The Monday Question: Suspension of disbelief!

First of all, since most of the world will be celebrating Christmas this week I decided to take it easy as well and wish you all some great days. I’m busy preparing my end of year list which will be up soon.

Last week I reviewed the documentary Cinemania, which is about five people who are obsessed by movies and go to the movies a couple of times a day. In one of the scenes there was a discussion between two of them about horses in a movie. Roberta Hill, who was one of them replied that she didn’t want to watch movies with horses because she didn’t like to see them get hurt. When the other person responded that they weren’t really hurt in real life she responded that if you would think like that and suspend disbelief, why would you see a movie? And I get her point. The term “suspension of disbelief” was coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817 according to Wikipedia and he defined it as follows:” If a writer can infuse a “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale, the reader is able to suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative”. Of course movies were not around at the time, but it is a big part of being able to enjoy a movie.

It got me thinking about this as it is a big part of the moviegoing experience. You are watching something which is all pretended (unless it’s a documentary of course) and as a viewer we pretend that it is all real. I regularly am surprised by reviews when they mention something is “unrealistic” or that there are too many plotholes. They can be valid points, but when you have a movie where a lot of unrealistic events take place it is kind of weird to nitpick on things.

Personally I go to the movies to have fun, to spend some time in a different world and the rules which apply to that world. I’m not complaining if people are suddenly able to fly or when a hero doesn’t die from bullets, they are all part of what I signed up for. They are exactly the things which makes watching movies so much fun. So I can happily walk into the cinema to see the biggest blockbuster and have a great time watching it. Surely if I think about every little detail I could pick a whole movie apart, but that doesn’t give me much joy, experiencing, that’s what it’s about. It’s the reason I happily give movies like Battle:LA, Prince of Persia, John Carter or Battleship a positive review. They can be silly, but so what?

So my question to you is: “When it comes to suspension of disbelief, what is your attitude towards it when seeing movies?”

6 thoughts on “The Monday Question: Suspension of disbelief!

  1. For me it depends on the movie. A film like “Argo” or “The Mastor” should seem realistic to me. Films like “The Avengers” and “Moonrise Kingdom” should establish a world with ground rules we as an audience can accept, and then we can suspend our disbelief within that world. A good example of this are James Bond films. I go into them expecting a certain amount of BS, but if they cross a line they themselves establish–just about everything in “Moonraker”–then we as an audience cry foul.

  2. Hi Nostra, I have the same sentiment as you. I can still enjoy a movie even if it demands a huge ‘suspension of disbelief’ but I think it depends on the movie. If the filmmaker has set an expectation for the movie to be ‘realistic’ then I judge it more harshly, but when you’re watching a superhero movie, of course we can’t be too nit-picky on things unless the plot is poorly-constructed or the pace is off, what have you. I think the more immersed I am in that ‘world’ of cinema, the more ‘forgiving’ I generally am on that given film.

  3. It’s up to the film maker to make me want to suspend my disbelief. If he/she can successfully make me accept the world which I’m watching, they’ve done a great job.

  4. Quite simply within the context the actors, action, cinematography must fit. If people are meant to have super powers and do then fine, if gravity shouldn’t exist then fine etc. Problem is when they break their own rules. Worst example is when characters are supposed to age but makeup doesn’t do the job and they look out of place.

  5. Hi, Nostra and company:

    If the director, actors, cinematographer and craftsmen and women behind the scenes believe in the project. And execute their talents to the best of their ability. “Suspension of disbelief” shouldn’t even figure into the equation. No matter how bizarre the plot line. Add Special Effects and the stakes rise exponentially. One of the reasons Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” works. And Ang Lee’s “Hulk” doesn’t.

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