Movies That Steal Your Dignity

It also made me understand what it means to walk out of a theater sheepish and red-eyed, something I didn’t quite grasp when I saw Beaches in first grade. Everyone walked out of that movie sniffling and blowing their noses over the death of Barbara Hershey’s character, and all I felt was awkwardness.

 

I watched the final episode of Six Feet Under a few days ago, and ever since, I feel like I’ve been walking through a somnambulistic haze. Very rarely does television or film move me to tears, but when it does, this strange feeling sets in that walks the line between depression and inspiration and it often lasts for days. In the case of Six Feet Under, once the final credits rolled and the living room lights came up, my first thought was that I hadn’t seen television this good since the demise of My So-Called Life. My second thought was, “Jesus, I’m actually crying!” And to my surprise, even my boyfriend Josh was a little misty-eyed—someone I’ve never known to cry over onscreen images, save when his personal hero Pete Sampras retired on live television. But I know for a fact that he shared my depressive haze for days afterward, because not only is this condition marked by visible pensiveness, but it’s also accompanied by the incessant need to keep talking about the show.
Now, this type of chit-chat usually makes me feel like a total nerd who secretly imagines herself on the couch at Central Perk, sipping a cup of coffee with the gang (“Can you believe that Ross thought he and Rachel were on a break?!”). However, at least I’m saved by the fact that Six Feet Under is an HBO series and that these, along with movies, are considered to be more high-brow than network television. Of course, this isn’t always the case with movies, and I’ll be the first to admit that this same depressed-and-talking-about-it phenomenon happened to me after I saw Titanic in the theater. Laugh all you want, but I still maintain that this is one of the saddest films ever made. Every self-proclaimed intellectual loves to bash this movie, yet we all know that those same people go home and change into pajamas with feet after a night of talking shit about it. This movie depressed me for days, and it still does every time I watch it. It also made me understand what it means to walk out of a theater sheepish and red-eyed, something I didn’t quite grasp when I saw Beaches in first grade. Everyone walked out of that movie sniffling and blowing their noses over the death of Barbara Hershey’s character, and all I felt was awkwardness. Now, thanks to Titanic, I too have joined the ranks of the publicly distraught.
While I applaud Titanic for inaugurating me into the domain of comfortable public blubbering, it’s still a rare occurrence for me. I can count on one hand the movies that have made me cry in the theater since: Armageddon (another to ridicule, but you’d cry too if your dad died in space), Dancer in the Dark (and I saw that one alone, so it was even weirder to be crying in public), Whale Rider (you go, little Pai!), and Amélie (tears of joy, no less). Not that the privacy of my own home has made for loads of tears, either. There are few movies from my childhood that I can recall as being particularly dismal. The Incredible Journey evokes a general wasteland of sadness, but I can’t remember any specific scenes other than that I think the cat loses an eye.

My sister, on the other hand, was the queen of tearjerkers. She used to watch Sommersby at least once a week, and I’m pretty sure the aforementioned haze affected her at a young age because she definitely moped around after Richard Gere was executed at the end. Untamed Heart didn’t seem to have quite the same effect on her, although she did cry when Christian Slater finally lost his baboon heart after the North Stars game. And Jack the Bear actually made us both cry, although now I have no idea what it was even about.
For me, the tears seem to come when a movie hits a nerve with a single image, often compounded by its fusion with a compelling score. In Titanic, it is when Rose, now alone, looks up to see the RMS Carpathia hovering in rescue. In Amélie, it is when she sends the swimming baby video to the Glass Man downstairs. And in Six Feet Under, it is when the image of Claire’s deceased brother recedes in her rearview mirror. What all of these seem to have in common is that they reaffirm life, and they remind us why we’re here. Which, after watching them and falling into a contemplative cloud, is why I just can’t stop talking about them.

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