Life Imitating Art Imitating Life

On long car rides, whenever I’m entirely napped-out, I look out the window and pretend I’m in a movie. I put in my earphones and feel the intensity of the music as you do in a theatre. I imagine the shot. My forehead is against the windowpane as “Sweet Disposition” or some other movie-song provides ambience. What is really a simple attempt to escape boredom begins to feel like a glamorous experience. Even though my mind goes blank, I automatically feel like an intellectual. I am some girl in some indie film, being pensive on her road trip as fitting music floods the theatre. I am going from one place to the next. I feel I have direction.

I’ve often talked about this feeling with people. Whenever I enter a moving vehicle and put in some earphones, everything automatically feels more thrilling. The same kind of thing happens whenever I have a crush on someone. Everything’s automatically more interesting, and I start to imagine myself on the silver screen. Here’s the scene where we spot each other from across the room. The camera zooms in on his face, then mine. I also felt this way at high school parties. The Americana vibe pulsed as I walked into basements with wood-paneled walls, booming Hip-Hop music, and an excess of red solo cups. I felt like a camera was following me the whole time. Whenever I see myself living within cinematic moments everything is automatically more interesting. “Wow,” I think, “Things are finally getting interesting.”

I can’t help feeling that this is all incredibly sad. Sure, there’s nothing really wrong with getting a thrill from life’s occasionally cinematic nature.  But isn’t it almost painfully ironic? I am most entertained by moments in which my life imitates an art that is supposed to, at least to some extent, imitate life. Perhaps wishful thinking is what makes these moments so special. If I am in a movie in this moment, maybe my life will have a slam-bang-Hollywood-blockbuster-style finish! Maybe I’ll end up with that cute guy or  “accept myself” or some other joyous thing that really only happens in movies and rarely, at best, in real life.

But I go to Amherst College. I have long embraced the blasé attitude that happy endings are for the unsophisticated masses. I have taught myself to like movies that end in tragedy or indifference. I have embraced the pretension of grey landscapes and blank faces. No, none of that happy-ending bullshit for me.

But, movies are almost always more exciting than real life, even if they don’t end in wedding bells and chocolate cake. Everything is heightened on the silver screen. The road trip is filled with adventure instead of pit-stops. Boy meets Girl and they end up actually talking to each other instead of playing the indifference game. High school parties are places of debauchery and wild exploration, rather than mildly entertaining puke-fests. Things actually happen. They happen with a purpose.

What’s especially appealing about movies, other than a certain dramatic flair, is the unity of character and environment. In movies, the music tells us what to feel. The world onscreen changes for the characters within it. Movies, unlike real life, accommodate for the people within them. You’ll hear a certain refrain repeated when one character walks in the room. Upbeat tunes will play along with children at the park. The lights get dim and soft piano plays when someone is lovesick and crying. Strings soar as a group of teens embark on a road trip across the southwest.  It can be reassuring every once in a while, to delude ourselves into thinking that the world is not indifferent. It can be comforting to think that life’s soundtrack will change for our moods. There’s nothing really wrong with popping in some earbuds and imagining my life is far more interesting than it is.

(Photo Courtesy of Tobiasmaher)