Saturday, March 30, 2013

My 365-Day Film Challenge - A Failed Experiment

"There are no failures - just experiences and your reactions to them."
                                                                                                                      ~ Tom Krause
I knew it would be a tough ask - 365 movies in 365 days. Despite being an avid film enthusiast, I average about four movies per week (a low number compared to most cinephiles). In order to expand my tastes and acquaint myself with the styles of certain directors, I decided I would try to watch one film per day in 2013. A list of 365 movies was compiled prior to the start of the year, and all titles were put through a random number generator to decide the viewing order. I thought I would do this to make things more exciting (and more challenging). Michael Haneke's The Seventh Continent drew January 1, and Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda was set for December 31. It should be noted that I conceived this challenge as little more than a personal endeavour. The only reward was an eclectic film education. I wasn't being paid to write about the films I saw; it was just something I did for fun, and for the love of the medium.

The first two months were fairly simple. Watching a film per day for 59 consecutive days wasn't too intensive. Things got slightly more difficult in early March, as university started for the year. Still, watching a daily film was doable. Then came a hurdle - an internship at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. For two weeks, I had to wake up at 6:00 AM and come home at around 6:45 PM. These days entailed a lot of walking, which meant I'd come home each night feeling drained of energy. I watched The Imposter (2012) on the first proper night of my internship, and I fell asleep in the process. When my mother woke me up, I resumed watching the film. "It has to be done," I thought. The following night marked the first time of the year I had to replace a designated daily film. I had Like Water for Chocolate set for March 22, but it was taking an age to download (yeah, yeah, piracy is bad, etc.), so I replaced it with the pleasant The Trip. The next night, I just stayed awake throughout Tony Maylam's The Burning. When I woke up on March 24, it dawned on me: "There is no way I can watch 'Saving Private Ryan' when I get home tonight." I had half-prepared myself to end my movie-watching streak, and thus the 365-Day Film Challenge, before I'd even left the house. When I got home that evening, I watched The Descent instead of Saving Private Ryan. Picking a shorter, less demanding film did not, however, prevent my eyelids from wearying. I was asleep after a mere 30 minutes. My mum woke me up, and instead of resuming the film, I accepted defeat and went to bed. It was over. I quit after 83 days. Before I went to bed, I tweeted the following:


For those interested in my ten favourite films I watched as part of the Challenge, they are:

10. Amores Perros (2000)
9. The Wicker Man (1973)
8. Amour (2012)
7. A Short Film About Love (1988)
6. The Seventh Continent (1989)
5. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)
4. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
3. Trainspotting (1996)
2. Hunger (2008)
1. Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Although the Challenge ended rather prematurely, I am sort of glad it did. Watching films became an obligation rather than a leisure activity. Film, as with any art form, requires attention to detail. If you're not in the right headspace, a great film is simply a good filmFor me to fully enjoy a movie, I have to be relaxed both physically and emotionally. Extreme tiredness meant I didn't feel relaxed in either way.

The main reason I felt relieved after resigning from the Challenge is that it made me feel human. The idea to watch 365 movies in 365 days came to me during a time in my life where nothing exciting was happening. Watching films was my main state of being, and anything else that happened was a distraction. When my internship came along, I realised that it was okay to sacrifice the viewing of motion pictures to get a good night's sleep. In fact, I learnt it was necessary. I felt human because I made a logical decision, and movies were no longer the pinnacle of my existence.

As I type this, I only have three days to go with my internship. This makes me a bit sad, because I have enjoyed it so much. I love the people. I love the environment. I love the work. I am as happy as I've been in a long while, and it's because I've attained this level of contentment that movies have become secondary to me. Don't get me wrong - movies will always have a place in my heart, and I still identify as a "film buff". It's just that I haven't had many things to be happy about in recent years. Movies have virtually been my only source of solace. It feels good knowing I can now go a few days without a movie and not feel as though I'm missing out.

Perhaps film was never meant to be my main passion in life. It could be that the void needed to be filled somehow, and movies were a convenient way to fill it.

1 comment:

  1. "Watching films became an obligation rather than a leisure activity."

    Dude, that is dangerous. I only have a few personal rules for myself, but one is that if a fun activity in life suddenly turns into a chore, then I need to immediately reassess what has happened.

    Basically, I say good for you for knowing when to pull the plug. Take a break, balance your priorities (sounds like you have a lot going on) and recharge. Films, in my opinion, should never be an obligation.

    Sorry your bummed about ditching your own challenge, but it's all good man, keep doing your thing!