It Was Like A Movie

The print and TV news media is full of the highly visual tragedy of the Costa Concordia, run aground and capsized in the Mediterranean.

Describing the chaos of the evacuation, survivors have likened their experience to the film Titanic.

You get this a lot with disasters, accidents and traumatic experiences.  “It was like a movie” say those who were there.

It is a description that grates, however, because those movies in question are attempting to depict a real life incident.  So of course any given real-life carnage is going to be “like a movie” because those movies are trying to be likereal-life accidents!

A less traumatic example might be when a model or movie star is described as being ‘sculptural’ or ‘like a sculpture’.  Well, of course they are, because the sculptor models his artwork on precisely those people!  Its a back-to-front metaphor. Taken to the extreme, one might describe Harrison Ford by saying “he looks like Indiana Jones” or “he looks like Han Solo.”

Yes, yes, I know we describe things via metaphor, and movies are metaphors. But to my mind “it was like a movie” still feels inadequate description of a real-life scene.

2 thoughts on “It Was Like A Movie

  1. Maybe that’s because you haven’t had a traumatic experience? The feeling ‘it was like a movie’ is also known as derealisation, which is a common symptom of intense anxiety, shock or trauma.

    Then there’s the fact that for most of the people concerned, the closest they have been to being on a sinking ship prior to this event probably was watching the smash-hit blockbuster film Titanic. Analogically speaking, the similarities are pretty striking, and crucially, for most people, far greater than the similarities between this and any other event in their lives, and between this and any other event they might reasonably expect other people to have experienced.

    What I think you’re also not taking into account is the fact that simulations of reality affect the brain just as much as real reality does. A lot of the media (including the porn, fashion and advertising industries) have a big stake in claiming that this isn’t so, but it is. The brain processes the information just the same. So watching a movie is not a metaphor, but an experience in itself. Not to mention mirror neurones of course. Harrison Ford does look a lot like Han Solo, and not the other way round, because I’ve had a lot more experience with Han Solo than I have with Harrison Ford.

  2. Cully Barnaby, on the other hand, looks a lot like Laura Howard to me, but for the majority of Midsommer Murders viewers, it would be the other way round. Do you see?

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