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Some people say all films should be entertaining? What do they mean and are they correct? ‘To entertain’ means to engage agreeably often in an amusing way. We all find different things engaging. Some are fascinated by war, some by romance – there are so many different things that fascinate people. The most successful films are those which combine multiple engaging themes like a wartime romance otherwise a film will appeal to a niche market.
All well made films should be engaging either agreeably or disagreeably. Whether we find them agreeable is purely subjective. I think all films should include humour because life includes humour – a film without humour is a film without life. ‘Land of Mine’ had humour. Didn’t a sense of humour keep many going through the war as it does through all bad times? – ‘Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone.’
To be controversial. I didn’t much care for the film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Reading the books I imagined the orcs as Nazis and the war ravaged lands of Mordor as the French battle fields of the First World War but the film creates totally fictional monsters and landscapes. My book view seems to more accurately reflect Tolkien’s experience. Films which create visions of things to which we cannot relate can only be escapist time wasters. Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday was a classic comedy because it captivated the absurdities of real life. The Alice books of Lewis Carroll are not absolute nonsense because they describe very real philosophical and moral dilemmas and of course the characters are caricatures of real people. There are only two screen versions of the Alice books which do justice to the originals and they are made-for-TV versions. There seem to be no Sci-Fi films made today which are not just entertainment and they will not tell you anything about the future. You are not likely to meet anyone like their characters in real life nor are you likely to want to emulate them.
Although all films should be entertaining a really great film will be more than that. We become engaged with a film when the characters become real to us – when we weep at their distress or success in love and laugh at their foolishness when it chimes with our own. Then pure entertainment can be elevated to a powerful drama – a drama which can affect and inform our lives.