Life as a Montage


There is a tendency in me to picture my life in scenes, as if they were part of a movie. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I think it’s neutral, depending on what I do with it. If I expect life to be this way, I am bound to be disappointed. If I just see it as an amusing flight of fancy, I might get a kick out of it, or even an inspiration.

Regrettably, I think I tend to be more disappointed than inspired.

I once was in love with a girl. I pictured us in different scenes. In some of them, we strolled at night, I gently stroked her cheek, she smiled and knew what I wanted to say without me even saying it.
And then we kissed. And laughed. And it was magical. And pretty ridiculous.
In another scene, we sat on the couch at my apartment, watching a movie. Then suddenly, she put her head on my shoulder, leaning against me. I put my arms around her and we just sat there, holding each other, without saying a word.
There were more “scenes” like these, all of them framed with the exact appropriate shots in my mind. Some of them even had background music. I derived great joy from these imaginings, but I also knew they were dangerous, I knew that if she doesn’t feel as I do, I am in for a great big huge fall. A thundering disappointment.
At the end, I didn’t really find the perfect moment or the perfect timing to be with her alone. I guess I was afraid to actually cross the Imaginary Zone and step into reality. I thought she felt the same way, but I wasn’t sure.

One night, while we were casually talking, she mentioned that she has a date with some guy. I guess the disappointment showed clearly on my face, although I didn’t say anything. The next day she apologized for hurting my feelings and said she only sees me as a Good Friend. Or in other words, a male girlfriend. How sweet.

That scene wasn’t even close to what I imagined. The dialogue was awkward, I stumbled and mumbled. We weren’t standing in a street corner with soft light on our faces, but sitting on the grass in broad daylight. And not long after that it just ended. Our friendship, I mean.

There were no big speeches, no emotional, heart-breaking moments. We kept in touch for a while and then we just didn’t anymore. It was over. I was heart-broken and lost. It was confusing, pointless, drawn-out.

It was real life.

A movie scene is a carefully structured slice of heightened reality. It usually has some kind of conflict at its core, because conflict is drama and drama is interesting to watch (that’s actually something not very positive in real life. We wouldn’t want to be in conflict all the time, would we? On the other hand, in movies as in life, conflict usually breeds a progress of some sort).
It usually has a to-the-point dialogue. People in movies say the exact, appropriate words, even if they mumble them. They don’t go home thinking: “Yes! That’s what I should’ve said!” as it is in real life. In movies, timing is almost always perfect. It has to be.

If we are to create drama, we must condense life, we must take a situation and dramatize it. For example: Three different phone calls between estranged lovers, each phone call by its own is drawn out, too long, too full of fat. We take it and condense it into one heated, dramatic conversation. We cut to the chase. We mine the conflict. We unveil the dramatic core. A dramatic scene is a clean, efficient, stylized facsimile of life. Storytelling, or drama, as Hitchcock once said, is life without the boring, pointless bits.

Of course, people do have experiences and life journeys as depicted in the movies, it’s just not happening the same way. For example, during the pre-production for my short film, I ran to and fro, been in this location and in that location, did this and did that, sat in front of the computer for hours, sending and answering e-mails… at some point, when I was nearly exhausted, I had a comforting thought: Hey, this is a montage!

You know how in the movies, when someone is going through a long, result-oriented process over a period of a few days or weeks or even hours, we get to see a montage? (The best example is of course the training montages in all those Rocky films). Well, this is exactly what I was experiencing. I was having My Montage. If this was a movie, all these past few weeks would have been condensed into a carefully edited reel of 3-5 minutes, with some cool song or music in the background. Maybe even “Eye of the Tiger”!

Real life is messy, arbitrary. It seldom has closure or catharsis. We, as humans, usually want closure and catharsis in our stories. Heck, we need them. It comforts us, it gives us a sense of order, of meaning. It lets us experience life in a more controlled manner. It gives us a sort of hope. Although there is some excellent drama out there which doesn’t obey these classic paradigms (The Sopranos, for example, which makes up for it in spades with its psychological and philosophical depth), those are the exception to the “rule”.
Even my dreams sometimes have a soundtrack and shot-compositions. I don’t know if I should be comforted or disturbed by this, though. I just know that for me, movies are a big psychological outlet in dealing with life. I love movies with all my heart. They’re the greatest thing in the world. Good movies, and good stories in general, help us make sense of things, they aim a spotlight onto a theme and let us see it clearly, away from the clutter and chaos and contradictions of the reality outside. They are the magnifying glass of the human condition.

They tell us who we really are.

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2 comments so far

  1. narziss on

    This was a very well written post… Though a bit sad. It’s always heart breaking to read someone else’s heart being broken…

    Lior to narziss: ’twas a bit of a rough time, but that’s part of the reason we’re blogging, isn’t it? To put things out in writing and try and gain perspective about stuff. Hey, it’s cheaper than a shrink. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Brad Mc on

    Lior… great essay! Seriously, you should submit that to a newspaper – particularly one that shares similar themes (re: film) …maybe Playback Magazine? Its a good read, and I think others would enjoy it too!

    Lior to Brad Mc: Why, thanks. I don’t know about publishing it, though. I’ll certainly need to edit out all the personal stuff. I won’t be comfortable with that, I think…


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