Monday, April 6, 2015

Word of the Week - 57

Words of the Week:  WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF

Meaning

The temporary acceptance as believable of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.

Origin

samuel taylor coleridgeThis term was coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817 with the publication of his Biographia literaria or biographical sketches of my literary life and opinions:
"In this idea originated the plan of the 'Lyrical Ballads'; in which it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."
The state is arguably an essential element when experiencing any drama or work of fiction. We may know very well that we are watching an actor or looking at marks on paper, but we wilfully accept them as real in order to fully experience what the artist is attempting to convey.
Poetic faith.  A good story is a good story.  Over the weekend we watched INTERSTELLAR (directed by Christopher Nolan, written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan) which I've since learned opened to very mixed reviews.  I loved it, was so deeply in its thrall that my frequently twitching legs were still for nearly three hours.  My mind never wandered, my eyes never left the screen.  When the last credit had rolled by, my son said he wished he'd seen it in IMAX format, though our home tv did not disappoint in any way.

I have no intention of deconstructing the movie to, if it were possible, discover why my poetic faith was so intense.  That fact that the science involved was so far beyond my ability to comprehend I could not possibly scoff at any theories put forth could be responsible in part. Mostly, it was the humanity of the characters that held my attention and belief.  They expressed a version of humanity sometimes missing in science fiction, which is no deterrent to my enjoyment of the genre.  It made identifying with them in their extreme circumstances so much easier.

Staying away from chat rooms in which rancor seems to be the over-riding tone is near the top of my list for how to remain relatively sane.  My son, younger and more resilient, will visit them, read so much utter drivel that he begins to rant and thus has information about what bizarre opinions are expressed on any and every topic.  I have very old-fashioned views about what ought to be allowed into the collective dialogue and what should not.  I feel strongly that we get to enjoy, even to love, what pleases us, without explanation or challenge.  That my feelings are not universally shared is fine, it's expected.  All I ask is to be left in peace with my choices.  Whether from cranks or experts, I prefer not to hear about all that is wrong with a story that has touched me.  We choose to suspend disbelief in our own ways.  Without spoiling the plot of INTERSTELLAR, I will just say that to the best of my knowledge no human has experienced a black hole.  We can only theorize, as in guess, how they behave.

Some reviewers called the movie cold.  It felt anything but cold to me.  For science fiction, it seemed quite warm-blooded.  The real issue, though, is that a writer gets to tell his or her story.  We either buy into it or we don't.  I have a number of sci-fi movie favorites, including BLADE RUNNER, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, ALIENS, STAR WARS (or is that even considered science fiction?) and many others in print form.  I grew up on Ray Bradbury.

What I enjoy is being transported, taken from ordinary reality and everyday concerns to a place where the circumstances are far removed yet not unfamiliar.  There are multiple sites where you can read either reviews of INTERSTELLAR or a synopsis of its plot.  If you decide to watch, you will likely know before too many minutes have passed whether or not you can accept the premise, the characters and their plight as real or not.  Fiction, film or print, gives us vicarious lives to live for short spans, though the memories of those adventures can remain with us for decades.  The measure of a great story is our ability to inhabit it fully, whether in this world or another.

6 comments:

Kass said...

I SO inhabit movies, I have to remind myself to look around the theater several times during a movie to re-orient myself to reality. I get a rapid heartbeat and tend to clench my fists. Mostly, I like to be drawn in, but my body doesn't.

I am taking this statement with me, "... we get to enjoy, even to love, what pleases us, without explanation or challenge."

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - Thank you. How does one not inhabit a movie that has captured them? As I only watch at home these days, I already am, I suppose, in a place of familiar comfort. The fact that I don't squirm, twitch,fidget or have my mind wander is a measure of involvement. Your body sounds vigilant, not a bad thing for a body to be. Less easy for one to be spirited away. We love what we love. I think it is an inalienable right. xo

Sylvia Hines said...

Marylinn, I so love the phrase "poetic faith." When I was very young, I found it in all the reading I did; especially about others' lives, when my own seemed to offer little of it. Now, I am delighted to find it not only in books or movies (i.e., a good story), but in my own story; my own life as well. It is to me, about the miraculous, and delightfully, I've found it not only all around me, but in me as well. Here here to all the story tellers everywhere, and the story livers as well!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Sylvia - As you probably remember, I believe each of us has a ministry, our messages of poetic faith and truth delivered by means best described as unique. Each of our stories contains the miraculous and the profound, as you clearly know. We are not separate from the greater story but here to contribute our piece. Here, here, indeed. May we fully inhabit, flooding into all the corners, our lives, our stories. xo

sf said...

I agree with you about movies in general, and Interstellar in particular. When I want to see a movie that for whatever reason strikes me, I tend to ignore critics, as I have often found things I really enjoy are sometimes out of the mainstream, and will have been roundly condemned by those decidedly unlike me!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Sarah - I have ignored critics forever, in spite of reviewing movies for a cable-access show in the 1980s. We enjoy what we enjoy, each bringing unique perspectives to the work. Glad we both found resonance in INTERSTELLAR. xo