As some may know if you’ve ever paid attention to my weekly queue (which, will be back soon) not only do I try and watch a film a day (but has failed lately), but I also rewatch a lot of movies. Sometimes from my personal collection, sometimes in theatres (referring to older films, not just recent releases), to Netflix. I find it strange that I very often hear a variation of the following, “why are you watching that again?” It wasn’t until lately that I realised that not only am I out of the norm for buying physical copies but also for watching them over and over again.
For me, it’s easy to equate rewatching a favourite film to listening to a favourite artist, album or song. At point x in your life, that piece of art means y, and when you go back 5 or 10 years later, does it still mean the same, or less? Maybe it means more. Stepping outside of film for a moment (shocker, I know), there are albums that still mean a lot to me, but I can barely sit through. On the other end of the spectrum, there are albums that I didn’t adore by artists whom I loved that get recontextualized as a twenty-something (as opposed to early teens) all because a line I never noticed before. And in that, that’s every reason to rewatch a film.
First reason, recontextualizing the film. Pixar films are beloved for this. Films for children with real adult issues. Finding Nemo has Nemo taken out of the ocean, but it’s really about his father Marlin, who will do anything he can to find his only son after he lost everyone he loved. The Incredibles has Mr Incredible wanting to feel extraordinary once again as he’s become nearly bored in his ordinary life. But at the same time, his wife is scared that she’s losing him in an affair. The more you watch something, the more likely you’ll see something you missed the first time, whether it’s plot details, lines, gestures, or moments. You can’t catch everything on a first viewing, and you aren’t supposed to either.
To attempt to recontextualize a film is nearly the same as looking for clues. Films with twists like (spoiler alert?) Fight Club, The Usual Suspects, or The Sixth Sense, are the twists tact on the end or is it built into the story. Was he really dead the whole time? Take it from someone who’s seen it multiple times, he was. And yes, they really are the same person.
Over time, the film will always remain the same, a time capsule with slang and outfits. Look at a film like Working Girl that just screams the 80’s. In ten years, we will look back and cringe that “Yas Queen” was so prominent in pop culture (#sorrynotsorry). But as the film stays the same, you won’t. What was once sweet, is now silly. And what was once cool, is now lame, or vice-versa.
One of the first films I truly loved (outside of any childhood films) was Fight Club. It was a film that became a gateway to the rest of cinema. It’s also the only film that once it ended, I immediately pressed play on the DVD again. It’s a film that I revisited dozens of times since, and always dreamed I could see it on the big screen. And that opportunity came up last year, and I almost wish it hadn’t.
I finally saw some of the criticism (as in, it wasn’t really saying much) was true. While still really well made (with Fincher behind the camera, that comes as no surprise), it just doesn’t say anything, but to say that takes something away from the film’s impact on me, would be a lie. Back when I saw the film for the first time, near Christmas of 2006, I started paying attention to films on a different level, mix that with a one-two punch of seeing Pulp Fiction for the first time nearly a week later, my life was completely changed from that moment.
Our reactions to films change as we grow older. On the other end of the spectrum, there are films that I just liked or disliked that I would later go on to appreciate more and more. The first time I saw 2001 on DVD, I only liked it, but now after I’ve seen it three times on 70mm, I love it. The last time I saw it, I felt as if I was floating out of my seat and on the journey to transform as well.
You can have good and bad experiences from a rewatch as you and your taste continue to change as you get older. Sometimes the time capsule takes you for a ride as well, leaving you back in your own childhood or youth, dealing with far less stress and it allows you to just live in this beautiful art that will never change, but always changes as you do as well.