(noun: a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill)
by Gina Capristo-Gajdosik
I just realized why I have always been drawn to cinema: it is the sensation of being in a darkened theater, watching fantastic images, larger than life, on the big screen. There is a metamorphosis that happens to us all while we watch a movie on the screen. Within the first few minutes you are transported into another state of being that by-passes your normal consciousness and causes an emotion called “frisson,” described as a sense of awe that completely suspends your disbelief. Without any real danger or fear of death, you can walk the tight-rope across the Grand Canyon, or dive deep beneath the ocean and suddenly run out of air.
When you are engrossed in a movie, you get to do something otherwise physically impossible; you get to be somebody else. You are living through the character, real tears form on your face, the character’s sudden demise is as real to your emotional body as any other true scenario. The more you can reach this state of frisson, the more you can open your heart and live beyond your limited nature. Media bypasses the conscious mind and goes straight to the unconscious. Each and every time you do this, you open up a bit more. This is why people dare to sky dive and climb Mount Everest. They don’t have a death wish, they have a life wish! They do it because doing it once was so life-changing, they long to feel the sensation again, and again.
Yet, isn’t it nice to know that you can experience this state at will? Listening to a soaring film score creates a sense of wonder and can stop time, speed up time or extend time. It can truly be a transcendent experience, especially if the subject matter is spiritual in nature. Suspending our disbelief allows us space to think less, feel more. Try to remember the last time you saw a movie. As the credits rolled by, were you still immersed in the story and characters? It can often take up to ten minutes to “wake up” to your normal consciousness after watching an engaging film. Even as you slowly walk out of the theater, a part of your consciousness is still involved with the characters and the story.
Cinema has the power to change our minds, and our consciousness. I believe in the power of story. How else can we even imagine the plight of others, the heroic soul, the tragic character? Film has the power to change people from the inside out.