I like to think that a good film is one that sits with you once you’ve left the theatre. Either because your brain is struggling to comprehend what the Matrix is; you’re blown away at how an animated character could make you feel emotions; or because you’ve learnt something new, something that changes the way you now think about the world. Whether this is about a country, a culture, or simply the most well known Prime Minster to lead England.
In schools, it’s often regarded as a joke or a ‘dos’ lesson when the TV comes on and the teacher puts a film on. And yes, while watching the first hour of Mean Girls for the tenth time before summer break didn’t do me any good, educational videos do have their place, despite their tenacity to be rather boring.
But some films can sit in this gap. Both being entertaining to keep you hooked and interesting enough that you’re sent on a learned journey that catapults you into a thirst for more knowledge.
Whilst being a coincidence that I was off to London a couple of weeks after seeing Darkest Hour, I took my opportunity and visited Churchill’s War Rooms whilst I was there. A place that, to be honest, I’d previously had no interest in visiting. And it was fascinating.
Seeing the real places where these real people spend hours and days and weeks of their lives locked away to manage the safeguarding of our country was just, sobering. Looking at everything that had been used, from the worn strategic maps to the basic school-like desks, I knew that only weeks ago I’d have mentally logged these as simple objects. But now – because of a film – I could place them into a timeline, a setting, a scene; and it’s because of this that I was happy and excited almost to learn more.
But I don’t think I’d have had this same reaction if I’d been simply taught about it. Personally, visiting museums and war memorials to see famous statues and read the plaques beneath them becomes basic information that I struggle to make real. Whereas a good film or book can really immerse me – and I imagine others too – in its history.
Of course some people do get involved in the plaques and all the information to hand at historical sites because not everyone learns the same way.
So should we be watching all this film and TV? Sure. Even if you don’t want to watch something non-fictional, big action movies can teach you the moral of a story, a comedy can show you how you can interact with people in a fun manner and a horror… well, maybe leave those ones out.