Cinema can change lives. People may try to convince you otherwise; that film is just an entertainment bandwagon that needs to be used and thrown; that it has no “greater purpose”, so to speak. Well, with all due respect to all the detractors and cynics: they are wrong. Cinema can affect lives, they can awaken a nation’s conscience, they can spawn social change and in rare instances, they change the nature of your reality. The great Polish auteur Krzysztof Kieślowski’s ‘Short Film About Killing’ awakened Poland to the horrors of judicial murder and was instrumental in the abolishment of the death penalty. Michael Haneke’s ‘Caché’ uncovered the wounds of the 1961 Siene River Massacre and the French government’s decades long denial of the tragedy. So, when someone tells me cinema has no intrinsic value – I look at them…. and smile.
Now, I’m sure that as cinephiles, we all have movies that have affected our lives; movies that we consider our favorites because of how it moved us. The relationship between cinema and its audience is a very personal one, and not based on critical or objective opinions. And today, I have decided to share the movies that I consider my favorites; movies that changed my life. This is not a list for everyone; this is my list of movies and another person would most definitely have a different list. That said, I do believe that all these movies are essential viewing for anybody who loves cinema, and they are true testaments to the power and influence of this great art. (Numerals don’t indicate any kind of ranking.)
1. Citizen Kane (1941)
For all those rolling your eyes on this textbook cinephile mention, let me make this clear once and for all – its not just the critics and intellectuals, ‘Citizen Kane’ is also one of the greatest movies I have ever seen, and my journey towards discovering this masterpiece was a long, albeit satisfying one. Written and directed by the great Orson Welles, ‘Citizen Kane’ has Welles’ himself playing the titular role of Charles Foster Kane, a megalomaniac media mogul, whose life is retraced by a journalist after his death. The movie is said to be quasi autobiographical, based on Welles’ own life and that of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst. While the movie’s technical finesse and innovation is ground-breaking, it is the sheer emotional depth and thematic richness that makes it one of the greatest movies ever made.
I couldn’t initially relate to a tragic tale of loneliness and depression of one of the most powerful and richest men in the planet – a man who had everything, so to speak. But, it is only with time and perspective on my hands that I related to the tragic existence of a man who had everything and yet had nothing. Unlovable and intolerable even for close friends and family, Kane scaled all the peaks there is for a man, but as time made him realize, the ride to the top is often a lonely one. And that’s why his dying words “Rosebud”, is so profoundly poignant.
We all have our Rosebuds, in the sense that there always a part of us, something deep inside us that is empty, an emptiness that we constantly try to fill. Perhaps only when confronted with the idea of mortality, do we realize the futility of what we have achieved and whether it really made us happy. Rosebud is a memory of happier times, before things got awry; a time when you were filled with innocence and hope. And ‘Citizen Kane’ gives arguably the most tragic character in cinema history, a man whose miserable existence will move you to tears. With its damning repudiation of the American Dream and its glossy ideals, ‘Citizen Kane’ made me re-evaluate my own life choices and how it has shaped my life. Read more