other side in a little altered shape, we come to grasp something about ourselves.

Next comes the story, which is the dramatic form infused with artistic attractiveness. That reduction of life to its most memorable experiences, separated into unique stories. We are compelled to empathize with the characters because of the overly dramatic structure of the voyage, the love triangle, the struggle, etc. We are made to feel sympathetic. Some films immerse us in the characters’ world to the point where the story progression hardly resembles gossip.

When time is shown in a movie, it is changed; for us, it represents an escape, a trip, a doorway out of the real world, and the unpredictable character of time. Being out of time and still in a dark room helps us to break free from many of the things that tie us. We are liberated from the verbal exchanges and the complex web of dynamic exchanges that constitute public life. Here, we are voyeurs—participating emotionally even in the absence of requests. The director accomplishes everything: a tale is brought to life through montage; individuals are identified through casting; and locations are brought to life through lighting and sound design. All we need to do is maintain an open mind and set of ears. The screen gives the impression of four dimensions if we focus on it. It extends them to us; it absorbs them all and carries us along with it.

Once the cinematic ritual has concluded, we exit the room feeling unsettled and attuned to the changes in light and movement. We reassembly ourselves after assimilating into an other reality. We discuss our observations and understanding in groups or internally. The movie gets ingrained in our memory, and occasionally we have trouble telling the difference between stories we’ve heard about individuals and those we recall from the movies. We absorb the film via the hallowed confines of the cinema and depart imbued with its lessons.

We return to each other with stories and personalities, recollections of things that never occurred, when the ritual is finished and the crow and raven have gone silent. We wish to spread them farther; we suggest films, discuss their merits and shortcomings, and weave them into the fabric of all the other tales and films we have seen and experienced. We have internalized the experience and accepted the myth.